Milk Tea & Pearl, Box Park London, by Atelier YAO

  • Painted timber, fabric, leather, carnival light bulbs and powder-coated steel are used in the interior décor


  • Art meets architecture in the hands of Atelier YAO


  • Art meets architecture in the hands of Atelier YAO


  • Art meets architecture in the hands of Atelier YAO


Atelier YAO played a few tricks with its interiors for this revamp of a Taiwanese bubble tea store in a pop-up complex in East London...


Client: Milk Tea & Pearl
Lead Designer: Atelier YAO
Size: 28 sq m
Duration: Two months
Cost: £12,000

All images: Atelier Yao

Words by Emily Martin

Founded in 2010, Milk Tea & Pearl is a Taiwanese bubble tea parlour in Britain opening two shops just off Oxford Street, London and revamping its store in Shoreditch's cargo container pop-up shopping complex, Boxpark.

Hearing about the young, East London based design practice Atelier YAO, Milk Tea & Pearl approached it with a brief to redesign the interior scheme for the Boxpark store. 'The brief asked for an overhaul of the existing shop floor and to provide a refreshing, memorable space, without changing the layout of the kitchen or back-of-house space,' says Yaojen Chuang, architect and director at Atelier YAO.

The interior for the bubble tea shop marks Atelier YAO's first completed project, after the practice was stablished by Chuang last year. 'We used a mix of nostalgic finishes throughout the store: painted timber surfaces, printed fabric, tanned leather, carnival light bulbs and powder-coated steel,' says Chuang, who swapped out the shop's previously claustrophobic-looking black ceiling, grey rubber flooring and Formica surfaces.

Restricted by a small budget and interior space, dictated by the shop's cargo-container form, Atelier YAO was presented with some larger design challenges in addition to Milk Pearl & Tea's stipulation to reopen the shop every weekend to minimise revenue loss during its fit-out. With its long, narrow tunnel-like interiors intended for efficient shipping - not human occupation - forming a corridor space with restricted movement and sight, Chuang says the solution was to incorporate a clever architectural optical illusion to make the space appear wider and shorter.

Art meets architecture in the hands of Atelier YAO
Art meets architecture in the hands of Atelier YAO

'One of our studio's founding principles is to bring the disciplines of art and architecture together,' he explains. 'We are pleased to have integrated elements of art into this interior space - a little tribute to the ingenuity of baroque architecture.' Referencing the baroque tricks of perspective, which were deployed to make interiors seem higher or deeper, Atilier YAO applied a reversed strategy by using geometric lines to provide a false perspective, creating the illusion of a shallower and wider space.

Art meets architecture in the hands of Atelier YAO
Art meets architecture in the hands of Atelier YAO

Choosing to design the space as two halves, the front half is an 'abstract anamorphic beach hut' with blue timber slats positioned as chevrons. Suspended overhead they transcend in a parallel sequence down the walls and along the floor. The rear half is a white box housing the tea bar, adorned with distorted yellow circles of varying sizes.

Working with Spanish artist Alberto Torres Hernandez, Atelier YAO's anamorphic interior was achieved through 3D mapping techniques and projection. Using specialist fluorescent paint to create the yellow 'bubbles', which also includes the shop's logo, positioning was crucial so to ensure the success of the illusion. When viewed from a centre vantage point, the two spaces overlap to reveal the clever optical trick.

Art meets architecture in the hands of Atelier YAO
Art meets architecture in the hands of Atelier YAO

Describing himself as a perfectionist, Chuang says his creative development was nurtured during his eight years working as an architect at Tom Dixon and, more recently, at the Heatherwick Studio. He says: 'I think the key influence I have had is the determination in seeking unique design responses through the almost relentless experimentation and adaptation of design ideas, and the obsession for perfection.

Main Suppliers


Alberto Torres




Goodwin & Goodwin


Odel Jeffries

Metal fabrications

Joseph Waller


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