August 18, 2011


As construction comes to a close on SIP in Northampton, MA, we thought we'd take a moment to share some of the ideas that went into the design. KRA's Rachael Chase looks back at the project:

Sip is a new concept for a coffee shop in downtown Northampton, MA.  The customer experience is thoughtfully orchestrated through clean design, well thought-out circulation within a small space, and attention to detail.

From the street, green painted steps and slatted signage call your attention and invite you in.

Customers enter into an open hang-out space. A series of painted posts call you forward to the white tiled counter.

Move past the fireplace and retail shelves to order a drink,

and then head back toward the sunlight filled front to add cream & sugar and find a seat.  Dark gray wood flooring and black-stained plywood tables balance the light walls, and the natural “golden” stain on the Birch plywood warms the space immensely.

SIP encourages the customer to watch the brewing process; seats at the counter allow for interaction with the barista, as well as a view of the fireplace.  The coffee is made via a “slow” brewing process in which hot water is poured over freshly ground beans. Steeped with a special filter, the process is fun to watch and beautifully composed.

And for those (like me) who always add sugar to our coffee — you might not need to; the coffee is deep and smooth.

Go sit down: Comfortable, long banquettes surround the front windows and give customers a place to congregate in the sunlight.

A long bar height table allows for conversation with people waiting in line or moving through – or turn the other way, and let a collection of magazines grab your eye.  Whether you're part of a large group or sipping solo, the space accommodates.

The existing building was the original Smith College Bookstore, and its long history is reflected in the leaded glass windows and the functional wood burning fireplace that the owners plan to light on special winter occasions. 

The modern aesthetic of the new enhances the old and brings it back to life.  By using birch plywood and an incredibly talented millworker, we were able to do custom furniture throughout the space.  The slats of the banquettes transition from a solid back to an open back to let the light pour in through the antique windows.

We worked hard to use the materials creatively to show them off, expose their layers, and showcase their strength and flexibility.  Even the lighting fixtures are made from plywood.

Sit on a cube by the fireplace; grab a stool at the counter to chat with the barista; congregate with friends around a bar-height table; or slide into the banquette and lose yourself in the trees.

Elegant and utilitarian at the same time, this is a real space to be used and enjoyed, comfortable and sophisticated.  Check SIP out: the people are fabulous, and even the bathroom is cool.