Perfectly Formed: Transforming a Box into the home of our Boutique

Perfectly Formed: Transforming a Box into the home of our Boutique


The Artworks as seen from the second floor

This month Sapelle opened the doors to its new London boutique, at the new arts, retail and cultural hub, The Artworks, Elephant Road, SE17 1LB. The wafts of fresh paint have only just faded and we’re still making those small ‘final-final’ adjustments, but we’re already pleased with the outcome – a clean, simple backdrop from which our products – vibrant African prints, tribal-accessories and other unique lifestyle items that speak for themselves aesthetically – can be set off.

The challenge – and we chose to accept it with a mixture of nervous excitement and pragmatic open-mindedness – was to turn a basic 40-foot shipping container into an attractive space to show off our products to their absolute best. All in all, I think we’ve met the challenge of positively transforming it, and so far our visitors have  been pleased. What we strove to do was to create a lovely boutique, far from an ‘industrial’ box, optimising the layout to make it functional, yet warm and inviting.


When we made the decision to expand our retail offering from online-only to include bricks-and-mortar, a complex of recycled shipping containers was the last location on our minds. But after an exhaustive search, The Artworks proved to be the best fit for our needs.

The Artworks is a fantastic concept: part of the huge regeneration project of Elephant & Castle just south of Waterloo. A regeneration that will see thousands of new homes, a park, a new high street, leisure complex and revamped local services come up. Elephant & Castle is in London’s Zone 1, so this development promises to bring new life and vibrancy to the area, much like Shoreditch in the East. Shoreditch’s own container shopping centre, Boxpark, has enjoyed phenomenal success since it launched several years ago. The Artworks aims to emulate this, only focusing on attracting new brands making a debut on the London scene, in an area on the up, rather than the established high street players.

As a community, The Artworks tenants are a collection of unique, eclectic creatives, retailers, wellbeing and food brands with a shared ambition to consolidate their position and customer base in London, bringing something different to the city.


We had lots of fun planning and decorating the space. Almost too much. We gained inspiration from the wave of innovative architects and designers turning their boxes into exciting homes and businesses. It’s great to be a part of this movement to reinvent a functional industrial unit into something visually appealing.

Our ‘blank canvas’ design concept incorporates fittings that comply with the structural limitations: the walls can’t hold heavy wall-mounted units, and no major changes can be made since the units will be repurposed and re-sold at the end of their four-year stint in Elephant & Castle. So we’ve used great ceiling-to-floor modular units that offer flexibility in terms of positioning of the shelving and rails – and we can take them with us when we move on.

Take a look at how we turned our container box into a boutique – and let us know what you think. Better still, pop down to the shop to see it in the flesh!


Pretty much the inside of a shipping container


Carpenters partitioning the back/front spaces


Fitting the partition for the changing room


Second coat of industrial floor paint goes down


The all-white modular decor fittings getting assembled


We’re almost there with fitting the railing supports


Exciting to see the garments being displayed


About 90% done. Playing around with the garment display






The jewellery display








It’s a boutique! Enjoying the final effects



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