Like its namesake, the Paris-Nice express train of the 1950s, Le Mistral gift shop in Tokyo is precise and orderly.
With its navy blue base color and strict visual rules reminiscent of a dapper railway uniform, the interior is an effective vessel to display the tightly (strictly) edited selection of gift items from around the world.
Designed by Jumpei Matsushima of JP architects, the 61 square-meter (656 sq.ft.) shop is also thoroughly Japanese in its sparse coloring and its neat and exact (precise) division of space in ever-repeating rectangles.
By giving clear rules (in both meanings of the word), the plan allows daily changes to the displays without disturbing the balance and orderliness of the overall look.
Everything in the store, from furniture and fixtures to the actual merchandise, lines up with the grid that originates from the building’s structural frame. - Tuija Seipell
The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park by Brazil (Pic - Massimo Vitali)
Chamonix Mont Blanc (Pic - Isabelle Jouvie)
Cathedrals Beach, Galicia, Spain
Loggas beach, Corfu island ~ Greece
Winnats Pass near Castleton Derbyshire, UK
Amsterdam (Pic - Sander Fennema)
The Seven Sisters Waterfall in Norway.
View the previous listings on our Amazing Places page here
Belgian twin brothers, Kristof and Stefan Boxy have dipped their culinary hands in several Michelin-star restaurants and catering businesses, and they’ve authored a cook book as well: Just Cooking.
We loved their food store/catering space, Boxy Fine Foods, in Ghent, but unfortunately it closed earlier this year. While we do not know the reason why it closed, we bet it wasn’t because of the interior design.
With the help of Frederich Hooft of Ghent, the Boxy brothers created an elegant, white, open space to display and sell gourmet foods.
The elaborate moldings on the ceilings, the sparkling chandeliers, the gilded mirrors and the wide floor boards speak of tradition, history and heritage, but not in a stuffy way. It feels fresh, new and modern with a few clever twists in the display set-ups.
From one angle at a doorway, a triple take on hanging items welcome the visitors: hams, chandeliers and hanging baskets with their mossy root balls.
The setting reminds us of a museum or an art gallery, which is partly the reason the whole enterprise appears opulent and luxurious and sets one up to expect high prices and superior quality. - Tuija Seipell.
See also Victor Churchill Butcher in Sydney
Good coffee was not on an average consumer’s radar in 1971, when the story of the brand now known as Starbucks began. This was the case especially in North America where coffee culture was nonexistent.
That all started to change when Howard Schultz bought Starbucks in 1987 and started its expansion outside Seattle with the first outside the U.S. store opening that same year in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Today, Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world with about 23,500 stores in 65 countries. With the changes in lifestyles around the world, Starbucks’s idea of the local coffee shop being the “third place” between work and home has really become a reality.
Working, meeting and cooperating at coffee shops has become the norm, as has the lingo of special coffees as customers around the world order tall skinny lattes fluently.
What Starbucks has also done is open the market for smaller specialized coffee shops for those markets where the giants don’t want to go, and for those customers who don’t want the same old, standardized stores, at least not all the time.
As a result, we see daily examples of new, stylish, individual and small-chain coffee shops that manage to feel appealing even to the consumers that are by now completely coffeed-out.
And, Starbucks itself creates original concepts to fit special locations.Leaving no market or location un-Starbucked, the brand opened an amazing shop at the main entrance to the Dazaifu Tenman-gū, one of the most revered Shinto shrines in Japan.
About two million visitors a year trek to the shrine, established in 919 A.D. To match the task at hand, Starbucks recruited the 60-year-old Japanese master architect and master of the wooden slats, Kengo Kuma.
Kuma used 2000 wooden slats to weave a latticework structure that encases the entire four-meter (13 ft.) high space, creating a nest or a cave. The latticework reflects traditional Japanese architecture and fits harmoniously among the traditional buildings of the area.
In the last decade, we have covered many coffee shops that stand out. These include D’Espresso
that opened in 2010 in New York and made waves with its startling floors and ceilings covered in images of books. The Manhattan-based designers at Nemaworkshop took their cue from the nearby New York Public Library’s Bryant Park branch and went delightfully bookish.
At the edge of Little Italy on Manhattan, A New Zealand coffee culture is brewing. Luke Harwood, one of the founders of Happy Bones café on Broome Street is also one of the founders of Kiwi fashion brand Stolen Girlfriends Club.
