Note coffee house / Semi-Basement Coffee Shop

coffee house exterior
Location:Kakuouzan, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya

This project is a Semi-Basement Coffee Shop of a building  with a residential area and a beauty salon – a vertically long building of about 40m2, a width of 3m and a height of 11m. Located in a hideaway behind the Nittai-ji approach, Kakuouzan, Chikusa, the concept was to ‘create a space that does not feel narrow’, ‘easy access for customers’ and ‘entering another world that is almost European in style’.

Creating a ‘retreat’ space underground

As a space with a narrow floor plan, this semi-underground space can be seen as a ‘retreat’. The building is slightly lower than street level, which is already quite intriguing to those that pass by, and the glass façade gives a mysterious glimpse of the interior, inviting people to come closer for a better look.

semi-underground cafe

Using materials to make a laid-back atmosphere

The interior is fitted with oil-stained wood to create a retro vibe – a style that has been popular with those who do DIY in recent years. This stained wood effect gives a leafy, rustic feeling to the interior, and the steel frame is painted black to match the lighting and bring sturdiness to the space. This juxtaposition of natural wood and man-made steel and concrete reflects the modern, contemporary identity of the coffee shop.

The opposite wall has been painted white, invoking a tranquil European atmosphere, perfect for enjoying a relaxing cup of coffee with a good book.

coffee house interior

Open space at the order counter

Originally intended to be at the entrance, we decided that the order counter created a barrier between the customers on the outside and the store on the inside, and instead chose to turn and extend it, stretching it several metres along the length of the shop. This draws out the perceived length of the building, as well as providing a view right to the back wall.


Furnishings that attract customers

Customers rarely like spending time in narrow, cramped spaces. In a food and drink establishment with a high turnover rate, this may not be a problem, but in a coffee shop where customers stay for an extended period of time, a comfortable interior is essential. The bench area at the wall alleviates this problem, creating a relaxing seating area where I can create a meeting space to sit with my friends, even without a huge amount of space.

coffee house bench

 Using wood to create dynamic colours

Modernity is often associated with minimalism, with monotone black and white. However this style can often be flat and also doesn’t capture that ‘retro-feel’ that we were aiming for. We have managed to solve this problem by using wood, which when combined with the white of the opposing wall, balances the colours and provides dynamism, modernity and ‘retro-feel’, whichever way the customer faces.

coffee house layout


In major cities like Tokyo, these narrow spaces will see a lot of activity – with a comparatively lower investment in rent, interior decoration and utility costs, there is merit for stores with smaller daily profits like coffee shops. On the other hand, without a consistent stream of customers visiting throughout the day, every day, that merit is lost, which means that factors like interior space, easy access and an inviting view from outside are important. A solid theme must be established to differentiate it from other stores and give it a unique identity.


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