Places that Work: A Music Store on Michigan Avenue

Sometimes the places that work are places that shouldn’t work at all. The Sherry-Brener musical instrument store on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago is one of these.

The shop is stuffed with merchandise; it’s small and gets almost no daylight. It is, however, a wonderful place to be, at least for shoppers. And the staff is always pleasant; this tells me that the Sherry-Brener is either a good place to be for hours at a time or the employees are good actors. I suspect the former.

The relaxing colors, the visible wood grain surfaces, and the dim light all contribute to bringing the stress level down and the friendly factor up. The tiny space feels homey. Its feeling of domesticity is enhanced by the furnishings, the occasional sounds of instruments being played, and the curved decorative elements. The store feels like home if your home is a fairy tale musical retreat.

P1010796The Sherry-Brener is near the downtown home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Its location alone puts music top of mind among shoppers and passers-by. The ambiance inside is of a magical musical kingdom where all sorts of musical instruments live in a happy harmony.

This shop makes it very clear that some spaces that work break all sorts of design rules.

Sally Augustin, PhD, is a principal at Design with Science . She is also the editor of Research Design Connectionsand the author of Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture (Wiley, 2009). She can be reached at

Series Posts: Places that Work

Categories: Design