“It’s our first time to go international with what we do,” White tells AD. “We only sell our own records and things that we produce and are involved in. We don’t sell other people’s records. It’s very unique and a boutique environment, so it’s an experiment in a way.”
The scheme of primary colors seems to be White’s design calling card, just like black, white, and red was the trademark of his band, The White Stripes. Within Third Man London, the bold shades have a certain rhythm. “Anything green is usually storage or leading to storage,” says White. “Blue is everything to do with live music.” (In the Nashville store, blue is only seen when you’re facing west, and red when you’re facing east.)
Though the semi-monochromatic rooms keep the small space from feeling too busy, there is plenty to catch customers’ attention aside from the records and merchandise for sale. “We’re trying to have a little unique experience, every 5 to 10 feet in the place,” White says. This includes a London phone booth, painted yellow, with a custom, music-making phone designed by Swedish electronics company Teenage Engineering inside; a book vending machine; and a recording booth where you can make your own vinyl record. Fitting this all in the store was no easy feat.
“Everything in London is so old-school. There are no actually rectangular rooms. There are all just jagged, strange 37-degree corners and things. So, we had a lot of interesting moments trying to make everything work,” White says. Contractor and fabricator Will Slater and architect Busby Webb helped, as did the fact that nearly everything in the store is custom-made. “I start to feel excited about design when I feel a constriction,” White says.
There is no question that design and music are intertwined for the rocker, who, in addition to his work with The White Stripes, has made music as a solo act and with the band The Raconteurs. In fact, before his career blew up, the Detroit native was a 15-year-old upholstery apprentice, learning the trade from a local upholsterer named Brian Muldoon. Together, they made music under the name The Upholsterers and even hid copies of their songs inside pieces of furniture to be found years later.