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Auckland, New Zealand’s Lovely & Light-Filled Bestie Café

by Erin Austen Abbott

Bestie Cafe on Design*Sponge

I can’t imagine it would be easy to fill the figurative shoes of a cafe that had worked to establish itself for 20 years previously, but that’s exactly what Emma Lyell and Tane Williams did when they opened Auckland, New Zealand’s Bestie Cafe two and a half years ago. With a certain sensitivity to the 100+ year-old building, they wanted to create an inviting and cozy aesthetic while still being highly functional in the large space they had to work with. “This space is one that I had dreamed of having one day,” Emma begins, “but never ever thought it would actually happen! It’s got one of the most incredible views in the city, as well as being in the most amazingly designed arcade from the 1920s (it has been a cafe or tea room the whole time). When we heard from friends that the space was up for grabs, Tane drew up a little pitch about why we would love the cafe and what we planned to do there — and to our surprise and delight we got the lease. The neighborhood is one of the most diverse and creative spots in the city and somewhere we already had worked in and loved. So it was a perfect fit.”

Tane has a background in illustration and Emma has hospitality experience. Before opening Bestie Cafe, they lived and traveled throughout Europe together and lived in Napier, New Zealand. From those travels, they had a lot of time to think about what a cafe would look like and develop their sense of style as they thought about adding the role of cafe owner to their titles. “It was actually so fun — Tane and I are totally on the same page of what we like so it was really exciting talking about every little detail. We realized we really don’t like white, haha! I think for me personally, I LOVE organizing stuff, so it’s probably the most fun bit — planning and researching,” Emma shares.

A lot of changes went into getting the space to where it is today — now a true reflection of Emma and Tane’s styles. “We had to pull everything out, sand back the floors, and open up the space to let in [the] maximum amount of light,” Emma says. Everything was done on a very tight budget, so with lots of late nights of bringing in friends to help, they managed to open on schedule. “One thing that took a while was getting the right shades of pink and green — we ended up creating our own shade of pink in the end, which probably [annoyed] our friend Syrus, who was helping us decorate. We got there in the end, however. We brought in lots of bits and bobs that we had collected over the years while living in Napier, to keep it from feeling brand new (staying inline with the era of the building), and got beautiful artwork from Tane’s cousin, Billie Culy,” Emma notes. Even though it’s a challenging space because it’s divided into two sections (unlike most cafes that operate in one room), Emma and Tate managed to present a charming cafe that’s visually stunning. “It creates a little bit of disconnect, but in some ways that’s cool as well, because it means when you come inside you feel like you are a entering a unique, hidden space,” Tane says.

Unique indeed. Please scroll down to enter the beautiful Bestie Cafe. Enjoy! —Erin 

Photography by Josh Griggs / @joshgriggs_

Image above: The view looking out from the counter to the cafe seating area highlights the beautiful Victorian windows, the natural light, and the collection of shop greenery.

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Bestie Cafe on Design*Sponge
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The bustling outside seating at Bestie Cafe is so lively and a welcoming scene leading to the coffee bar. "The space is nearly 100 years old, so it's been important to respect the look and feel of the arcade, but not to get lost in there! So we have chosen to keep the seating area simple, with wooden tables and school chairs, fresh flowers and loads of plants, to give it some life. We have tried to let the space speak for itself with its big bay window and glasshouse-like feel. Inside it's a pop of color and fun - and that's where you get to see our own personal style," Emma says.
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From these little wooden tables and school chairs is one of the best views of Auckland.
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A peek at the Auckland city view that you can expect at Bestie Cafe, such as a look at the Sky Tower.

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Your order is up at Bestie Cafe.
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The building that houses Bestie Cafe is nearly 100 years old, and still retains a lot of the original charm.
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"We wanted Bestie Cafe to feel cozy, which is kinda difficult in such a huge space. It needed to feel warm and friendly, but it also needed to function as a cafe so systems had to be well thought out while designing counter placement, etc.," Emma shares.
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This is just a portion of the greenery that Emma and Tane have arranged around the cafe.
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Succulents fill the large, beautiful steel frame windows.
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“One quite cool thing is our counter which is made completely of beautiful handmade tiles by local potter Elena Renker. They were our one ‘splurge’ — we are obsessed with her amazing pottery and knew we had to incorporate it somehow. I think it was the base of the whole design process for us,” Emma shares.

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I love the punch of yellow against the deep green walls and the specks of green throughout the tiles as well. Here you also get a close-up look at the handmade tiles by local potter Elena Renker.

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The shelving behind the counter is arranged to make you feel like you're home. With a mix of supplies, cookbooks, and Bestie Cafe mugs, it's so inviting.
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Bestie Cafe uses Eight Thirty Coffee Roasters, a local Auckland coffee roaster.

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Polaroids fill this pink wall. Pictures with your “bestie,” we presume.

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"We make everything onsite here at Bestie Cafe, from all our baked goods right down to our homemade Chilli kombucha and soda syrups," Emma says.
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Another look at the beautiful windows that welcome guests into Bestie Cafe.

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Comments

  • Beautiful and inviting space. I appreciate how the building’s heritage was honored and mixed with the new to create a space that has character and ease. I wish I lived closer, this looks like a go-to spot.

  • Great to see home on the D*S map. It’s indeed a good cafe in New Zealand’s largest (only?) metropolis.

  • Urban jungle public spaces are a weakness of mine. I’m happy more and more are popping up – from cafes to stores, co-working spaces and even libraries. Plants make every place look so much more inviting.

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