As the cannabis industry’s consumer base and retail footprint continue to grow, more and more dispensaries are looking to step up the design of their physical space to stand out from the crowd. Many are turning to professional interior design firms with experience in helping traditional retailers establish unique environments for their stores and brands.
House of Form, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based company that specializes in interior design projects for the hospitality industry, began working in the cannabis space as the Grand Canyon State transitioned from a medical market to a recreational one, working first with Giving Tree Dispensary to design a space that would meet the needs of both the current and future customer base.
According to House of Form owner Dala Al-Fuwaires, the design firm began its work by researching the needs of customers in more established recreational markets and found that in adult-use spaces, many dispensaries were leaving behind the “sterile” and “clinical” look of the medical days in favor of a more familiar shopping environment.
“It was an incredibly unique, challenging and rewarding experience at the time,” Al-Fuwaires says. “The research we did has been validated as we see more dispensaries opt for an experience that tells a story.”
Marijuana Venture spoke with Al-Fuwaires about the interior design needs of the cannabis industry and how dispensaries are creating a more complete retail experience.
Marijuana Venture: How have the interior design needs of dispensaries changed with recreational marijuana becoming more prominent across the country?
Dala Al-Fuwaires: The interior design needs of dispensaries have changed dramatically in my home state of Arizona and in other states where recreational marijuana has been legalized. Dispensary owners and their customers are starting to treat their retail spaces as hospitality experiences. Dispensaries want their customers to feel welcomed and catered to. They want an interior design experience that gives customers a chance to explore and learn.
We are straying away from typical shelf displays and exploring more custom pieces that align more with the brand. Dispensaries want to create moments or touchpoints throughout a retail space so customers can stop, pause and learn through interactive displays. For example, Giving Tree prided itself on being a “seed-to-sale” cannabis company, so we created interactive and informative displays that show the entire process from cultivation to shelf display.
MV: What is the goal of an interior designer when crafting a space for an adult-use cannabis shop?
DA: When we are working with dispensaries, our goal is to respect and honor the brand and create a unique environment around that brand.
Interior designers also play a role in breaking some of the lingering stigma associated with marijuana. Good interior design can change peoples’ opinions on cannabis by showing that cannabis spaces can create an experience that is welcoming and experiential.
MV: What are some of the most popular trends you are seeing in cannabis retail?
DA: You are starting to see spaces that put more effort into aesthetics and design. Cannabis companies are trying to brand themselves visually by creating identifiable features such as interactive displays.
One cannabis company we were working with created an interactive cube wall that allowed you to spin different cubes. Each cube would have a different question and answer about the history and future of marijuana.
The Giving Tree storefront used to be a gas station. We honored the history of the gas station and converted the walk-in refrigerator into a podcast room. We kept the refrigerator doors intact and used them as an entrance to the podcast room. The idea is that we created a space that is open to the community and allows them to utilize the space for meetings or podcast recording. Cannabis companies are creating experiences that are entertaining, heavily themed and blending influences from other retail and hospitality spaces.
MV: How does working with dispensaries differ from your other work in the hospitality industry?
DA: The majority of our work at House of Form is in restaurants and bars, and these industries are about being entertained and transporting the diner into a new space. We think interior design in the cannabis space can and should strive for the same goal. Interior designers should be pushing boundaries just like we do in any other space. In hospitality, interior designers should be brand-driven and seek to understand the heart and soul of a chef or bar owner. We should do the same thing for entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. Interior designers should be asking questions to help dispensaries celebrate their brand. The interior design industry has a knack for knowing what is hot and what will be hot in the future, and we can use that knowledge to create dispensaries that are progressive and ahead of their time.
MV: How do you think the role of interior design will evolve in this space?
DA: We are on the edge of our seats waiting to integrate cannabis into other industries. A restaurant or bar experience that incorporates cannabis seems like a challenge that would be exciting to tackle. I think using cannabis as part of an experiential dining experience would be an interesting evolution in the space.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.