Gresham, Smith and Partners

Practice Area


Vanderbilt University Dining Services


Project Vision

Responding to a vocal group of students and staff who wanted healthier dining options and more environmentally friendly products, Vanderbilt University converted an outdated convenience store in a 1940s dormitory into a “natural” food and grocery space.

Nectar was designed to emphasize the natural elements of the store’s product offerings and maximize a small (1,200-sq.-ft.) space on a low budget. Shades of mango, yellow, green, and brown convey the organic nature of the product offerings and complement the colors used on their packaging. Freestanding modular display cases are made of wheat board, a natural recycled component material whose natural color also added to the store’s earthy palette. Paint, VCT flooring, and light fixtures custom made on the cheap helped keep the budget under control.

Two large structural columns posed a space-planning challenge, but Gresham, Smith and Partners used them as anchor points by locating the cash wrap on axis with the store entrance. The compact space plan was inspired by the Japanese bento box. The space design allows for an intuitive flow of traffic by patrons and maximizes the small amount of display space.

With space at a premium, the store’s cash wrap was pressed into double duty as an identity statement. Recessed into the cash wrap, the backlit nectar logo appears in 2-in. thick black letters between two layers of acrylic, with its fruit-inspired “halo” digitally printed onto the back piece of acrylic.

By maximizing the use of color and space design, Gresham Smith was able to finish the space for $80,000, half of the original budget.

Project Details
The students and staff of Vanderbilt University are extremely lucky to have such an amazing retail outlet. This project shows that with a limited budget, but amazing attention to detail, you can create a stylish and effective environment that works on many levels. Why shouldn't students be entitled to the same standards of design on campus as off campus?
Juror 1
We all know how difficult it is to keep designs elegant and relevant; this is an example of materials and graphics being used in a restrained way and working together to create an organic experience. The displays are king, with a color palette that makes you want to linger and explore. I was particularly impressed by the use of recycled materials and that the designers came up with solutions that reduced the budget—not typical in our industry!
Juror 2
Design Team

Jim Harding (principal in charge), Phillip Petty (project designer), Patrick Gilbert (project architect), Tim Rucker (nectar logo design)

Design Firm

Gresham, Smith and Partners

Project Area

1,200 sq ft

Project Budget



CDM (custom millwork, custom fixtures, lighting)