The founder of Liqui Group, Cameron Fry, discusses the company’s coffee shop designs in this profile
Words by Emily Martin
All Images: Crate47
Set up more than 10 years ago, Liqui, the accomplished British interior design studio, creates and manufactures sustainable contract furniture and commercial lighting, although company growth has seen it extend into a number of related fields, including designing contemporary interiors for coffee shops. This branch of the business has seen Liqui complete a number of such projects around the world, as well as design The London Coffee Festival exhibition.
The company has an insightful approach to coffee shop design that’s based on founder Cameron Fry’s experience of serving several hundred coffees to customers in his younger days, which gave him an understanding of the selling patterns, profit margins and even the layout of that particular retail environment.
Liqui’s portfolio includes several interiors for Brew92, a Saudi Arabian-based speciality cafe and roastery
‘I would work [with my mum] behind the counter during the school summer holidays,’ he says recalling his childhood, before as a college student becoming a manager in a coffee shop in his local town.
Explaining how he first came to design coffee shops, he remembers: ‘I had the opportunity to redesign the layout of this particular coffee shop for the owner. It wasn’t ideal; I literally drew a sketch on a napkin. But the revenue increased by around 25 per cent [after the redesign].’ Fry’s first ‘proper’ project, for Artisan, in Putney, London, would become an award-winning coffee shop, while Liqui’s portfolio of work also includes several interiors for Brew92, a Saudi Arabian-based speciality cafe and roastery.
The studio incorporates its own furniture and lighting pieces to create a holistic space, one that seeks to enhance both the business and the customer experience
‘As people don’t drink alcohol in Saudi Arabia a coffee shop [there] offers a very different dynamic and is a space in which to socialise,’ explains Fry. ‘Instead of meeting at a pub, for example, friends will meet at a coffee shop and that shop can remain open until 1.30am.’
Brew92 wanted to offer a unique experience to its customers within each shop location. Emphasis is placed on a comfortable environment, as customers are seated for longer periods, while the stores also offer table service.
‘As a brand, it is seeking the upper level of coffee, service and design,’ says Fry. ‘There’s a “wow” factor when you walk into Brew92’s flagship Al Khayyat cafe and roastery in Jeddah, with a magnificent glazed structure that houses the roastery, a large bespoke island coffee counter, and a striking spiral staircase. We also built in a cupping [coffee tasting] room within the glass house, so the customer can see the roasters, baristas and coffee consultants cupping the next batch – it’s all about the experience and engaging with the customer.’
Liqui designed The London Coffee Festival
Liqui has worked alongside award-winning baristas as well as top coffee consultants, with Fry crediting the design project the company completed for The London Coffee Festival to ‘learning a lot’ through its exposure to some of the industry’s best talents.
When we meet he is providing barista training to his team ‘so they can really immerse themselves in the semantics and culture of coffee’. It’s all in aid of delivering well-designed coffee shops.
‘I’ve done it – I’ve had that experience – and feel I’m a better designer for it,’ he says. ‘I’m also a hyper-detail kind of guy and want the design team to understand the various nuances around working with coffee. Anything we can do that will technically and creatively advance our design processes, we’ll do it. It’s an obsession and we’re all pretty geeky.’
At a time when coffee shops face ever-increasing scrutiny over waste Fry is also concerned about the use of natural resources. To help tackle the issue, Liqui sells sustainable products, such as Bagalight, a lamp made of an energy saving bulb in a brown paper (and card) bag, which is decorated with a range of cut-out illustrations including a table lamp or an Anglepoise lamp.
‘Things need to be extremely hard-wearing in the contract sector and we strive to mix quality with sustainability,’ adds Fry. ‘Most of the furniture we put into a coffee shop is made with solid, sustainably sourced timber, but the quality also makes the furniture sustainable, ensuring it will last. And we’ve made our products in such a way that they can be refurbished, rather than disposed of, so reducing our carbon footprint.’ For Fry and his team at Liqui their ethos now focuses on timeless designs. With a number of projects in the Middle East, as well as several high-end concepts in London, the company is avoiding fashion trends to ensure its designs and interiors will ‘remain relevant in the years to come’.
Fry concludes: ‘We want to keep on honing our skills in the coffee industry, continually learning from and improving on what we’ve already achieved.’