If it wasn’t for la bella vita I lived in Italy for over 120 days three years ago, who knew when my taste buds would come around in willingly accepting the bitter taste of red wine or a cup of coffee on the regular. Almost every night, either bottles of good wine or gallon jugs of house wine (depending on the occasion) were sent to our table at the restaurant. Every morning following Mass, I went to the same espresso bar and ordered my usual delectable pastry and a perfect cup of cappuccino. Since then I’ve grown accustomed to those flavors and to the places that supply them.
Today was my first day off in quite some time. After a long day spent checking off a laundry list of chores I’ve been meaning to get done, “look for a coffee shop!” came to mind first. I spontaneously caught up with a good friend at Northside Social Coffee + Wine a few days ago and Fairgrounds Coffee a few days before that. I guess it’s safe to say that I’m back in my coffee shop phase, although I think it’s important to mention that I’m actually not a coffee addict. Since I will be heading back north after this “year of service” concludes, lately I always have the urge to explore the area more before I regret not exploring enough once I return to my stomping grounds. But before I go on, I should mention some things about me.
First off, I have a rather large place in my heart for independently owned shops and spaces. I love independent roots. For example, for my studio class project in Italy, I transformed an old restaurant into a jazz club. (I visited the jazz club in Florence a couple of times. The place inspired me, just as the music always does.) For my senior studio project I chose to design a coffee shop, bookstore, and jazz supper club. Coffee shops and bookstores are among the few places I love passing time in.
Secondly, every time I step into a space, whether it is a restaurant, hotel lobby, office, or a home, I analyze it. (I attribute my four years in the design world for that disposition.) In those moments I try to get a good feel of the space, the atmosphere, the layout… I try to see and feel if it works. Before my third year of college, I was having difficulty trying to discover my vocation – if the Interior Design field was the right choice for me. I would often go back and forth trying to find reasons on how I can help the world in my own, little way. The following semester after I finished studying abroad, I realized many important aspects about this major-choice by learning about building/safety codes, occupancy loads, harmful and harmless furnishings and its effects on anybody, fire rated materials (side note: a poorly designed space can result in death – WHAAAT?! I know, right?) and of course, a design that impeccably caters to the clients’ needs. Simple things were not as simple as I had initially thought: “Is this window treatment fire-retardant? Is this bathroom ADA accessible? Does this type of lighting allow a person to work better? Does the design scheme of the space supplement motivation to work for an office employee?” Etcetera, etcetera. So when I say works, those kinds of questions come to mind. Those are the types of questions that remind me that I can make a difference in a person’s life because I’ve seen and felt it make the difference in mine.
Today I passed time in an independent coffee shop called Bean There in Norfolk before meeting a friend for dinner. The moment I walked in, I did the usual routine of analyzing the space. In the two minutes it took to get my cup of coffee, I was already admiring the space. I looked at the furniture selection, the designs for the sofa chairs. I was easily drawn to the rest of the furnishings. I loved the floor-to-ceiling windows and the window treatments used. I loved the usage of pendant lighting and the recessed lighting on the ceiling clouds that wrapped around the entire space from the bar to the tables. I admired the combination of classical and modern styles…the contrast between hardwood to concrete flooring. And the china! Oh, that china. The weathered wood of some of the tables added antique personality.
All of this I felt as I sat in a comfortable sofa chair, drank my coffee, and ate my crème brûlée danish. I think it’s rather impressive that I’m able to enter a space and feel the way I do without having been there before. I wasn’t even there long enough to really look and understand the space completely. Being there for however long I was before dinner inspired me to write, some about my passion for creating and designing a space that can make people feel the way I just felt during that coffee shop visit. There was the motivation, simply through the admiration of the space. I know the passion is still there. And it’s comforting to know that that passion still remains even though God asks that I focus more on the interiors of people and not buildings, which I am 100% content with.
With that said…