Eschewing the popular, white-walled café aesthetic, Harken Coffee offers guests a cozy, intimate space that draws from its surrounding neighborhood.
By Rachel Gallaher, Images by Ian Lanterman and Cicia Ren
Harken Coffee, a vegan café and roasters in Vancouver's Japantown neighborhood, was designed by local studio CÒMH A.
After peeling back years of renovation additions in the space that formerly held Kay’s Seafood in Vancouver’s Japantown neighborhood, interior designers Lauren Skinner and Déja Friesen of CÒMH A discovered beautiful brick walls, concrete floors, and ceilings that rose to more than 15 feet high. These underpinnings—industrial, minimal, layered—served as the jumping-off point for the interiors program of Harken Coffee, a vegan café and roastery offering coffee, tea, whole-bean roasts, and plant-based baked goods.
“We were brought on to help design a more intimate and community-focused vegan café and roastery experience,” says Friesen. “It was important to show the relationship between the café and roastery and the transparency of their meticulous production. The central bar serves as a welcoming space where the barista and customer are encouraged to chat and engage about Harken’s coffee process.
“We also wanted to expose and honor the space’s beautiful elements, and this became one of the building blocks for the design. We also wanted to show reverence for the neighborhood and were inspired by elements of Japanese minimalism from Lauren’s recent trip to Japan.”
Brick walls and concrete floors were exposed—and ultimately kept—after being discovered during deep renovations.
Working with Simcic + Uhrich Architects and Milltown Contracting for the extensive renovation, Friesen and Skinner opted for a palette that nodded to the exposed brick—Douglas Fir was used for the build-out (central bar, casework, added interior walls). Dark green and matte black accents (the brickwork at the front of the café was painted a deep green) complement the warmth of the wood while adding a sophisticated, romantic vibe. Touches of copper add to the palette but aren’t ostentatious—exposed copper pipes were the inspiration behind this choice.
“The design was something different for us,” Skinner explains. “Eldric [Stuart, the owner] was clear about wanting to stay away from the current café trend of a more open concept and minimal stark white space. Even though we discovered beautiful high ceilings, we felt we had to lower them, especially around the seating areas to give that sense of a warm cozy atmosphere. The ceiling comes back up to its full height only around the bar to feature more of the brick wall, cold drip shelves, and of course the amazing floral installation.”
CÒMH A chose Douglas Fir for casework and detailing, while tones of dark-green and matte-black were brought in to deepen the palette and creative visual interest.
The arrangements seen throughout the café are from HANA by Celsia. The intricate feathery displays (seen over the coffee bar, in the washroom, and on a wall) are elegant with a Victorian sensibility—they help create softness in the space. “The central bar overhead floral arrangement was designed to be an ever-changing and evolving art installation inspired by Harken’s focus on seasonality,” Friesen explains.
Although the renovation took more than two years to complete, it was well worth the wait. This cozy, community-centered café is refreshing in its unique aesthetic, and will no doubt be treasured by the neighborhood for years to come.