Originally, in 2012, Harwood and artist Jason Woodside satisfied their obsession with great coffee in a space at the back of a retail boutique on Bond Street.
Then Harwood and Woodside were joined by New Zealand’s power couple Craig Nevill-Manning (Google's engineering director in NY) and wife Kirsten (previously of Facebook and Google) and now Happy Bones is its own independent little box offering espresso, art publications and an eclectic mix of retro design pieces.
We love the white-painted brick walls that make the little shoebox seem so bright and clean.
Coffee Bar’s tiny Kearny Street shop by Jones Haydy sits right at the entrance to a large parking garage and caters to the busy people of the Financial District.
It is also located on a stretch of street that has suffered from vacancies and neglected lots, and the store is optimistically attempting to bring life back to the area.
Adorned with lovely wooden walls, some of which are scorched with the Japanese Shou Sugi Ban technique that prolongs the life of the wood, the shop still retains the slightly rough industrial air with its minimalistic furnishings and exposed-concrete features.
Another San Francisco favourite is the three-location Sightglass Coffee Bar & Roastery.
The flagship coffee bar, company headquarters and roaster are now located at 270 Seventh Street in San Francisco’s SoMa neighbourhood in a restored building dating back to 1925.
The building remains unchanged outside – it’s still an ugly concrete cube – but the inside exudes the company’s artisanal expertise and obsessive focus on all things coffee.
The fabulous, multi-level building took its new shape through cooperation between Sightglass owners Justin and Jerad Morrison and Seth Boor of Boor Bridges Architecture.
Saint Frank Coffee is yet another great San Francisco renovation, located in the historic Russian Hill neighbourhood at 2340 Polk Street.
The boxy shape of the space is nicely divided with wood paneling and bright white walls that draw the eye to the center of action - the white coffee bar.
Far from San Francisco’s coffee culture, Origo Coffee Shop in Bucharest, Romania, features the same kind of great restored surroundings and smooth expanses of wood paneling .
Local architecture and design studio Lama Arhitectura discovered beautiful wood beams underneath the layers of plaster and these beams became the hanging posts for the 270 teacups that hang above the bar.
The space is a coffee shop by day and a bar by night and the solid-oak bar can be raised from sit-down height to stand-up height accordingly.
Paris is also renewing its coffee culture among stiff traditions and competition. The creative minds at L'Hôtel de Vendôme in Paris set their eyes on “High Coffee.” They don’t call it that, but it certainly looks and feels like it.
Every afternoon, superior gourmet coffee varieties are served accompanied by dainty carts full of mouth-watering sweet delicacies created with the supervision of Luc Debove, Chef Pâtissier of the Grand Hotel of Cap Ferrat.
Adding to the High Tea feel, the coffee is served in the hotel’s deliciously prissy first-floor restaurant, with its magnificent views of Place Vendôme. When the restaurant opened in 2009, it was Florence-based architect Michele Bönan’s first restaurant and hotel project in France.
The two men leading the Paris coffee revolution are Frenchman Antoine Netien and his Australian partner Tom Clarke. They opened their first Café Coutume in Paris in 2011, and brought a cool and playful sense of ‘science’ to the coffee shop.
Clean white surroundings, glass beakers and coffee origins marked in scientific-like abbreviations, such as ‘Gu’ for Guatemala.
They have since expanded in France and recently opened their first Japanese café in Tokyo’s Aoyama district.
To design this store, they invited CUT Architecture that designed their original flagship and the coffee cart for the Finnish Institute in Paris.
The Tokyo store repeats the science theme with white tiles, glass beakers and a lovely pattern of squares everywhere. The ceiling lattice and lighting, the shape of the tables, the shelving, the tiles, all bring a sense of order and harmony. Tuija Seipell
See also The Rise of the Designer Bakery
Those of us who are tired of throwawayism and of pointlessly amassing closetfuls of disposable footwear, are starting to pay serious attention to the kind of shoe quality that only true expertise and attention to detail can produce.
Voting with our wallets, we’d rather shop once a year and obtain something that is beautiful, durable and worth the high price, than keep throwing our money – and shoes – away season after season. Traditional men’s shoe makers Joseph Cheaney and others like them are thriving today because they give us what we want.
