August 2, 2021

JJ Acuna / Bespoke Studio Pays Homage to Milan in Hong Kong Café

The cafe’s walls were treated with a Venetian plaster to create a rustic effect. Photography by XU Liang Leon. 

Located at the base of a residential building in an up-and-coming Hong Kong neighborhood, Coffeelin is a coffee and cocktail bar designed by JJ Acuna / Bespoke Studio that pays homage to Milan, where the shop’s beans are sourced. When the owner of Coffeelin visited Italy’s fashion-forward city, he fell in love with the distinct flavor of the local brew and wanted to share the experience with others, tasking the firm’s founder and creative director, James JJ Acuna, to portray an instantly-recognizable Milanese setting without overstating the design. 

A tucked-away booth features colorful seating and a decadent curtain. Photography by XU Liang Leon. 

“Milan is one of those cities where it’s great in so many decades,” says Acuna. There’s the ’60s version of it, and then the ’80s-Memphis version of it, and then there’s the 1800s, early 1900s palazzo version of it. And I have a 900-square-foot space.” The result is an amalgamation of Milanese and Italian design through history brought together within an elevated framework, says Acuna.

Setting the scene is the shop’s exterior, painted a sage green and accented with tomato red to invoke the colors of the Italian flag. Inside, the walls are treated with Venetian plaster imported from Italy to achieve a rustic effect, optimizing the preexisting imperfections of the building. The walls, both interior and exterior, feature a playful Memphis-style motif, as both an homage to the 80s-era of Milan—when Milan became the design capital of Europe, says Acuna—and to add movement akin to rising steam over a cup of coffee. A half-moon shape, patterned in red marble and travertine, accents the floor in an aesthetic tribute to the decadent style of the Italian palazzo. Wicker chairs and bespoke light fixtures tie the space together, creating a comfortable and contemporary atmosphere that succeeds in transporting patrons thousands of miles to the heart of Milan.

Tile flooring makes a statement in a half-moon motif, inspired by Italian palazzos. Photography by XU Liang Leon. 
The cafe’s palette reflects the colors of the Italian flag. Photography by XU Liang Leon. 

Simple, warm lighting casts a glow both inside and outside of the cafe. Photography by XU Liang Leon. 
Vinyl lettering decorates a treated mirror to achieve a vintage effect. Photography by XU Liang Leon. 
Memphis-style wall designs decorate both the interior and exterior walls. Photography by XU Liang Leon. 
The exterior of Coffeelin cafe features outdoor seating and hints at its Italian aesthetic. Photography by XU Liang Leon. 

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