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Great Dane – rearranging the furniture

Great Dane is Australia’s largest purveyor of classic and modern Scandinavian furniture, homewares and lighting.

Owner Anton Assaad’s unbridled passion for timeless Danish furniture design has seen him establish three showrooms in Australia in the past six years and a loyal following of Scandinavian design devotees.

When we met in the Sydney showroom last year he explained to me that although he was happy with the brand he has built and the showrooms in Sydney and Melbourne, he felt that they still lacked that essential element that makes good retail spaces great.

Great Dane furniture speaks for itself. It is beautifully designed, simple and classic, and manufactured with painstaking care in Scandinavia.

Anton’s genuine passion for the product is apparent, but the missing third part of the equation was the customer – why does the Great Dane customer pay a premium for having the real thing from Denmark when they can easily buy inexpensive replicas of Italian and American designs?

After several conversations with Anton in Sydney and Melbourne, we asked him to run an informal survey of his customers.

It appeared that customers responded most to the ‘Danishness’ of the store, and the timeless quality of the designs.

They were impressed by Great Dane’s passion for design as expressed via their blog and the enthusiasm of sales staff.

No one mentioned the price of the product. They considered it a prestige product – not because of the high price tag – but because of its beauty and uniqueness.

Our main task became to find an idea that would bring the Great Dane brand to life within the space but not compete with the merchandise itself, which is the focus of the showroom.

We considered several ideas: Murals of Danish landscapes were too “touristy.” Blown up details of the furniture would be a distraction from the furniture itself. The final concept was based on something that customers considered their main reason for shopping there: Quality and craftsmanship.

We expressed this in store by selecting pictures of classic Danish designers such as Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl and creating translucent room dividers featuring their portraits and philosophies.

To further emphasise the idea of craftsmanship, we placed some of the furniture on plinths like works of art, and annotated wall displays to give an art gallery feel.

Furniture designer Hans Wegner once said, “A chair is to have no backside. It should be beautiful from all sides and angles.” We took this quote literally and designed a mirrored plinth so that customers can see that the underside of a chair is indeed as beautifully finished as the visible parts.

Finishes are simple: the whole showroom is painted white, with the sprinkler pipes picked out in red. The timber floor has been whitewashed.

Lighting by Bettina Easton at ELux was designed to bring the colours in the furniture to life, and a few simple rugs help to define spaces.

The result is a space that perfectly presents the sculptural forms and colours of the furniture.

The room dividers serve to create smaller, more intimate spaces to house particular collections.

Not only do they divide up the merchandise, they create areas in which customers can slow down and relax.

It’s a great illustration of the fact that people like to immerse themselves when given the opportunity, and the store planning facilitates this.

At the same time, staff can easily see the customers, so there’s no danger of them getting lost.

Does it help to sell furniture? Yes, apparently it does.

Since completing the refurbishment, Great Dane have reported a significant lift in sales.

To quote the Great Dane web site, the Danish word Hygge [‘hoo-ga’]: describes the deep sense of pleasure found in making ordinary things extraordinary. It’s about believing that when everyday objects are beautiful, life is beautiful.

This certainly comes across in Great Dane, and we believe we have extended the philosophy to the retail environment that surrounds it.

* Gary McCartney is the owner of McCartney Design and a regular contributor to Inside Retail. He can be reached at

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