If you have been making fine men’s’ shoes since 1886 in Northamptonshire, the region known for high-quality English shoemaking, you have the history, traditions and expertise to claim top-price for your product today.
Capitalizing on the demand of high-quality, customized, hand-made men’s footwear Joseph Cheaney has turned its fortunes around in the past five years, since cousins Jonathan and William Church, fifth-generation shoemakers themselves, bought the brand.
The brand is thriving not just in London, where five stores have opened in five years, but also in China, Japan, continental Europe and Russia.
Although it is hip and contemporary, Joseph Cheaeny’s impressive new flagship fits perfectly on London’s Jermyn Street that dates back to 1664 and is known for British artistry and craftsmanship, especially for the finest men’s tailors, shirt makers and suppliers of leather goods.
The designers at Checkland & Kindleysides used history, tradition and craftsmanship as their guides for the store design, creating an environment that inspires exploration and helps patrons appreciate the skill and care that goes into making every pair by hand.
The front of the store highlights the factory and the process of making each pair. Many features of this area echo the factory in Northampton, including metal-framed screens, paneled ceiling and painted brick. In the center sit a 1:100 scale model of the Cheaney factory and a display of how genuine Cheaney shoes are made.
The second area of the store feels like a traditional boardroom with leather seating and the portraits of the founders looking down sternly from the walls.
Our favourite features are the white peg-board walls, the rows of wooden shoe lasts and the exquisite inky-blue colour on some of the walls.
Checkland & Kindleysides is a 30-year-old, London-based design studio with a retail client list that includes Wrangler, Dr.Martens, Levi’s, Timberland and Converse. - Tuija Seipell
In our working lives, we are in many ways still stuck in the age of the Industrial Revolution. When the masses worked in factories, the office support personnel worked the same hours, or at least “regular working hours” and commuted daily to central offices.
Perhaps there was a sense that all workers needed to be under the watchful eye of the Master and therefore they needed to gather in one place to be supervised, like kids in school? Are we not past that phase?
We are challenging every single person to take responsibility for his or her own working environment. Let’s stop behaving as if we were still in the 1780s, looking for the masters to recognize our office sucks. Yes, it sucks, but what are you going to do about it?
At The Cool Hunter, we have been writing about interesting offices for a decade. Luckily, we are now well past the “ping-pong table in the hallway, M&Ms in the bowl, beer in the fridge” - stage of office enhancement, and we are actually seeing some real, meaningful change in our working environments.
But it is still too focused on just the so-called creative sectors (are there still sectors that are non-creative??) and the office-space upgrades are often seen as just gimmicks or additional perks , not something crucial that actually affects the results of our work.
Science is now proving this short-sightedness wrong, and we are calling for everyone to take charge. Do we even need an office? What we need to do is focus on results, not on hours worked, or worse yet, hours being in the office. Where-ever we work, we will be more productive and happier when we work in an environment we love.
Let’s start tomorrow
Let’s all start tomorrow by looking at our own working environment and coming up with at least four ways in which we can change it for the better ourselves. Bring in that new plant, or that favourite piece of art, or the comfy red chair, or the cool desk light, or the oriental carpet. See if anyone notices?
We bet the entire office will start to change once someone cares enough to start it. We cannot wait for the employers to take it on as they will likely see it as a cost. It does not have to cost a single penny to the employer and, when it does, the positive results will far outweigh the costs.
And, in the end, why are we even looking at it as an additional cost when all indicators point to increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, better morale, higher creativity and so on?
Central offices, open plans
Today, with the nature of work significantly altered, we still commute to central offices as a residue from the days of the Industrial Revolution. We now spend our days in open-concept offices wearing headphones to cut out the distractions, and texting and emailing our co-workers sitting just beyond our cubicle.
According to some estimates, nearly 70 per cent of us now spend our days in open-concept offices, a bad idea conceived and promoted by the American mechanical engineer Frederick Taylor (1856-1915) who called people “units of production” and promoted maximum efficiency at almost any cost.
Open-concept offices were designed for productivity of both workers and space but we know now that they have failed on both accounts.
What exactly is the point of gathering up – at great cost to the environment and ourselves – daily in a boring office building, if the one thing that it gives us - being face-to-face with our coworkers - isn’t even relevant any more, or isn’t possible or natural in a distracted and stressed out environment?
