Back in August 2018 I was commissioned to help convert and design an old Post Office and Cafe into a new modern space that was a friendly, inclusive space at the heart of the community that appealed to all demographics. The Cafe is situated in the Bournville area of Birmingham, a model village built by the Cadbury family in an Arts and Crafts style and overlooks the village green.
The old Post Office and Cafe is split over 2 rooms with the old cafe being at the back and featuring an amazing parquet floor, the old post office is at the front of the property overlooking the green and also has great original features such as the old post box, safe and entrance that the clients were keen to keep within the new design.
Below are some images of the property before we made any changes.
The clients brief was to create a warm, welcoming, relaxed European style Cafe with a feeling that it had existed for years and had developed a patina over time. They also wanted to be mindful of the area it was situated and the history behind the property.
The 1st step was deciding how we wanted to use the space, we wanted to make sure the space was as user friendly for the customer as it was for the employee. Key to this is the bar layout, the original cafe had a very small counter area that I felt wasn't very practical and there wasn't much space behind it. We decided for cost reasons to keep the original fridge and the bar in roughly the same area as moving it would have incurred lots of extra costs. The clients wanted to make it bigger and have plenty of storage so we designed this 'L' shaped bar with lots of hidden shelves and added in a row of back counter cupboards and shelving to provide lots of valuable storage space and an area to showcase their product.
I didn't want to have just a plain wooden bar front so to create a bit of interest I designed a pattern that was a nod to the parquet flooring but wasn't too over the top that it detracted from the other pieces in the room.
In terms of lighting we had to make sure there was a good mix of task and accent lighting over the counter, these spindle pendants from Rothschild & Bickers over the counter top provide a focal point in the room whilst also being practical.
The colour we chose for the scheme was Farrow & Balls Inchyra Blue, this colour was chosen specifically for its soft blue colour that in some lights can also appear green. We decided to use this colour throughout on both the ceilings and the walls to help make the space feel larger.
The client was keen to have pops of colour throughout the scheme so we went with handmade tiles from specialist Mexican shop on London's Columbia Road, Milagros for the splash back. The fact that they are handmade meant that they weren't perfectly straight and although this caused a bit of bother initially for the builder I believe this handmade quality makes them even more charming.
As the client was keen for the space to feel as though it had been there for years and have a European feel I thought it would be nice to have a mix of vintage pieces within the scheme. These wall mirrors, sourced through one of our trusted suppliers Stowaway London, were found in France and have a nicely aged mirror plate to them.
For lighting in this area I didn't want to have too much stark overhead lighting so decided to go with these deco style lampshades from Lotus Lampshades, on top of standard lamps. The shape is very traditional and is a nice reference to the period in which this property was built
The chairs were sourced from a wedding furniture company, Papa Shop, and I decided to reupholster the seat with something a little more exciting to add some extra interest, both myself and the client loved this Meh Meh fabric from House of Hackney, it provided a subtle hit of colour within the scheme. We mixed this House Of Hackney fabric in with a leather in green/blue colour to provide a bit of variety on the chairs and provide more comfort to the customer.
In the front room, in what was the old Post Office, we again wanted to keep the relaxed feeling, we carried on the Inchyra blue from Farrow & Ball, the use of vintage mirrors, deco style lampshades and the House Of Hackney and leather upholstered chairs. I also added into the mix some leather armchairs that had a lovely worn quality to them and provide a softer seating area, some Ercol style chairs and also a raised bar section with leather topped stools.
At the start of the project I was particularly keen to see if there were any brick walls that could be exposed in the property as I think having this brings some character to the room, creates a focal point and juxtaposes nicely against the silk of the lampshades. After tentatively removing some of the plaster we were pleased to see that the brick behind was in good enough condition to expose whcih we were very pleased about.
The Vintage School House pendant lighting, from Fritz Fryer, add to the vintage look of the scheme and provide much needed light to this room.
By keeping the old Post Box and the Safe and integrating them into the scheme helps gives the interior a sense of place and is a reference to its history.
With thanks to my key suppliers on this project: Stowaway London, Rothschild & Bickers, Farrow & Ball, Fritz Fryer, Lotus Lampshades, Cult Furniture, Papa Shop, House of Hackney, North Wales Stone, Milagros and very special mention to Rhys Evans Joinery.