October 27, 2010

A Design Review of Lola on Central

by: Taz Loomans


Have you been to Lola Coffee on Central?  I usually go there for meetings because it’s quieter than a lot of other coffee shops.  The design of the space has never struck me as very special because there is a certain intimacy that’s missing from it.  But today, when I took a closer look, I discovered that there are some cool design elements in the coffee shop.  Just as a clarification, there is a Lola in Downtown, on Roosevelt and 4th Ave.  Now that Lola has achieved the intimacy and richness that Lola on Central is missing, but I will talk about Lola in Downtown in another post.

The first thing I noticed on my visit to Lola on Central today was the floor.  It’s concrete like almost every other coffee shop and restaurant in town.  But this concrete floor is special:

It’s stained in a really pretty deep red color.  Red, it seems is the theme for Lola on Central.  I’m not a big fan of the red/burgundy paint on the accent wall, but on the floor it’s just beautiful.  Not only is the floor stained red, but it’s also lightly polished, revealing golden and silver flecks that make the floor even richer.  It’s a very subtle thing, this floor, and not something that photographs tremendously well. But next time you’re there, take a good look at the floor and you’ll see what I mean.

Keeping with the deep red color theme, the bathrooms are tiled in a very nice deep red tile with golden swirls.  Were it adjacent to the concrete floor, it would be a lovely tie-in.

If the bathroom were entirely clad in this tile, from floor to ceiling, it would be amazing. But unfortunately, it’s just used as a wainscoting, stopping at around three feet.  I suspect this tile is expensive and stopping it short might have been a money saving strategy.  It’s taken away from the intended effect of a rich, luxurious bathroom, but the tiles themselves are fantastic.

Besides the tile, there are a few other delightful things in the bathroom.  One is this classic mid-century modern pendant at the entrance:

Another is the spacious sink, and even better is the sink faucet.  I’m sure it’s not a low-flow fixture, but the unusual design of the handles and the unique way the water flows out make the hand-washing experience an enjoyable one:

Just as there are interesting design elements in the bathroom, they are also all over the coffee shop itself.  The one aspect that gives Lola it’s signature look, the one thing that is highly memorable, is the fantastic window facing east:

This window, along with the storefront window on the north side not only bring in a really nice quality of light, but they also afford a fantastic view of uptown and Central Avenue.  The church across the street provides a charming backdrop and the broad window really shows off the light rail.  Compared to most other coffee shops in town, I think Lola on Central is where one feels most connected with the city, just due to the sheer breadth of views.  It also helps that Lola is pretty close to the street, so the street life is just a few feet away if you’re sitting at the bar near the window.

Another way that design is added cost effectively is through these simple light fixtures above the coffee bar:

The simplicity of the light fixtures is offset by the spacing and the undulation making the overall arrangement lovely.  Though the form of the fixtures is simple, they are a perfect fit with the mid-century modern theme of the coffee shop.

Speaking of mid-century modern, the furniture in the shop is a hodge podge of different chairs and couches, but they are all from the mid-century modern era.

I also appreciate the art on the counter at the coffee bar.  It is a nice nod to the many artists who live and work in the area:

I think one of the best things about Lola on Central is the really cool stainless steel signage.  This sets it apart from the other coffee shops in town.  I love the COFFEE sign inside:

And of course, the exterior signage, in the same vein, is extremely well done:

My overall assessment of Lola on Central is that it has a lot of really cool design elements, but it’s missing cohesion.  There is a warmth that is missing and even with the various styles of mid-century modern furniture, it’s a bit cold.  However, I do think there are enough well-designed elements in the coffee shop, along with the strong visual connection with Central that makes it an interesting place to spend time.

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6 Responses

  1. I agree about the window. When I visit Lola Uptown by myself, I like to sit at one of the stools there, enjoy the natural light, and watch trains, cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists pass by.

    I’m also a huge fan of Danielle’s baked goods. Her kitchen is at Lola Downtown, I believe, but both locations benefit from the brilliant treats that emerge from the oven.

    My only complaint: Lately, Lola Uptown’s wifi has been terrible. I go there only if I’m content to read a book or do some other offline activity. If I need to connect to the Internet, I’ll choose another place with a more reliable network.

  2. This is cool- Great analysis! Even from the standpoint of a non-architect, these are important distinctions needed for a sense of “intimacy and richness” within a modernist approach. These are the qualities that i think will allow people with traditional or even “contemporary” tastes to connect with the stock of block ranch homes in the Metro area, and will allow people to personalize their homes without depending upon industry-driven coatings and veneers that are irrelevant and wasteful.
    Thanks to you for raising awareness and providing an informed critique.

    • Taz Loomans says:

      Thanks for your comment Dan. One of my goals with my reviews is exactly what you mentioned, which is to raise awareness of design and how it effects our environment. I’m hoping this raised awareness results in an increased demand for good design, which would benefit everyone at the end of the day.

  3. Dick Wein says:

    19th Avenue/Camelback is the next Melrose…metinks?

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