A recent addition to San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood, Saint Frank Coffee serves its brews in a geometrically inclined modern space by local firm Openscope Studio. Formerly a nail salon, the Spartan light-filled cafe is kitted out with custom furniture from local craftspeople and features an extra-long counter to highlight the work of its baristas. Architect Ian Dunn, who collaborated with Amanda Loper on the design, walks us through the space in this installation of our Coffee Break series. Photos by Patricia Chang.
The interior of Saint Frank Coffee, which is located at 2340 Polk street in San Francisco, features oak walls, flooring, and furniture. "There's a warmth and openness to the space," architect Ian Dunn says. "It's the product of some restraint and refinement; perhaps there's a peacefulness that comes through. You're there to enjoy a really great cup of coffee and the cafe was designed for that purpose."
"When a customer walks in the door, they're greeted by the barista," Dunn says. "That interaction is the focus of the space. We set up that relationship and designed the cafe around that." At the front of the cafe, custom powder-coated steel shelving by Adrian Burns Design and Fabrication displays coffee and and other merchandise for sale.
The floor and wall paneling is an engineered white-oak surface by Berg & Berg. "We felt that running the flooring and the paneling at an angle would lend a bit of dynamism to the space and that it would help it read as a unified surface rather than separate 'flooring' and 'wall paneling' elements," Dunn says.
"From a practical standpoint, we organized the space in layers—starting with the sidewalk display function of the window seating and signage, then to the entry space with its merchandise shelves, and next to that is the recessed pastry case and barista station," Dunn says. "Past that point is the serving area, point of sale, and main seating area with service spaces in the back."
"We had fantastic natural light in the space from the large existing skylights," Dunn says. "That gave us the freedom to think we could just line the walls and floors with a warm, natural material, and let the light take care of most of the 'impact' of being in the space—it led us to be a bit more restrained."
"The owner had a great vision of a business focused on an open, interactive exchange between the customer and the barista," Dunn says. "Juggling the practical workflow of coffee-making—and selling—with the desire for a low, obstacle-free counter that would be conducive to that interaction was probably the biggest challenge." The matte white hexagonal tile covering the sides of the counter was purchased from Design and Direct Source.
Dunn hired Buck O'Neill Builders as the general contractor for the space. Weston Martin designed and built the custom stools, tables, and benches in the cafe. "Our contractor, craftsmen, and fabricators did a great job executing our details for the spots where the steel and wood come together—the wall trim, the seating supports, the stair railings, etc.," Dunn says. "I always enjoy working through those types of connections, and it's satisfying to see them built well."