Voids Cafe – Grace Espresso

Studio SKLIM

Voids are treated as form in this micro café, located in a condominium building in Singapore’s River Valley Road. The empty space in a coffee cup or matcha bowl was the form-giving inspiration for this cafe spanning only 28 square metres. Negative spaces punctuate the space and circular geometries are consistently carried throughout the rest of the built form carving out seating booths, countertops, display shelves and overhanging canopies.

The immediate and daunting challenge for Studio SKLIM was to integrate 18 pieces of coffee paraphernalia and kitchen equipment into the design. In this condensed space, it was essential to balance the kitchen inventory with the customer zones, utilising every nook to add to the user experience.

Several working and customer zones were created, including an experience/retail corner, a take-away counter, seating booths and a small ‘ritual counter’ for conducting workshops and making drip coffee or bowls of powdered Japanese green tea (matcha). Counter spaces were carved out to bring together a closer interaction between customer and barista. Customer seating is provided in circular cut-outs in the concrete counters, with matching petal-like tables.

The tight space and high ceilings created the design opportunity to ‘look upwards’. The entire overhanging volume was entirely holstered from the ceiling with no supports, giving a surreal lightness to the whole structure. The overhanging volume was also rendered in heavily textured stucco inspired by gritty coffee grounds to create an anti-gravity ‘coffee cloud’.

Concrete-based materials were explored in the design – screed and blocks, pink concrete countertop and cement-based plaster (stucco). Some notable details include hand-troweled slopes at the bottom perimeters of the block to create the illusion of it being raised from the floor, as well as small cracks cast to enable plants to emerge from the surface – a playful detail inspired by weeds growing out of odd places. Cut-offs from timber trunks were also sourced to form al fresco seating and tables.

Lighting: Glos, 42 Degrees Asia. Finishes: Admira, Wall Studio Singapore, Tsuri Custom Concrete, Trend Creator. Fittings & Fixtures: Faema.

Photography: Khoo Guo Jie