Before & After: Small Storefront Makeover

When Grace visited California briefly over the summer, I took her to a new compact shopping area in my neighborhood that has been garnering lots of local attention. Temescal Alley, as it is known, is a tiny alcove off a side street in Oakland that is filled with a series of miniature boutiques built into old sheds. The shops are indeed very small, under 100 square feet, but brimming with character and beauty. I’m inspired by the young shop owners, who have infused their spaces with style on such modest budgets, and this Before & After project from Toni Brandson of Material Creative makes me think that well-designed micro-shops are becoming an international trend.

Little Nuffield Cafe is a coffee bar and lunchbox shop tucked into a small storefront in Auckland, NZ. The budget was modest, so the designers had to come up with inexpensive but impactful decor ideas. Recycled wood crates were used for shelving and joinery; the plumbing was painted with copper paint to create the illusion of aged piping; and the colorful signage is a laser-cut polystyrene sign wrapped with wool yarn. The cafe has been nominated for a BEST award and won a RED award in NZ, which is understandable. This little space is brimming with innovative design solutions. Nicely done, Toni! — 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.)

See more pics of Little Nuffield Cafe after the jump . . .

Time: From design to building consent to completion, I would say about 8 weeks. It was approximately 3 weeks of building/renovating time.

Cost: We had a budget of $30,000NZ (about $25K) for the entire project including the chillers, fridges, lighting, plumbing, signage, floor grinding, fit out, etc.

Basic Steps: First we designed the logo and branding, which suited the small space and the fun inviting feel the clients wanted. Then we came up with a few key design features we thought would work in such a small space to give it impact and individuality in a sea of cafes and restaurants that are on the same shopping strip. We hired the joinery company Stanley Construction (who fitted out the cafe).

Because we were on a budget, we came up with clever ways of getting the look we wanted for less so we could spend money on things we saw as nonnegotiable, like the bright “Middle Earth” tiles, signage and the lighting. We used old recycled packing pallets for the timber, and we saved a lot! We wrapped the sign ourselves in wool (it took approx. 50–60 hours . . . although who actually knows — we lost count of the hours!), we painted the white plastic plumbing pipes with copper paint and put a patina finish on them so they look like old copper pipes, and we used roofing tin with a sealing coat for the bench tops instead of stainless steel, as that was not an option in our budget (but we still wanted a metal finish). — Toni

  1. Deeyn says:

    Wow, we’ll done! The yarn wrapped sign was a brilliant idea and it works perfectly with the vibe of the coffee shop.

  2. Em says:

    So inviting and warm with lots of character for such a small space! :)

  3. I love this!! I so wish I could go see these awesome design details in person. Nicely done.

  4. Becca Blue says:

    Such inspiration! Thank you for thinking so big in your small space!

  5. bebe pies says:

    Adore the sign and use of color! Even the door begs you to enter.

  6. Diana says:

    I love all the different shapes and colors! Great place to hang out with some friends!

  7. term paper says:

    Great blog article about this topic, I have been lately in your blog once or twice now. I just wanted to say my thanks for the information provided here.

  8. how2home says:

    Wow! You guys did an amazing job! Such a lovely space!

  9. Aislinn says:

    Oh I love this! Especially the shelving with the light in it! Beautiful.

  10. esther says:

    Well done! , Just to say that this work is an inspiration to make great things on a budget!

  11. rebecca says:

    how cool to see little old NZ on here. proud. proud. proud

  12. Andrea says:

    I looked at the pictures before reading this story, and was startled to see the word ‘Nuffield’ – I scrolled back and, sure enough, this cafe is just down the road from me – how odd to discover an Auckland cafe on an American site! I will have to check it out immediately.

  13. Nicola says:

    Can we ‘borrow’ that shelving idea? I love it.

  14. KMP says:

    I love what is done with the space…from the exterior to the interiors….what I believe is admirable is that with such a small budjet this amazing transformation!!…from the counter to the back walls to the shelves!!!Love the shelves …I got some great ideas to use them for myself…great project overall …very inspiring! Great post

  15. this is brilliant! congratulations on this great work! Good luck and success!

  16. isabel says:

    The tiles on the counter and complementary colors in the sign are really spectacular. Happy to see that the space is being used and not abandoned. on an entirely other note, grace, where did you find that purse?

  17. sarah says:

    Ahhhh….love seeing a friend’s work on the other side of the world! Well done ladies!!! Talented people! Especially love the branding!

  18. Hannah says:

    So great to see a cafe in Auckland on Design Sponge! Am going to head there tomorrow for a look.

  19. Phyllis says:

    Love the store but love the boots on the women in the first picture even more. I must know the origin them?!

  20. ADI says:

    All is can say is WOW!!!! that was an awesome transformation of a small store. The designer of this store is an expert!

  21. Taren says:

    Is Temescal Alley off of Telegraph in Oakland?

  22. Caleb says:

    Their coffee is really good too!

  23. Tara Celeste says:

    Love the storefront!

  24. preveena says:

    Such an inspirational store, love the use of colour and textures, that adds so much character to the space.

  25. pop says:

    Skillfully and beautifully designe

  26. Linda says:

    Wow, that’s what I have to say. You did an amazing job and a gorgeous makeover. I hope I can attain the same results as yours because I’m planning to makeover my store. Simple gorgeous

  27. George Mavrik says:

    Just perfect!!!The best place to start your day!

  28. I love this!! I so wish I could go see these awesome design details in person. Nicely done.


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.