Small but perfectly formed

They say the best things come in small packages. While there may be a few exceptions, new book Very Small Cafés and Restaurants, by John Stones, demonstrates just how outstanding even the teeniest establishments can become with clever design. Almost all of the 40 projects featured measure less than 150 square metres.

As well as featuring small, independent eateries, even big, bad, poster-boy for multinationals McDonald’s gets a look in, highlighting its drive to promote itself as a purveyor of ‘good’ fast food.

A spread from the book featuring The Deptford Project
A spread from the book featuring The Deptford Project

Some of the DW favourites are the beautifully illustrated examples of the power of the humble café to transform a fairly run down area into a go-to for aesthetes.

Morecombe, for example, was a downtrodden seaside town languishing in the hangover of its seaside glory days. The local authority decided that clever design was to play a key part in helping resurrect the ‘dreary backwater’ town.

In doing so, they invited Manchester based designers Arca to create the Silver Café – a beautiful, sculptural building more aligned with Anish Kapoor or Richard Serra than the tattered awnings you might expect of the area.

A spread from the book featuring East Beach Cafe
A spread from the book featuring East Beach Cafe

Similarly, in seaside town Littlehampton, the creation of an ambitiously designed café saw visitors flock to the South coast. Thomas Heatherwick’s famous armadillo-esque East Beach Café, which he describes as ‘a cross between the rusting hull of a ship and a giant piece of driftwood’, forms a spectacularly iconic addition to the shoreline.

Another example of the power of the café for good is shown in The Deptford Project, which opened in 2008, designed by Studio Myerscough.

The café is, in fact, a 35 tonne 1960s railway carriage on Deptford High Street, painted graffiti-style with bold, bright, cheerful colours. It doubles up as a space to house community and artistic initiatives, and even features a toilet created by artist Luke Morgan as a shrine to Elvis.

From the functional to the frivolous, the book gives an insight into some of the most intricately, beautifully designed eating spaces to grace the streets of London.

A spread from the book featuring Snog
A spread from the book featuring Snog

Snog, for instance, which first opened in South Kensington, is designed to evoke the feeling of a ‘perfect never ending summer’, using a ‘digital sky’ ceiling programmed to change throughout the day; photographic vinyl ‘grass’ flooring and stylized meadow flowers adorning the walls.

Very Small Cafés & Restaurants is priced at £22.50, and will be available next month. It is by John Stones and published by Laurence King Publishing.

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  • karla November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    what a great article. writers like this make design week a pleasure to read :).

  • Images Out Of The Ordinary November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    For more images of East Beach Cafe, check out this photo collection

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