DON’T SHOW THE ELEPHANT cafe + gallery

Interior Designers Institute – Award of Excellence




cafe + gallery


The concept for this project, and for the company that created it, was to integrate a variety of art forms and bring them together in a cafe setting in order to create a unique, high quality, and cross cultural customer experience. This was a difficult task considering the awkward and irregular space which was leased for the project.


The space is a ground level commercial space below five floors of condominiums, and in its raw state had quite a variety of plumbing and electrical drops in an already limited ceiling space. The combination of a small irregular space and one directional natural light (east only) presented problems in creating the drama desired. The resulting design approach chosen was to; sculpt the space into interesting forms, pay great attention to the details through carefully considered industrial design elements, and to create dramatic effects with lighting design.





The desire was to create a space which is modern but also possessed qualities which made it romantic or sensual. The other intention was to create a sense of kinetic energy in the space. This was achieved through the varied lighting effects, the glass sculptures which slowly drip coffee, and through other details such as a window in the washroom which clouds over when the door is locked.



The other interest of the team was to create a feeling of acoustic space in the project. The high quality recordings of ambient music seem to help achieve this when combined with the fluid nature of the spaces. The furniture, which is designed in Italy and manufactured in Asia, is soft in its feel and look and dramatic in its forms.





The gallery/cafe sells coffees, teas, CD’s and artwork, but mostly it sells a unique experience. The coffees are a special roast of “blue mountain” beans and the teas are special imports from Japan and France. The music CD’s are an exclusive Norwegian label which produces high quality audiophile recordings which combine influences of jazz, folk, ethnic and church idioms into contemporary music. The record company describes its’ philosophy as putting traditional music into a contemporary context. Given that the cafe is in a heritage building and in a heritage area, the design team was interested in putting a contemporary space in a traditrional context which felt a connection with both. Teh team felt that to embody ideas which evoke memory associations is crucial but in today’s cross culteral environment a space should express its uniqueness.

Comments are closed.