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Domesticating the Café

JJA / Bespoke Architecture’s second project for Hong Kong hipster coffee shop Elephant Grounds continues the indoor-outdoor and home-inspired approach of the previous locations, while offering a little something extra.

Domesticating the Café

Hong Kong’s Elephant Grounds Coffee just opened a new location in the island’s mid-levels designed by JJA / Bespoke Architecture. Founder and Director JJ Acuna says the brief was to create an “all-day community-oriented coffee shop and restaurant for this neighbourhood.” Elephant Grounds founder Kevin Poon wanted the 1,900-square-foot shop, which sits on a corner of Caine Road, to be a domestic-inspired space that integrates with the community – much like Acuna’s first project with Elephant Grounds on Star Street in Wan Chai.

Acuna designed a number of home-like spaces across the two floors and outside including a large kitchen-esque table, stools by the sidewalk, a living room space, and decked garden. The spaces “give the customer a feeling of home where they are welcome to sip coffee, work all they want, and, perhaps, invite their own guests,” says Acuna.

To blend into the neighbourhood, Acuna created an indoor-outdoor vibe much like the Star Street location. The façade is pushed back from the street to give a semi-indoor and outdoor space on approach. The back alleyway was transformed into a greenery-filled decking area – complete with soft plush seating and a vertical garden.

The greenery and timber has become part of Elephant Ground’s brand DNA. Like Star Street, all the timber is hand-made and hand-stained by local carpentry firm Start from Zero. Putting the coffee making process centre stage is another hallmark of the hipster coffee brand. The Caine Road shop is underpinned by a central service bar at its core, addressing the street (and neighbourhood) outside as well as the guests in the main dining room inside.

Another signature of Poon’s coffee shops is the way he sources intriguing pieces of art and design from across the globe. For the new location, Poon found a signage maker in Japan, named Sunnynap, to produce unique signs in timber which were fabricated in Japan and installed on site during the week of project opening, according to Acuna. “We also have these amazing factory lamps which are really old from the Netherlands,” says the designer.

For Acuna, the challenge was to build on the success of the Star Street location without simply replicating it: to create a “same but different offering.” The double-height ceiling of the new location worked in the designer’s favour and he transformed the upstairs into a cosy living room complete with books and furniture crafted by Los Angeles-based designers, HD Buttercup.


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