There is now significant scientific evidence that open-concept offices are not good for productivity, do not increase workplace happiness and in fact fail by any measure to meet the needs of today’s creative, focused, results-oriented team. And this applies to workers of any age, including the multi-tasking younger generations.
Clearly, today’s workplaces need to change quickly. We have had time to reconsider ,and yet so many of us are still working in environments that are not stimulating, interesting or helpful in any way to produce the results we are expected to produce.
And of course, our working habits ARE slowly changing, but not at a speed or scale they should and could. We are working at home, free-agenting, telecommuting, flexible-work-daying. But in many cases, we also need to gather in an office.
Many organizations around the world are taking a serious look at the nature of work today and coming to the same conclusions: What matters in a project-oriented, results-oriented, collaborative workplace is the tone that the environment sets. Just like packaging matters in products, the package inside which we create our product, be it ideas or services or products, affects how we feel about our work. And our role within the company.
We have all read about the famous example of the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, that Walt Disney built with the proceeds from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The entire campus on the site was custom-designed by Ken Weber with the help of Walt and his brother Roy, and purpose-built in 1940 for the process of animation, with ideal natural light conditions, theatres, sound stages, inking rooms, a state-of-the-art commissary, and lots of green space and benches. It was a campus designed to encourage creativity, efficiency and collaboration. It was an ideal working environment
Another famous example with similar goals is the Pixar Campus in Emeryville, California, custom-created with Steve Jobs’s personal supervision in 2000 . From central gathering places and all-encompassing services to individually personalized offices, the Pixar Campus (owned by Disney) has become the destination for all who want to witness a cool, caring and fun workplace.
These are exceptions, of course, as both are large, creative companies and fature new custom-designed buildings. Most of us will not have the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful experience. But we can do a lot about our own environment. Let’s all – both employer and employee - start paying attention to the office.
Why are we working where we are? Why are the offices the way they are? Could we all sit down and brainstorm ideas about quick, inexpensive ways to make changes? What if we all came in one weekend and painted the walls? What if each of us really put some effort into creating our own space to mirror our own interests and passions?
What if we set a goal to fix what ails our working environment? And, more important, how long are we willing to do nothing and pretend it does not matter? - Tuija Seipell.
Images via our offices section
Texas-born, Atlanta-based chef-turned-restaurateur, Ford Fry, continues to enrich Atlanta’s dining offering.
Earlier this year, his Rocket Farm restaurant group opened its fifth restaurant, St. Cecilia, in The Pinnacle building in Buckhead, in the space previously occupied by Bluepointe.
To design the establishment that has room for nearly 200 in total, Fry selected Meyer Davis Studio http://www.meyerdavis.com/about/ of New York, established in 1999 by Will Meyer and Gray Davis. Fry has used the same studio for his King + Duke restaurant.
Meyer Davis’s work on prestigious retail and hospitality projects includes the revamp of W Lakeshore in Chicago and Paramount in New York, plus Oscar de la Renta’s boutiques worldwide and John Varvatos stores in New York and Las Vegas.
St. Cecilia’s most redeeming feature is the scale and the satisfying feel of pattern and repetition. The first impression is that of order without severity and spaciousness without the unwelcoming feel of coldness.
The space is high, the sightlines clear and wide with lots of natural light. Seating and tables, shelves and bottles, and rows of pendant lighting fixtures all add to the sense of harmony and tidiness, yet there are spots of whimsy and little surprises at every turn.
Bits and pieces of mementoes, old medicine bottles, old books, a plank of aged wood, a darkened painting leaning against a wall, a stuffed bird on a side board.
These details neutralize the newness and create a comfortable visual link to something old and somewhat Mediterranean, an appropriate context for the Italian-inspired menu.
And of course we love the black-and-white colour scheme, always a harmonious back drop for creative sparks.
In addition to St. Cecilia, Ford Fry also operates JCT Kitchen, No. 246, The Optimist, and King + Duke, all in Atlanta. He is rumored to be planning his sixth and seventh restaurants in Krog Street Market and in the Avalon in Alpharetta, Atlanta. Tuija Seipell
We are not quite sure how long we can stand feeling this envious but, for now, our envy is directed sharply at the owners of the gorgeous 500-square-meter (5,382 sq.ft) Parisian property, recently overhauled by designer François Champsaur.
