Fresh from our latest Function+Form breakfast gathering on Saturday, I wanted to share the beautiful soon-to-launch Dean Street Cafe, where we hosted our end of summer event.
Aside from improving the way that we feel in our homes, design also imparts positive experiences where we work and this is certainly true of Dean Street, a new venture to be run by staff and trainees at youth homelessness charity, Centrepoint. A former church space of historical importance – it was first designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1686, the space has been given a new lease of life by multidisciplinary designer Nina Woodcroft of Nina&Co. You might recognise her name if you saw this ceramics post earlier in the year. As soon as we saw the space and learned more about the plans the charity has for it, we knew we had to tell our community and spread the word.
We were very fortunate in that Nina could join us, flying in from her home in Amsterdam to tell us about her own journey into interior and product design, sharing with us some of the process of transforming a space with such difficult constraints. As John Raynham, head of enterprise at Centrepoint went on to tell us, the space will be used by the charity as a training space for young people coming from difficult backgrounds, learning new skills and rebuilding their lives. Then at weekends, the building transforms into a working cafe in which, guided by venue manager and chef Dean Masters, these same young people with an interest in hospitality can learn an NVQ as well as barista skills offered by their coffee partner Kimbo.
With such a rigid brief, Nina created a flexible, homely space, using sustainable birch plywood storage painted in a soothing green and hand mixed locally. The integrated pegboard comes with removable pegs to store and display items easily. What was a small kitchenette on the right has been opened up giving it a double aspect, meaning one side can be used for takeaway drinks and the other open for service to the cafe. The kitchen also includes reversible menu boards which can be turned around to close off the kitchen when not in use, with all furniture neatly stored away for training sessions during the week. Perhaps the focal point of the room, the small window seats were borne from discovering a rather difficult steel strut which couldn’t be removed. Instead, Nina used it to their advantage, designing the built in seating which was raised up to window height, allowing those at street level to see that the space was a functioning cafe. Such a clever idea.
We loved how much of the materials used in the design were sourced locally too – from the upholstered bench cushions made by The Hackney Draper, second hand seating and bespoke lighting made in the UK, all finished off with a little soft planting.
Our third since we launched last year, Function+Form is fast becoming a way for us all to slow down and reconnect over good conversation and food. Our partners, Luminary Bakery who are another of Nina’s social enterprise design projects, support women to raise themselves up from difficult circumstances, teaching them entrepreneurial skills through their bakery in Stoke Newington. The bakery delivered us some of the most beautiful apple and brown butter flapjacks we’d ever tasted, as well as flourless brownies and cookies. Alongside fresh fruits, pastries and granola provided by chef Dean, we also got to experience a more mindful approach to fresh juice thanks to East London Juice Co, based in the Ace Hotel, Shoreditch.
We can’t wait for the cafe to officially open to the public later next month and wish them all the very best. Make sure you pop in to show your support if you’re ever in Soho at the weekend!
With special thanks to our sponsors Centrepoint, in particular head of enterprise John Raynham and venue manager and chef Dean Masters, as well as our partners Luminary Bakery and East London Juice Co.
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