Co.Design

Upside-down Cafe Looks Like a Library, Flipped On Its Side

Books are all turned around at this Manhattan coffeeshop.

A reading theme is perfect for cafes filled with bookish patrons cradling cups of cappuccino. At the new location of Manhattan coffeeshop D'Espresso, a prevalence of books also nods to its unique location: It's located just a block from the New York Public Library. But that wasn't enough for designer Anurag Nema and his team at nemaworkshop.

They took the idea of a library and flipped it, quite literally, on its side — sure, it's a design gimmick, but also one that makes good business sense and just might become a recognizable branding signature.

The "books" are actually tiles printed with sepia-toned photos of bookshelves at a local travel bookstore that ring the room, including the floor, walls and ceiling. In addition to painting unusual surfaces with intriguing patterns — whoa, you're standing on books! — it gives an Alice in Wonderland-esque sense that the room has been suddenly upended.

But take a closer look at what's going on here. The "floor" is the left-hand wall with a dark hardwood herringbone pattern. The banquette almost looks like a couch that could be resting on that floor.

And, if you look to the right, you'll see the globe lighting is actually affixed horizontally, looking as if gravity is having its way with the room. The glowing glass panels they're protruding from look more like ceiling panels.

If you find it all disorienting, that's the idea. Nema's inspiration was the famous space-station stewardess scene from 2001. It's just like the trippy feeling one gets after one too many espressos on an empty stomach.

But it's also a clever way to gain word-of-mouth buzz and an easy-to-Google location ("sideways library coffee shop," anyone?) . According to a story in the New York Times, the owner plans to carry on the gimmick as a marketing tool, saying that "the next one will be [completely] upside down." Like Starbucks, turned on its ear — perfect for creating an identifiable brand in an age where coffee shops are often interchangeable.

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