As one of the most popular drinks in the world, enjoying a cup of coffee can depend as much on your surroundings as the brew itself. Interior Design Shop goes through a variety of coffee shops including a fantastic cafe for cat lovers, an adventurous cafe in a daring location, a former prison serving coffee, and more. Piqued your interest? Here’s the countdown to the top 10 best designed cafes in the world to inspire you today.
#10 BAR TOPOLSKI, LONDON, UK
This cafe-bar-gallery pays homage to its former resident; Polish-born artist and illustrator Feliks Topolski.
Featuring Topolski’s genuine works, we can catch up on our art history while sipping the bar’s special house-infused spirits.
Located in Hungerford Arches near London’s Waterloo railway station, this is the same railway arch that Topolski painted and exhibited much of his work, including drawings and paintings of a diverse range of people, from King George V to Elvis Presley.
B3 Designers’ brief was to turn this 370 sq m arch space into a venue that allowed visitors to celebrate and enjoy the late Feliks Topolski’s artworks.
#9 SALVAGED RING CAFE, NHA TRANG CITY, VIETNAM
Situated alongside a highway, this cafe is located in the countryside of Nha Trang, Vietnam. The shop belongs to a carpenter who salvaged scrap wood from his previous projects to build this impressive structure.
The first view most people get of the café is its unusual curved thatched roof that extends from the highway down to the riverbank. That single roof connects two different levels into one and softens the rigid structure supporting below.
Designed by a21 studio, guests are led by an exotic route from the exterior to the interior, around a courtyard created by the ring-shaped roof – a feature that, along with the salvaged wood, gives the cafe its name.
The building was shortlisted for the 2014 Wood Excellence Awards, as part of the World Architecture Awards.
#8 CAFE KI, TOKYO, JAPAN
Ki means tree in Japanese, an apt name for this minimalist, monochrome cafe in Tokyo.
Coffee-coloured wooden poles are one of the few design features in this tranquil space. These steel ‘trees’ form the legs of the tables, but their branches are also perfect for hanging hats, coats and bags.
Although the tree-like accents are minimal, the interior not only evokes a sense of calm, but the trees help maintain a comfortable distance from everyone else, with the branches dividing the space on the tables.
Japanese design office id inc. designed everything in this cafe, from the interior through to the graphics, staff uniforms, website and original products.
Though some people will prefer a cafe with more comfort, we are drawn to this space for its simplicity, its Zen-like feeling and the way the white furniture almost seems to disappear against the white walls and floor – the perfect antidote to the overstimulation of modern life.
#7 EAST BEACH CAFE, WEST SUSSEX, UK
As bold a reinvention of the British seaside ‘caff’ as you’re ever likely to see, the small south coastal town of Littlehampton is home to the East Beach Cafe, owned by Jane Wood and daughter Sophie Murray.
The entire structure is symbiotic with its seaside surroundings, its exterior reflecting a piece of driftwood and other natural seaside silhouettes such as sand dunes, shells and rolling waves.
Local welders used ribbons of weathered raw steel to create this striking finish.
The beautiful interior features contoured walls and cleverly concealed roller shutters, covering the windows when the cafe is closed.
Putting such a modern building in a traditional and quintessentially English surrounding may seem controversial, but Heatherwick says the planning application was granted without a single letter of objection, a fact he partly attributes to the enthusiasm of the cafe’s owners who commissioned him. It’s clear the locals were enthusiastic to endorse contemporary and authentic designs.
#6 THE CAKE, KIEV, UKRAINE
‘Is that a Jeff Koons?’, you may ask as you walk through this stylish cafe in Kiev, Ukraine. It isn’t, but this cheeky imitation of one of Koons’ balloon animal sculptures is pretty close to the mark. However, text printed on the sculpture leaves no doubt that this is simply paying homage to the artist.
Specialising in modern French patisserie, The Cake has an interior design scheme that’s every bit as carefully handcrafted as its food.
Designed by 2b.group, the giant pink, balloon-like sculpture of a dog stands out from the muted tones of its backdrop with ease. The floor is covered with some 10,000 handmade tiles, each of which is subtly different.
Against the background, the designers say it looks, ‘Just like a glazed cake on a white plate’. And who doesn’t love cake?
#5 DREAMY CAMERA CAFE, YANGPYEONG, SOUTH KOREA
Inspired by a love of vintage cameras, a South Korean couple have designed and built an extraordinary cafe to replicate a classic twin-lens Rolleiflex, right next to their home.
Army aviation pilot Park Sung-Hwan and his wife Kwak Myung-hee, an ex-pilot herself, decided to build the cafe for their family (including their daughter) and local customers to enjoy.
