Counter culture: the best NYC coffee bars for design devotees

Counter culture: the best NYC coffee bars for design devotees

Coffee is akin to religion in New York. Independent and small-chain coffee shops now outnumber the behemoth brands, as the thirst for the perfect cup of coffee grows. While Instagram overfloweth with spumescent squares of pristine latte art, we’re inclined to temper our caffeine cravings in divine surrounds, committed to a daily ritual of refined ristrettos and ambrosial Americanos. From a Roman and Williams-designed espresso bar to a Japanese/Scandi matcha café, these are the best-designed spots in New York City to get your java fix.

Flora Coffee

The 1966 building by architect Marcel Breuer on 945 Madison Avenue reopened last year after a sensitive top-to-toe renovation by Beyer Blinder Belle (BBB). A restaurant and daytime café in the lower levels of The Met Breuer soon followed. Incorporating the vision of restaurateur Thomas Carter and chef Ignacio Mattos, the designers retained the space’s robust concrete walls and columns, complementing Breuer’s modernist aesthetic with natural woods, leather, bronze metalwork. The ceiling is lined with the building’s original disc-shaped lighting.

The Met Breuer, 945 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10021;

Photography: Glen Allsop


Housed in a former meatpacking plant, Devoción is a bright and airy coffee shop, complete with a Probat roaster and laboratory/cupping room where the team hosts trainings and tastings for baristas and clients alike. Former music entrepreneur Steven Sutton first established the company in 2006 in his native Colombia, transporting the concept to Brooklyn at the tail end of 2014. Devoción boasts some of the country’s freshest coffee, sourcing its organic beans directly from some 400 small farms and flying them in weekly to NYC for roasting at ten to 30 days old. Sutton tapped New York-based Studios Go for the interiors: the verdant centrepiece is a vertical garden made of coffee plants, which imbue the space with a fresh vibe. We’re devoted.

69 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249;


While technically a restaurant, Reynard in the lobby of the Wythe Hotel is an ideal spot to grab a cup of coffee, embodying a factory-chic aesthetic that has become the hallmark of Williamsburg design. The brainchild of Andrew Tarlow – the restaurateur has built an impressive empire in Brooklyn over the past 15 years – this American nouveau brasserie is notable for its interiors featuring original brickwork, timber beams and soaring cast-iron columns.

80 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11249;


Intelligentsia’s story begins in 1995, when founder Doug Zell and Emily Mange relocated from San Francisco to Chicago, opening up their first coffee bar and retail store. Fast forward 22 years, and it now boasts outposts in Los Angeles, Boston and New York. The latter is nestled in an intimate corner of the Roman and Williams-designed High Line Hotel. Here, customers can enjoy their freshly roasted brew in bookish interiors (think raw brickwork, oriental carpets and Chesterfield sofas), or al fresco in the hotel’s courtyard.

High Line Hotel, 180 10th Avenue at 20th Street, New York, NY 10011;

Photography: Christopher Vaughan

Kava Cafe

Located in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, this gem of an espresso bar boasts bewitching interiors by industry legends Roman and Williams. Seeking inspiration for their design, Roman and Williams founders Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch embarked on a coffee crawl in Venice, where they were a Chris-Craft boat and its ‘crazy beautiful dashboard’ captured their imagination. The Venetian sojourn inspired the starbursts found throughout Kava, from the meteoric oak motifs on the walls, dotted with exposed screws, to the spiralling pattern of the brightly coloured terrazzo floor.

803 Washington Street, New York, NY 10014;

Happy Bones

Happy Bones, as its Kiwi founders Luke Harwood, Jason Woodside, Kirsten and Craig Nevill-Manning optimistically put it, ‘exists to inspire and energise New Yorkers’. They have translated their zeal for coffee into a stylish bricks and mortar space in Little Italy, thanks to architects Hannah Chiaroni-Clarke and Danu Hassik, and interior designer Ghislaine Viñas. The compact space – just 432 sq ft – was once an alleyway. The clever, minimalist conversion features whitewashed brickwork, steel mesh displays (complete with a top-notch selection of art books) and a large skylight above the eye-catching counter at the end of space.

394 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013;


Melbourne’s coffee culture is renowned worldwide – so much so that it’s become a global export in itself. So to Williamsburg, where Sweatshop joins a flock of antipodean cafés springing up in recent years. Established in 2014 by friends Ryan De Remer and Luke Woodard, Sweatshop is a manifestation of the pair’s personal passion for design – they head up their own furniture and interiors studio of the same name – and how ‘the idea of how café environments can really become an extension of ones own lifestyle’. Effortlessly cool monochrome interiors make this one of Brooklyn’s best spots to enjoy your flat white with smashed avocado on toast.

232 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211;

Photography: Matt Johnson


Michelle and Ramon Puyane opened Manhattan’s first matcha-focused tea and coffee shop in 2015, after developing a fixation for the green stuff during trips to Japan. The husband-and-wife team now manage three cafés and Chalait’s newest location – the largest to date at 2,300 sq ft – opened earlier this year in Hudson Square. The Puyanes tapped New York- and Stockholm-based Kontoret for the interiors. The result is a harmonious union of modern Japanese architecture and Scandinavian design, with a palette of sustainable materials including black stained pinewood and whitewashed oak. The serene interiors are complemented by a new menu and pastry programme, with marvelous morsels including matcha sesame cookies, mandarin thyme olive oil bundt cakes and bright citrus curds. A matcha made in heaven.

299 West Houston Street, New York, NY 10014;


Putting the ‘chill’ in Chillhouse, this soothing Lower East Side spot designed by Jeffrey White of Ecology Architecture Urbanism combines a full-service café and bar with a nail salon and massage boutique – the first of its kind in NYC. Established by Cyndi Ramirez in March this year, founder of online food/fashion portal Taste the Style, Chillhouse offers a relaxing haven for city dwellers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Manhattan. Drinks are split into two categories: Turn Me On includes invigorating caffeinated ‘uppers’ for those jonesing for java, while Wind Me Down comprises ‘downers’, such as matcha lattes, biodynamic wine, house beer and cider. 

149 Essex Street, New York, NY 10002;

© TI Media Limited. Wallpaper* is part of TI Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.