before & after: brick & mortar cupcake shop redo

One thing I miss most about living on the East Coast is seeing brick interiors. If I were opening a place in Oakland, I would follow the brilliant example set by the Flirty Cupcakes shop in Chicago and expose as much brick as possible. Renovated by architect Matt Nardella of Moss Design, this new space has incredible warmth, charm and history. I love the contrast of the clean, smoothly tiled display cases and the rough salvaged pieces. The candy-colored oven door display on the wall is just the icing on this already delectable cupcake (shop). Congrats on the new space, Emily! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Time: The design and permitting process took about 2 months. The actual construction took 2.5 months. We had been helping Flirty Cupcakes assess potential locations for 5 months prior to selecting this one.

Cost: Approximately $35,000

Basic Steps: By spending some time researching, we knew the building had some interesting historical features that were covered up by years of previous uninspiring remodels, like the stained glass window and masonry walls. The first order of business, though, was carefully scaling back the extent of interior walls and obstructions to allow for natural light into the formerly dark back seating area.

We tied the history of the building with the nostalgia of historic Chicago bakeries and garage spaces (which relates to Flirty’s food truck side of the business). The client had been collecting some furniture pieces over the years, which we integrated into the architecture of the space. The clean and modern design of the cupcake display (which doubles as the check-out counter) was meant to contrast with the more rugged quality of the exposed masonry and Corten steel elements. We also sourced reclaimed oven doors to create an “oven door mosaic” on the back wall. The lighting is a combination of reclaimed and found industrial fixtures.

My advice is to spend as much time on the design and planning as you can. Once a space is found, there is usually a rush to start construction right away, but taking a thoughtful approach to the master planning for the space will make the construction process so much smoother. Identify a budget as early as possible with some contingency built in. This will greatly reduce the need for last-second changes and reduce the time needed for construction.

Lastly, have a program in mind for how you might use [the space] along with some kind of identity or story of what you want to do. The design can go a long way in matching your business identity to the space you’re calling home. In this case, we merged the client’s idea of a dessert garage (tied to their existing food truck operation) with the architecture of the space. — Matt Nardella, architect

Downlights/Directionals: WAC, Tech Lighting
Front area pendants: Schoolhouse Electric
Main pendants: Barnlight Electric
Flooring: Epoxy by Broadleaf
Counter top: Custom-designed by Moss Design (cold rolled steel and glass)
Counter front: Ceramic tile
Tin wall covering: Reclaimed
Window trim: Stained oak
Metal wall covering: Cor-ten
Menu boards: Reclaimed
Paint: Sherwin Williams, Harmony

  1. This was a really beautiful remodel. I love the layers of brick on that side wall, very nicely done. Now I want a cupcake.

  2. nicole says:

    amazing and stunning! so impressed, would shop there if i lived there

  3. Gorgeous revamp Emily! Love the warm, industrial vibe and quirky style.
    Favourite detail – the “Ladies Room” with the vintage wall-mounted scale! It’s so cheeky!

  4. Libby says:

    love the oven doors – what a colorful, artistic display that ties in so well with the shops overall feel. well done!

  5. wow! I love before and afters especially if they involve cupcakes. We need more of these vintage tiny run businesses on the west coast ::cough cough:: Vegas

  6. The oven door use was so interesting and unique. I really enjoy the stained glass too.

  7. katiedid says:

    Oven doors are a”door”able! (Sorry!) But really.

  8. casey says:

    what a beautiful transformation! I LOVE the brick!

  9. AmberLove says:

    Talk about a change. It makes the place feel so homey!

  10. Jenny says:

    sweet makeover!

  11. Wow, what a difference! I love the rich and cozy interior! Not the typical “cupcake shop” interior, but that’s what makes it so special!

  12. Caroline says:

    Am I missing something…what’s is the name of this business? Is it in Oakland or Chicago?

    1. Kate Pruitt says:

      Hi Caroline, thank you for bringing that omission to my attention! The business is Flirty Cupcakes and it is in Chicago. I will add that information to the post shortly. Thanks!

  13. jessica says:

    awesome! appreciated the break down of the process and materials used as well

  14. Kara says:

    Amazing change!!

  15. sophie says:

    great work!

  16. Lauren says:

    This is a wonderful post, Kate! My husband was the general contractor on this job, so I thought I’d give him a shout out. His company, Artisan Element ( executed the design to perfection. I am so glad you all like it and I don’t mean to sound like a bragging wife, but I love my husband and think he does amazing work.

  17. Katherine M. says:

    Fantastic makeover! Love the brick interior paired with wood and metal accents.

  18. sheila schultz says:

    If I still lived in Chicago, I’d need to find a project for Artisan Element’s to pull together. We could have our meetings at Flirty Cupcakes… inviting space, awesome design. It feels really good.

  19. sécia says:

    So smart and cozy. I love it!

    ♥ sécia

  20. What a fantastic design. The lights, exposed brick, love, love, love.

  21. JenO says:

    the exposed brick here really makes the mood.
    but Kate, the reason you don’t often see exposed brick in Oakland or elsewhere on the west coast was present this week with a little 4.0 shake. You wouldn’t want to be in the same room with an exposed brick wall if the quake were much more than that.

  22. tina says:

    looks awesome! and what a difference …..hope you sell millions of cupcakes!!!

  23. Nadia says:

    I love the transformation. What a lovely place to eat a cupcake!

  24. LOVE this! Love the light fixtures, the reclaimed wood, the wall fixtures. Amazing. Good luck Brick and Mortar.

  25. sherrie says:

    Isn’t it funny how we revert back to our roots whether it’s we as people or exposing a buildings roots. We want to return to the thing that made us who we are. In this case a buildings warm interior. Love the combination of modern lighting with warmth of the worn brick. Not wild about the retro ladies room wall. Remodel well done. Nice work.

  26. fabi says:

    Amazing transformation! it looks just fantastic in that soft industrial mood!

  27. Cake says:

    How inspiring- I love the idea of taking a breath and forming a “master plan” too. A good life idea, I daresay!

  28. Love this! I’m all about restoration and making vintage beautifully new again. =) Plus, it’s in my hometown aaaand it’s a cupcake shop! What could be more perfect!? Will definitely check it out next time I’m in town!

  29. Jemma Smith says:

    Amazing transformation!…just shows how much you can do to a space once it’s been looked at with a shrewd design eye, I see far too many places everyday that could be so much more than what they currently are!

  30. This is so adorable! I love the transformation – that brick is stunning.

  31. Vivian Moore says:

    where is the dessert garage located?


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.