“Maison Marou is a cafe, patisserie, and gourmet chocolate factory in Saigon, Vietnam. Now able to share much more than just a packaged chocolate bar, the founders of Marou can fully express their spirit, and offer an experience steeped in cacao collecting adventure and gourmet chocolatier know-how. “The house that chocolate bars built”, as it became known, employs a chocolate-bar-shaped unit to base furniture and space design on. Slabs of plywood and marble reference stacked bars, while vertical rectangular units are repeated as a grid for chocolate bar display. This unit is clearly visible at the ‘chocolate library’ a major feature at the Maison, which showcases all of Marou’s varied bars. Maison Marou is an experimental space where the chocolatiers can tinker and create new kinds of chocolate bars, bon-bons, or pastries from local flavors on a weekly basis. For this reason, we created a movable type system for the menu. Marou’s typeface is applied to chocolate-bar-shaped metal plates which can be arranged and re-arranged for menu wall as well as overhead signage. The letter forms are also molded into small rubber pieces which load into custom made stamps for labelling all packaging and printed matter.

“We found in Marou’s own ‘Marou-mobile’ (a 1973 Vietnamese La Da Lat), an important symbol, which literally connects the cacao farms to the cafe. The illustrated car, often appears in the space and on packaging, tracing a line that the brand rides, between rugged and sophisticated. Uniforms at Maison Marou are inspired by the linen ‘jungle-shirts’ that the Marou founders wear out in the field.

“A flexible new set of brand elements play across the space. A rough illustration style expresses the rugged side of the brand, while a custom script draws inspiration from classic shop signage. The primary color palette bookends the well known spectrum of Marou’s origin-range chocolate bars. An additional green is sampled from the founders iconic ‘jungle shirts’, while Marou’s bright gold is an ever present accent. Finally, the logo itself simply puts a roof over the Marou brand.

“Maison Marou requires an ever changing range of packaging. A flexible system was developed to apply across a plethora of shapes and sizes. Fields of color are divided by a horizon line drawn behind the ‘Marou-mobile.’ This horizon line is also traced around the entire perimeter of the space. Beyond packaged goods, the space welcomes the brand to create merchandise. The design elements give an unlimited amount of playful possibilities in tandem with straightforward copywriting.

“Maison Marou occupies a 1930’s Art Deco building on Calmette Street in the heart of Saigon. The modern insertion creates contrast and hybridity within the bustling city center neighborhood.”

Designed by Rice Creative