Dreaming of capturing life’s special moments, living closer to nature and owning a dog, the family trio could achieve these goals with the Dreamy Camera Cafe, hence its name.
As you can see, the cafe looks just as impressive all year round.
Not your average cafe, this space is preferred as a place for dreamers, where you can talk about your ideas, have an instant photo taken and record your memories for all to enjoy – rather than a quick coffee and photo to tick off your bucket list.
Comprising of two stories (30 feet tall in total) to mimic the classic twin-lens camera, the cafe provides a stunning view of the countryside. The interior features Park’s vintage camera collection on display, while the tables include coloured pencils, a menu inside a photo album and a film roll-style paper towel dispenser.
The original design was based on the Leica rangefinder, another vintage camera, however this proved too challenging from a technical perspective. After sketching a design in 2009, the couple presented the concept to contractors before building began in 2012, with the cafe opening in 2013.
#4 JURY, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
If it weren’t for the hint in the name, you may not guess that this cafe used to be part of a prison.
Located in Coburg, just eight kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD, the 475sq/m cafe sits within the stone perimeter walls of the former Pentridge Prison. Before it was closed in 1997, the Australian prison housed notorious criminal and crime novelist: Chopper Read.
Biasol Design Studio added pale timber struts and plywood furniture to the bare concrete space, providing accents with pastel and monochrome paintwork.
According to Biasol, the considerable contrast between the building’s former function and its new one inspired a contrast in terms of colours and materials.
The eccentricity of sipping a cup of coffee in a former prison, surrounded by a modern and fresh, yet authentic decor.
#3 ROMEOW CAT BISTROT, ROME, ITALY
Originating in Japan, cat cafes (or Neko Cafes) have become a covetable concept for coffee houses around the world.
We were particularly charmed by Italy’s Romeow Cat Bistrot located, not surprisingly, in Rome, for its cat-savvy interior design.
Artistically-placed bookshelves and a tree in the corner provide a cat-savvy environment.
Designed by Tommaso Guerra, this cafe-bistro has been crafted to reflect a home. Large windows, a piano and soft furnishings adorn the space while a tree in the corner and book-inspired shelving make this quirky design a feline-friendly environment.
The six featured cats are able to roam the shop – bar the kitchen and food preparation areas of course – with certain corners blocked-off from customers so they can find respite if need be.
#2 MIRRORS, GIFU, JAPAN
Appropriately named Mirrors, this striking cafe features wall-length mirrors on its exterior, reflecting the famous Cherry Blossom trees opposite. Designed by Bandesign, the coffee house is located along one of Japan’s tourist routes in Gifu – a sure-fire way of welcoming travellers inside.
Camellia trees sit out the front surrounded by ivory gravel, while the remainder of the building is painted white for a traditional clapboard effect. Bandesign have perfectly balanced the aesthetics with this coffee house, allowing the main focus to speak for itself.
The interior of Mirrors display wooden accents for the forest theme.
The interior incorporates roof struts of dark wood to resemble tree branches, with wooden chairs and white, green and red walls – all supporting the forest theme.
A definite destination during your visit, the Cherry Blossom season is a beautiful yet fleeting occasion. To ensure customers can enjoy the cafe’s beauty throughout the year, Bandesign planted the Camellia trees, which bloom vivid red flowers during the months of winter and spring, providing a seasonal colour scheme.
View of the cafe from across the avenue on the embankment, where the Cherry Blossoms were planted.
#1 KNOLL RIDGE CAFE, MT RUAPEHU, NEW ZEALAND
Heading the list is New Zealand’s Knoll Ridge Cafe, perched dramatically in the North Island’s Tongariro National Park on Mt Ruapehu.
Not only is this mountain home to Whakapapa, part of New Zealand’s largest commercial ski field, but it is also New Zealand’s largest active volcano. How’s that for an exciting brew?
The design was formed after the previous Knoll Ridge Chalet was destroyed by a fire early 2009 and soon after HB Architecture took on the challenge for the redesign.
Not only did the architects have to account for the mountain’s severe weather conditions, including winds up to 200km/ph and temperatures well below freezing, but due to its isolated location the delivery, placement and erection of the materials was performed via helicopter.
Extensive pre-planning was required with concrete slabs first created then taken up the slopes before the snow melted, followed by the construction the next summer. All the glass units were designed with equalising tubes to account for the helicopter’s acceleration during flight and to facilitate onsite argon gas filling. A total of 25 tonnes of glass was used to form the 415m² glass facade, creating a 100% thermally broken purpose built glass curtain wall.
Summer or winter, if you’re ever in the Southern Hemisphere, be sure to enjoy a hike or chairlift up to New Zealand’s highest cafe, 2020 metres above sea level, and drink in the breathtaking views.