The Marseilles-born, Paris-based designer was faced with a double challenge. The family has owned this apartment for generations, yet Champsaur’s brief was to make it “unrecognisable,” as he is quoted as saying in a magazine article.
Also, the apartment is located in the Trocadéro neighbourhood with views of the Eiffel Tower and the Seine, and it carries a historical weight as a representative of an era. Champsaur did not want to destroy these historical underpinnings in the process.
Like the proverbial sculptor, he removed everything that wasn’t the apartment, including walls, false ceilings, doors and staircases. Narrow corridors, thick walls, heavy doors and dark corners disappeared.
The beautiful, U-shaped open space circling an inner courtyard was then carefully outfitted with just the right replacements: Light-weight walls and partitions, open sight-lines, minimal colour, custom-designed furnishings and lighting.
The cool old-world feel comes from the white framework, and of course, the view. You have no doubt your are in a storied, fabulously aging, historical space, but it is also a decidedly and classically modern luxury home.
Champsaur even convinced the owners to heed the call of their almost-empty-vessel surroundings. Used to living among numerous valuable and ornate objects in every room, the owners now agreed to select only key pieces that give just the right touch of decoration, tradition and opulence.
Many of the pieces of furniture, such as the Mars chairs by Konstantin Grcic for ClassiCon, are also sculptural and demand visual scarcity around them. One of our Our favourites is the green leather banquette seating designed by François Champsaur. We also love the undulating dividers made of both wood panels and wood slats and strategically placed to emphasize not so much the division but the unity of the spaces. - Tuija Seipell.
Although there is not a samovar in sight – neither anything resembling the ornate boiler of tea water - the two-month-old Samovar tea bar in The Mission area of San Francisco is most decidedly dedicated to tea. This is the fourth Samovar in owner Jesse Jacobs’ little empire (the other three are also in San Francisco), and clearly different from the others which are more traditional tea houses.
The Mission Samovar is a feast for the eyes and soul in its fine minimalist balance. What is NOT there makes this altar of tea-time contemplation so incredibly beautiful. The antidote to the bustling, loud, constantly connected coffee shop, this is “a retreat from the rat race” as Jacobs said in a magazine interview.
In addition to the highly edited selection of teas and scones, the central focus of this Samovar is the peaceful, almost prayerful atmosphere brought out by the exquisite surroundings.
The thick, white walls, against which hefty white shelves are suspended appear old and slightly weathered. And on the substantial shelves, in harmoniously spaced rows, sit the thick, white cups, custom-created by ceramists at Oakland’s Atelier Dion.
These handle-less cups are meant to be cradled in the hand, held and enjoyed, as opposed to held with the pinky pointing skyward, or clutched like a beer mug. These cups informed the design of the store, skillfully executed by the style masters at San Francisco’s Arcanum Architecture.
The limited assortment of black, green, herbal and iced teas plus masala chai and matcha, is not made from dustings out of dangly bags with hot water poured on. Instead they are ceremoniously yet swiftly prepared in a stately row of tablet-controlled, glass crucibles manufactured in Utah by Arcanum Architecture. - Tuija Seipell.
via Spotted SF
A science and engineering museum’s café project inspired interior designer and photographer Anna Wigandt to create a cool space for enjoyment and study, but she also invented a few products of her own.
The Science Cafe & Library is located in Wigandt’s home town, Chişinău (formerly known as Kishinev), the capital city of Moldova on the river Bîc.
The main features of the self-serve café and library are the jigsaw-puzzle table and the book displays.
The table’s inspiration, according to Wigandt, was German astronomer Johannes Kepler’s 1596 book, Mysterium Cosmographicum (Cosmic Mystery) that dealt with the proportions of celestial bodies.
The modular table’s various configurations allow set-ups from small: each café visitor can form their own work table, to large: lecture groups to gather around one big table.
The surrounding book displays are divided into eight topic areas ranging from Shipbuilding and Astronautics to Nuclear Science and Biological Engineering, each identified with the striking lettering.
The greatest achievement in this project, however, is the lighting. The designer ended up inventing a few engineering marvels of her own in the process. The chandelier was created specifically for the space out of 408 actual test-tubes. The same tubes were used for the pendants hanging from the meatal rigging above the table.
The celestial darkness of ceiling give the entire space an aura of being outdoors, under midnight sky. We also like the hexagons, chevrons and honeycomb patterns on the walls and floor. - Tuija Seipell.