Blue Bottle Studio by wrk-shp Serves as a Sensorial Stage
Hiding in plain site within the nondescript commercial husk of a former Melrose dry cleaner can be found Blue Bottle Studio. The coffee brand’s first residency in the United States, the intimate Los Angeles space hosts a mere eight seats, each awaiting to serve a thoughtfully composed and choreographed exploration of the beloved beverage spanning brewed leaves and flowers, to fermented berries, and across numerous surprising expressions of roasted coffee all surrounded by surfaces, sounds, and aromas curated to elevate all of the senses.
Designed with longtime Blue Bottle collaborators Airi Isoda and Ryan Upton of architecture firm wrk-shp, with the support of Capsule Manufacturing, Blue Bottle Coffee’s founder, James Freeman, Global Head of Innovation, Benjamin Brewer, alongside Global Head of Cafe Design, Cary Cheng conspired to impart every detail of their coffee bar with omotenashi, the deeply-rooted Japanese value of hospitality transcending expectations of guests. The intention inhabits every corner of the interior layout, with each piece of serving ware, ceramic pendant, all the way down to the hyphen-shaped brass chopstick stands used to gently elevate each card presented across the 8-course menu serving a sense of serenity.
“The Studio is our answer to this question: How hard can we work to reveal the essential nature of an extraordinary coffee and present it to a handful of guests in a modest room?” explains Freeman. “We wanted to create a space for the experiential rather than the common educational, informational coffee tasting.”
That experience begins with guests breaching a wall of coffee-dyed curtains into the Studio. Designed by fiber artists Niki and Yusuke Tsukamoto of Lookout & Wonderland, each patchwork panel was dyed with various blends of Blue Bottle coffee beans, creating both a visual and aural barrier between the world from where guests have arrived and the realm of the senses awaiting on the other side.
One cannot but think of a sushi bar upon sitting behind the purpose-built expanse of the Studio’s bar. Designed to serve hot liquids, the wood is paired with an inlaid brass surface dulled into a darkened patina from where the small team of Blue Bottle baristas operates a studied and purposeful choreography of steeping, stirring, and pouring their coffee omakase throughout the 90-minute experience.
Aged brass was selected for its durability and timelessness (Freeman exhibits a habit of wiping away the smallest wayward drop with admirable finesse), complementing the row of walnut Windsor chairs situated across the bar, angled ever so slightly to silently welcome guests on arrival.
Mobility and adaptability were emphasized from conception, permitting the Blue Bottle Studio team to move the brass coffee bar, architectural partitions, and curtains without too much hindrance when required.
Reinforcing the importance of sound, the walls of the Studio are designed to be audio baffles with sound dampening materials such as cork to aid with the overall acoustics of the room.
It’s a bit of bittersweet realization that it was twelves years in the making for the Blue Bottle Studio to arise in Los Angeles Studio (a followup to 2023’s Kyoto and Hong Kong outposts serving similarly conceived menus). But impermanence was always intentionally designed into the Blue Bottle Studio. Like a haiku, the Studio’s nature is intended to be brief, and only open until November 5th with reservations.