The Rabbit Hole – Organic Tea Bar, reinvents the tired and clichéd teahouse concept.
The design begins by taking advantage of the former industrial sites inherent architecture. Concrete floors are polished; herringbone strutted timber ceilings are unearthed; original brick walls are revealed. The softening of this masculine architecture is achieved through the white washing of these newly exposed elements, and through the addition of enlarged northeast facing windows, which allow light to flood in to the interior.
The Japanese art of Kintsugi (which means to join with gold, and is a celebration of the beauty of imperfection in ceramic objects) forms the foundation of the new design elements. This is most apparent in the “Specialty Tea Display” where, like spinning plates on top of a circus performers pole, custom designed Kintsugi bowls sit delicately above turned oak timbers. This precarious balancing act making the suggestion as to why these bowls required their gold laden repair job in the first place. The Kintsugi concept is further reinforced with the expansive use of a crushed ceramic tile, which is featured on the service-dominated areas of the café such as the central monolithic retail display. The designer has made great efforts to ensure that any new feature elements do not get bogged down in non-concept complexity, and above this tile clad monolith, a chandelier made entirely of tea bags (by Chilean artist Valeria Burgoa) has been installed.
To counteract these highly conceptual feature elements, much of the remainder of the design is more humble in form, yet in no way modest in design detail. A steel framed glazed wall complete with custom designed pivoting windows delineates the smaller entry section which has it’s own unique, yet complimentary Mad Hatters aesthetic. Reclaimed oak timbers create banquette seats and table frames. These are wire brushed, gently oiled and express dowel joined as to reinforce the quality of the design. A combination of leathers and upholstery fabrics create seat cushions and brass buckled back rests. Century old French oak floor joists are used to create the service counter, while a shark nosed granite top sits effortlessly in the room as a group dining table. Other tables are less ostentatious, and are constructed in timber and fiber cement. This contrasting materiality is peppered through out the space, with warehouse shelving stand along side and instep with bespoke joinery items.
Further efforts have been made to ensure the environmental comfort of all patrons, and perorated custom wood panels conceal acoustic wall linings. Sustainability is at the heart of every design decision, with dematerialisation being a key-driving factor. All timbers are either FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified or recycled; all paint finishes are VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) free; lighting is energy efficient or LED: and every material has been assessed for it’s embodied water and energy content. Further to this the project aims to eliminate the need for air conditioning , and looks to take advantage of the natural and passive cross ventilation opportunities on offer.
The track mounted projectors Sunluce was chosen for the general lighting of the space, integrating the decorative fittings. With its extreme adjustability it represents the ideal solution to give an efficient diffusive enlightenment to the overall environment. The minimal design of simple and elegant lines and the finish made it almost invisible in the global setting, taking advantage also of the white wooden beams in which the tracks are disguised.