Creating an alluring store design is difficult enough without the constraint of a cost effective design budget. This was the recent task facing Chicago-based Bailey Edward Design as we designed three flagship stores for Chiasso, a Chicago-based retailer of visually exciting tabletop gifts and accessories. The 1,200 sq. ft. stores are in upscale shopping centers in Chicago, Detroit, Boston and Long Island.

Chiasso had great success as a start-up concept and had begun a nationwide roll-out. But the original store, designed by another firm, had exceeded the desired budget. My partner, Robin Whitehurst, and I were given a clear mission: to design three subsequent Chiasso stores with less money and without noticeably altering the store image.

We began by assessing what could be changed - materials, construction details and millwork choices - while maintaining the integrity and sophistication of the original design. This can be more difficult than designing a store from scratch, because any new material additions could upset the store's design balance.

We started with the recessed wall standards and the waved ceiling design. We increased the space for the wall standards - thereby creating more merchandising surface - while decreasing the total number of shelves and reducing cost. In place of the original, waved-drywall ceiling, which required costly retrofitting by tradesmen, we created a standard tubular metal piece with a curvature easy to duplicate in a factory.

Lighting, a retailer's greatest expense, was targeted next. We examined maximum spacing, color quality and fixture types. By spreading out the lights, interchanging low energy lamps and substituting flexible track for recessed cans, we reduced the total purchasing cost and the lifecycle cost to the retailer.

The cash wrap redesign was one of our biggest tasks. The curved design of the original cashwrap was expensive to duplicate, and the many fixed surfaces made the area too inflexible for the multiple tasks at hand. We straightened out much of its form, using one flat piece of wood, curving only the edges and substituting dynamic angles for more expensive curves.

At the back of the cashwrap, we used adjustable shelves in place of the fixed surfaces and custom millwork of the original. As a result, computer equipment and wrapping supplies of any size could be accommodated while kept hidden from view. At the top of the cashwrap, we created a single surface for check-writing along with other flat surfaces for displaying impulse purchases. We retained the original color scheme, using maple stained in red, black and natural color tones.

By cutting down on custom millwork, rearranging lighting, and negating other labor-intensive and expensive details, we saved Chiasso more than 30 percent over the prototype store's construction costs. This and other successful design projects can be accomplished on a cost effective budget, by keeping the merchandise, not costly design requirements, as the store's focal point.

Ellen Bailey Dickson is founder and managing partner of Chicago-based Bailey Edward Design. Bailey Edward Design's work with Chiasso recently won the NASFM award for store fixture design.