Cut Architectures

Café lab culture

EUROPE: Café Coutume, a coffee shop which has opened in Paris, France, has been designed in a minimalist style to resemble a scientific laboratory using transparent plastic curtains, white-tiled surfaces and lab apparatus.

French interior design firm, Cut Architectures, founded by Benjamin Clarens and Yann Martin, was inspired by a blend of traditional coffee-making and alchemy in creating the design.

“The owners asked us for a new kind of café since they were introducing the speciality coffee segment in Paris. However, they still wanted the place to be related to Paris since it represents a French brand,” said Clarens.

Cut Architectures tore down the ceiling and took down the wallpaper from the earlier space to reveal a high ceiling, mouldings, columns and an old shop door, along with bare walls. The high ceiling, according to the designers, is typical of Parisian interiors.

The team put together a new oak flooring to further add to the chic and trendy Parisian atmosphere.

To carry out the scientific look, the designers used white square tiles, grid lighting, stainless steel, industrial plastic curtains and laboratory glassware.

Plain oak tables were designed for Café Coutume (which refers to the legal customs in France), to represent the fusion of a Parisian interior and a scientific laboratory.

Drinks are served from conical flasks, with an industrial-looking roaster behind a plastic curtain. Pastries are kept behind a white tiled cabinet, with plants inside stainless steel sinks.

The design, which took four months to complete, reflects a typical Parisian café, which is bright and looks like it has walls that haven’t yet been finished.

“The project had to be managed quite quickly, as we got the brief at the end of October 2010 and construction started in late November.

“The café opened in early March 2011,” said Martin.

The 90m² space is built with materials that are sourced from several countries.
“The tiles are made in Portugal, the wood is plain oak from France and the glassware (lab accessories) is from Germany,” said Clarens. The lightbulbs by London-based Plumen, are energy saving and received the Brit Insurance Design of the Year 2011.

In spite of the stripped-down interiors, the designers said the budget given to them was a problem they tackled. “The budget was quite challenging, so we had to find a good balance in the design to respect the budget and offer a new kind of place and interior to the client,” said Martin.

The customers at the Parisian coffee shop are intrigued with the unconventional looks of Coutume. “Most of the clients enjoy the interior; they find it very cosy and yet different from the old fashioned Parisian style cafés,” said Clarens.

“Still, a few customers are asking when the walls will be painted,” added Martin.