One Shot Coffee: Crafting History Through Interior Design

How do you design a café and coffee house with a sense of history in a neighborhood that has little of its own? This was the conundrum faced by One Shot Coffee owner Melissa Baruno when she decided to relocate and expand her ever-popular coffee bar into a space two doors down from its original location in Philadelphia's Northern Liberties neighborhood.

A veteran of the coffee business, Baruno wanted a space that reflected the artistic bent of the community and felt like it had been there for generations. To do this, she enlisted the help of longtime customer, loyal friend and designer, Chris Sheffield of SL Design. Chris lived in the neighborhood and had been patronizing One Shot for years. He was also a talented hospitality designer with projects in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Florida, who had yet to design a space in his hometown of Philadelphia.

Together, Baruno and Sheffield worked to create the environment Baruno had imagined. They visited neighborhood coffeehouses in Brooklyn for inspiration, and spent hours discussing the aesthetic and functional details involved in creating a successful coffee-driven business. Baruno knew that Sheffield shared her vision for the space and was personally invested in the outcome. She trusted him to design a place that looked like it had evolved over time, and one that would continue to evolve, seamlessly.

The Project: To design a new space for a popular and expanding Northern Liberties coffee bar that "looks like it's always been there." Create a space that's comfortable, with a handcrafted edge.

The Collaborators: Owner Melissa Baruno and loyal customer/ friend/ designer Chris Sheffield of SL Design.

The Space: A narrow two-story row home at 217 W. George Street, two doors down from its original location.

The Inspiration: The many neighborhood coffee houses of Brooklyn. Specifically, a desire to craft a space that speaks to the neighborhood and its residents.

The Color Palette: Based on layers of peeling paint found on a scrap of salvaged wood. (If you look closely at the front of the bar, you may be able to pick out the piece that inspired it all!)

The Materials: A combination of salvaged, vintage and DIY-inspired elements.

The Details:
1. The Coffee Bar: The coffee bar itself was designed to have a slightly European feel. Stools were placed at the end of the bar closest to the door, allowing customers to casually sit, read the paper and enjoy their coffee before moving on with their day. The barista side of the bar was elevated 4" off the floor to create a stage for the performance of masterful coffee creation.

2. The Menu: An oversized roll of kraft paper rests atop a strip of salvaged subway tiles, and acts as the medium for the expanded café menu. The crafty quality of the materials encourages employee and customer interaction, resulting in an ever-changing display of artistic expression.

3. The Millwork: The bar top and wall cabinetry were handcrafted by Workerman Gallery of Manayunk. The cabinet was designed to be highly functional, as well as beautiful. The top portion of the piece was originally built to hold plates; however, this idea was later discarded, and those cubbies now contain record albums specially selected by staff and friends.

4. Storage: Functionality was a driving force in the design of the coffee bar area. Storage needs were thoroughly evaluated, and aesthetic solutions were sought wherever possible. One such example can be found in the numerous little drawers created to hold tea within the custom-designed wall cabinet.

5. The Ceiling: The ceiling of the first floor is clad in salvaged tin tiles that were purposely selected according to their patina. These tiles were then thoughtfully applied in a truly random pattern by local general contractor Buckminster Green, "one of the few contractors," Sheffield claims, who "really gets the concept of recycle/ reuse and sustainability in practice."sustainability in practice."

6. The Kitchen: Another example of creative reuse can be found in the kitchen enclosure which was once the bookkeeping office for a local lumber company. The pass-thru window at the front was originally intended to be used by customers for food pick-up; the success of the expanded café menu has since necessitated a different type of service model.

7. Handmade Details: One of SL Design's hallmarks is to incorporate one personally handmade piece into each of their designs. For this project, they took the frame of a light fixture bought on clearance at Pottery Barn, and hand -wove it with twine and bits of string to create a one-of-a-kind handcrafted luminaire.

8. Upstairs: The majority of the seating for One Shot Coffee can be found on the second floor. Here, walls are clad in salvaged wood pallet pieces and plaster has been chipped away to reveal the brick structure underneath. At the near end of the floor there's a communal table, a display wall for student art and a ceiling of diagonally-run reclaimed wood planks.

9. The Living Room: At the far end of the floor, there's the "living room," complete with vintage leather sofas, plaid armchairs, DIY plumber's pipe bookshelves, $5 clamp lamps and retro TV trays. Like any good living room, this is the heart of the upstairs. It's here that you'll find a hint of Baruno's own personality - in the motorcycle murals placed behind the shelves and the actual bike on display nearby.

10. The Restrooms: Good design does not check itself at the restroom door at One Shot; expect to see the same care and attention given to the rest of the interior reflected here. Salvaged doors, vintage light fixtures and print wallpaper add welcome charm to these not-forgotten spaces throughout the café.

I first fell in love with this project online, but if you have the chance, you should visit it in person. The images are gorgeous, but as I found when I met with Chris, nothing compares to experiencing this incredibly thoughtful interior yourself. And while you're there, try the raspberry mocha - it's delicious!

For more images and information on this project, visit SL Design | One Shot Coffee.

Images: M. Scott Whitson Photography