A Pop-Up Gelato Shop Brings An Italian Beach To London

How to create a beachy vibe in gloomy London? Elips Design achieves the sun-splashed feeling of a Mediterranean coast with smart, simple moves.


The key to producing a smart pop-up experience is striking a delicate balance: The interior needs to be efficient, economic, and light on its feet, but the design also must be transformative enough to make you feel like you’re not in a temporary environment. This summer, a tiny, bright retail space on the ground floor of posh St. Martins Lane Hotel in London is home to DriDri, a local gelato company that’s scooping its traditional Italian ice cream. And thanks to the smart work of Elips Design, the space succeeds at delivering a sunny slice of Italy using simple strokes with big impact. (Of course, it’s difficult not to be successful when your pop-up serves gelato.)


Elips relies on low-cost, high-impact materials.

The idea was to create a space that would lend the feeling of the Italian seaside, but the designers didn’t want to go theme-park simulacra, architect Elisa Pardini tells Co.Design. “I wanted to create a space that wasn’t a pastiche, with sand, but something more characteristic, with more personality and more fun!” So they focused their efforts on designing three major elements that would deliver a beachy vibe: cabanas, a boardwalk, and sun umbrellas.

For each big move, Elips relies on low-cost, high-impact materials like glossy painted wood and wall graphics. The “cabanas” are rendered as simple wood frames against a paneled wall at the back of the store which hold gelato accoutrements like cones, while a yellow-and-white planked boardwalk parades down the center of the space. This move might be the most powerful, as it creates a grand, elevated entrance that heads straight to the counter and also somewhat of a catwalk for happy, gelato-licking customers. Along the wall, instead of cluttering the space with actual bulky umbrellas, they created wall graphics that dot the space, creating a backdrop for the simple folding chairs that evoke a seaside cafe.

For the gelato presentation itself, Elips made an intelligent choice that not only contributes to the environment, it probably saved a ton of cash. They eschewed the traditional chrome freezer case and went with a more pop-up friendly solution: a pair of wooden-paneled carts which give more of a sense of how ice cream would actually be served on the beach.

Outside, the frosted glass is covered with clean 2-D graphics, including DriDri’s signature semi-circles which showcase the available flavors. Sticking to a simple, bright palette also puts the space in dramatic contrast from the street. They used lots and lots of white, while sticking to DriDri’s logo colors of yellow and pink. “Yellow, especially, reminds of sun and natural light,” says Pardini, which helps to create the transformative feeling of being transported to another place and time.

Of course, the real test of any pop-up is if it’s able to “pop up” again — can the design be disassembled and re-assembled, taking up residence in another space? Thanks to Elips Design’s simple, modular system, that’s not only possible, it’s already in the works. The materials will be stored at the end of the summer until next season. “The client hopes to have the chance to open another pop-up shop and he would like to use the same elements,” says Pardini.

About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato