Bold New Visions

From banks to breweries to Bigfoot, this year’s Retail Renovation Competition winners honor legacies and introduce new ideas
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Posted September 4, 2018

Retail Renovation Competition: Retail Renovation of the Year
Conversion – Restaurant/Specialty Food Shop
"Coffee for Sasquatch, Los Angeles"
Submitted by: Dan Brunn Architecture, Los Angeles

“If you were walking down the street and saw this, you would have to go in,” says Brian Shafley, CEO, Chute Gerdeman (Columbus, Ohio), one of the judges of VMSD’s 2018 Retail Renovation Competition. While the namesake of this year’s Retail Renovation of the Year – Coffee for Sasquatch (Los Angeles) – may be mysterious folklore, there’s no question that this coffee shop wants to be noticed.

The Los Angeles-based café welcomes onlookers with a windowed façade and a simple “Coffee for Sasquatch” sign. That clever simplicity is a complement to the mysteries of its singular inspiration carried throughout the interior via diverse materials, i.e., an abstract art installation and a plethora of natural light – not to mention the floor-to-ceiling Sasquatch, made from a combination of greenery and negative wall space.

Varied materials and surfaces elevate the interior from a minimal design to a space with texture and movement. “Our idea was to create various seating environments all within one cohesive design that didn’t look isolated between them,” says Dan Brunn, Principal, Dan Brunn Architecture. “It starts when you order the coffee and interact with the barista. The counter actually folds down and becomes a bench. And where you pick up the coffee, it’s a really tall counter, much more like a bar.”

The team worked with Los Angeles-based artist Hueman on an original abstract art installation. “We pushed the artist to create what she ended up calling ‘The Mist,’ which is supposed to be the other side of the forest.”

Renovating an art gallery into a food and beverage establishment has inherent challenges, especially in regards to plumbing and food safety standards. But what Brunn considers to be the greatest hurdle was making minimalism feel warm, which he credits to judicious use of materials.

“If someone were to look at the materials outside of the way in which they’re being used, they may not be considered warm,” he says. “When you put it all together, it becomes a very inviting space, and it all has to do with the fact that we studied it from the body. I think the overall geometry and the play of the different materials together created this warmth.”

The judges agreed that the finished space was intriguing. “It was a narrow and long space [before], and they made it really dynamic with the furniture twisting in and out,” says VMSD competition judge Claudia Cerchiara, Retail Client Leader, BHDP Architecture (Cincinnati).

All of this plays into the final product of a completely unique yet comforting coffee experience. “When you walk into the space, it really feels like a mystical space in the end, and that’s what we set out to do,” Brunn says.

To learn more about this year's Retail Renovation Competition winners and honorable mentions, be sure to check vmsd.com throughout the month of September.