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


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

term paper

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.


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.


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


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?


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


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


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


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


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

George Mavrik

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