Only If Architecture Deconstructs the Coffee Shop With This Minimalist Design

The newest location of café chain City of Saints in Bryant Park dons an all-green interior, industrial fixtures, and a sleek backroom.

Only If Architecture bryant park cafe
To the right of the entrance is a small seating alcove—furnished with a suede bench—that’s surrounded with mirrored walls, giving fostering a sense of spaciousness in the compact shop. Courtesy Michael Vahrenwald/Esto

Walk into the City of Saints café next to Bryant Park and you may feel as though you’ve entered a minimalist rendition of The Wizard of Oz’s Emerald Castle. The 900-square foot all-green space dazzles from head to toe, with a plethora of mirrored walls magnifying the monochrome effect. This is not your average coffee shop, and that is by intention: “We wanted to break down the stereotype of what a coffee shop should be—no exposed wood, or dangling light bulbs—we wanted to create space that was sleek,” says Adam Frampton, principal at New York–based Only If Architecture.

The room is anchored by a giant espresso bar wrapped in green fiberglass grating. The bar holds a dual purpose: It contains two large espresso machines (and space for three baristas) while creating a circulation loop that guides customers through the café’s ordering, waiting, and pick-up areas, and finally back to the front door. “In a space this small it can get cramped easily, so we wanted to keep the traffic moving in an intuitive way,” says Frampton.

Only If Architecture bryant park cafe
The café’s backroom Courtesy Michael Vahrenwald/Esto

Continue past the stunning green quartz countertop and you’ll find an interesting and unexpected backroom. “With the front of the shop taking care of the business and most of the traffic, this back area was sort of liberated for this separate, more intimate work or social area,” says Frampton. Unlike the main space, which sports high, dark ceilings, the back annex is cozier, with walls painted a light seafoam and a ceiling covered with the same fiberglass grating that lines the bar. The suede benches from the entrance continue into this space as well, but this time they wrap around the entire room. Sitting in the space, it’s easy to forget you’re in a coffee shop altogether. “We really wanted to strip the space down and focus on the atmosphere, create something that was versatile and unexpected,” says Frampton. As you exit the annex, a rounded corner beckons you to the bar, past the various milks, and down a couple steps towards the exit once more.

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With its healthy dose of serene colors, sleek surfaces, and hidden alcoves, City of Saints is truly an oasis of quiet minimalist design at the heart of Manhattan.

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