Blue Bottle Morse Building

A Coffee Workshop

Blue Bottle Coffee’s Oakland flagship blends historic architecture with a fresh take on craft coffee culture

Removing Boundaries

Blue Bottle founder James Freeman brought craft coffee to Northern California in the early 2000s, and as he grew his then fledging business, he wanted each new location to express a unique character, just like his single-origin roasts. With his Oakland flagship location in the historic Morse Building, large picture windows and clerestories spanning two facades prompted a rethinking of the familiar server-served café organization. Instead, an open plan centered around a 30-foot-long stainless-steel table cum espresso bar makes the exchange the focus of the location from inside and outside.

Working Within History

The Morris building dates back to 1921, and was formerly an automobile showroom. It’s a beautiful old historic structure, with proportions that are distinctly from another era entirely. Those dimensions were emphasized in the redesign, as were textural elements like the well-worn original tile. The new case work and furnishings stand individually within the elegant historic shell. The structure is white and light, and then the pieces are dark and solid within it.

At Your Service

In its earliest days Blue Bottle delivered its roasts to customers’ homes and helping people make better coffee at home remains a core mission. In the Morse building this philosophy is expressed by the introduction of an “espresso repair” shop. Customers can see old espresso machines as they’re being tuned up or brought back to life. Containing the messiness of machine repair without chopping up the building was a challenge. A glass wall proved prohibitively expensive due to the double-high ceiling, but clear vinyl curtains made for an ethereal division that enhances the unexpected presence of the shop.

Interior Planning

Jensen designed and selected all the furnishings in the Morse Blue Bottle. These include the vast workshop table, the big round family table, and the communal seating with stools. The interior planning began with as many as a dozen variations on where every surface, stool, chair, and case would be placed. Each variation was tested conceptually for relative positioning, customer comfort, and overall workflow. While the open plan added challenges in terms of plumbing and utilities, the flexibility allowed for easy adjustments once the space was in use, just like many modern workplace designs.

Type
Retail
Client
Blue Bottle Coffee Company
Location
Oakland

Awards

2015 Architizer A+ Design Awards, Restaurant Finalist

Press

Coffee Culture, Robert Schneider,
Images Publishing Group, June 2016
Interior Design, “Jensen Architects Converts Automobile Showroom into Blue Bottle Coffee,’ September 2014
Imbibe, “The Amazing Space," Apr. 2016
San Francisco Chronicle, “Coffee by Design,” April 2014
Metropolis, “Oakland’s Blue Bottle Cafe Blurs Work and Leisure,” February 2014

Architects

Project Leads
Mark Jensen
Lincoln Lighthill
Project Team
Paul Jones
Nina Marquardsen
Nick Sowers

Consultants

Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing
MHC Engineers
Lighting
Jensen Architects

Contractor

Terra Nova Industries

Photographer

Mariko Reed