Cupcake shops are a dime a dozen now, but London-based cafe Bea’s of Bloomsbury has been taking theirs to another level through interior design. In opening a branch in Abu Dhabi, Bea’s turned to design studio Carbon to envision the brand as a luxury cake shop that, at once, exudes Victorian charm and modernity.
Supplied with the brand logo, a basic material palette, and a site, Carbon approached the project, dubbed Bloomsbury’s, as a “customer journey” and immersive experience. But there were challenges to tackle: The space was to be a kiosk within a busy shopping mall, there were various circulation and height restrictions, and the shop could potentially get lost amidst the frenetic activity of shops and other kiosks surrounding it. “We knew it had to be more than a simple counter with stools,” says Carbon cofounder Go Sugimoto.
The designers decided to enclose the kiosk and create a series of framed views that would visually draw attention to the branded areas. The entrances are minimalist portals at either end of the rectangular footprint, revealing a seductive dark palette within of lacquered MDF, engineered oak flooring, wenge tops, and flocked wallpaper. A combination of downlights, open apertures and a mesh silk screen above-head, and five-arm chandeliers gently illuminate the kiosk, giving it an upscale cafe ambience. Chair rail and picture molding throughout hint at traditional elements that might be encountered in Victorian homes. The result is a rich yet clean backdrop that lures and engages without detracting from the cupcakes themselves.
Display cases--from the large L-shaped servery to the wall backing the counter-seating zone--highlight the shop’s offerings as if they were precious jewels in a boutique. On the other side of the counter wall, a working kitchen ensures quality and freshness of the pastries. Passersby can catch wind and glimpses of them through the seating areas, which are enclosed by seat-height glass panels. This combination of transparency and exclusivity further peaks interest of the center’s shoppers. “We see the built environment of Bloomsbury’s to be the stage in which the baking and icing of the cupcakes will be the performance," says Sugimoto. “The display of the cupcakes will be the main feature and the coming and going of customers will add to the drama and spectacle.”
The final design is a modular “kit of parts” with a steel
substructure, and is made to be configurable for any type of site, should Bea’s
roll out additional locations in the future. Since its opening in the Al Wahda
Mall in May, Bloomsbury’s has been selling out its cupcakes and attracting
regulars ranging from friends enjoying the cozy and intimate niches or groups
gathering in the sofa areas. And just this October, Carbon snagged the Middle East Interior Design of the Year: Retail award for the project.
Photos courtesy of Issa Saleh AlKindy
Bloomsbury’s, Al Wahda Mall. DESIGNER Carbon. WHERE Abu
Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. CLIENT
Tablez Food Company. WHAT 1,000
square feet over one floor. COST/SQ. FT. Withheld at request.