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This Cozy Cafe Is a Crowd Favorite

Learn how interior designer Lindsey Smida turned her favorite hometown cafe into a modern haven for local clientele.

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Designer Name: Lindsey Smida

Instagram Handle: @deltabydesign 

Project Name: Gilberts Cafe at the Star Hill Family Athletic Center

Type of Project: Commercial

Project Location: Tolland, CT

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Hi, Lindsey! Welcome back. Please briefly introduce yourself for anyone who might have missed your first project feature.

Sure! Hi, I’m Lindsey, owner and creator of Delta by Design. I began my journey helping friends and family identify design solutions to help their homes function more efficiently. Over the years, my passion for interior design has grown from a casual hobby into a career pursuit. I find the work to be extremely rewarding and am thrilled to be building a small business that truly helps people. I hope that every space I design will represent a fresh start for my client, and I aim to create a room that will inspire others and project my client into a promising new phase of their life.  

Who was this project for?

This project was for the Star Hill Family Athletic Center, a local gym/sports complex looking to rebrand its food service/bar area. I had my first job working for Star Hill, and only a few changes had been made over the many years since I had been an employee. The place looked as I remembered it! The area sits in the heart of the facility, and often times customers would walk right by without a glance. The owner and management team hoped to bring new life to the space, making it warm and inviting. A place where people could spend some time while enjoying a warm or cold beverage, a book, or a ballgame.  

Was this your first commercial project? How does your design process differ when working in commercial vs. residential?

Yes, this was my first commercial project! In many ways, it was similar to a residential space. You still have to consider the purpose the area intends to serve, how you want the space to make people feel, and how best to incorporate your client's identity. When designing for someone's home, you can explore and express your client's unique style and character in a space designed just for them. When designing for a commercial space, the focus must shift toward appealing to the public to draw people in and make the space profitable while staying true to the company’s brand.

Describe the goal, design process, and budget for this project.

This design process was a labor of love for everyone involved. While working with the management team on how to design the space, we quickly realized that the area needed a major identity shift to succeed. While originally designed to act as a community space with a central location in the facility, the years had left it feeling more like an unkept cafeteria, and the facility's patrons often ignored it.

While considering the potential for the space and the identity that would suit it best, I was inspired by our local coffee shops and microbreweries that can be seen all over Connecticut. These businesses have managed to project a homey and inviting atmosphere that invites people in and leaves them looking forward to the next visit. I wanted to bring warmth, life, and a personality to this space, which would make people feel energized and more connected to the business.

In total, this project took approximately three months to complete. It’s a large space and needed a lot of work: painting all the walls and door frames, cutting and adding galvanized steel panels, replacing all the existing tables, restoring chairs donated to us by a local restaurant, and adding updated furniture and decor. By doing most of the work in-house and being resourceful, the project cost $5,000.  

Were there any major setbacks during the project?

While the project was full of challenges, the most formidable was figuring out how to achieve the galvanized tin panels. I thought it would be an interesting way to brighten up the space and redirect some of the fantastic light provided by the ceiling-to-floor windows in this room. However, cutting the metal safely to fit all the panels while looking clean and professional was very difficult. While doing this particular job, carefully researching all the steps beforehand was important. We had to procure the proper equipment and take all safety precautions (eye protection, ear plugs, gloves, face masks, etc.) to size, cut, and install the galvanized tin. These panels were razor sharp and required constant concentration and steady technique to achieve the clean cuts and exact measurements required. This was unforgiving material to work with, and neglecting any of these steps could lead to serious injury. After successfully installing them, we were relieved to see that part of the project behind us. I’m happy to report that, in this case, the risk was worth the reward, as these panels immediately became a defining feature and a critical component in setting the aesthetic I’d hoped for!

Can you describe the "before" photos of the space?

This space felt tired and uninviting, almost an afterthought, an area that had lost sight of its original intention and potential. The space lacked visual interest, and the furniture was flimsy, outdated, and comfortable. The floor, furniture, walls, and counters were all the same tone giving the room a lack of contrast. Overall, the space was easy to overlook, feeling dated, hidden, and worn.

What do you love about the "after" photos?

After the updates, the space feels bright, welcoming, and trendy! Customer response was immediate and extremely positive. The space feels open, fresh, and inviting. Original features that were easily overlooked, like the beautiful windows or the small bar area, now draw the eye and promote a comfortable environment where people feel welcome to spend an extended period.  

The new updates to the space and branding have also created great business opportunities!  The management team established a partnership with a locally respected coffee shop, Birdhouse Coffee, and started selling their product in-house.

Are there any resources from your project that you want to share?

The area that really attracts the most people is the lounge area in the bar. This space has two mid-century modern armchairs, a coffee table, a corner shelf, and an area rug. The entire space was sourced through Amazon vendors, most notable being the armchairs from HNY. These comfortable and stylish chairs bring a warm, inviting texture to the space!

How did Spoak’s software help you bring your design vision to life?

The Spoak software really helped me give the Star Hill management team confidence in my proposal and a visual of the design plan. This project required a lot of labor from the organization’s staff (painting, installing the metal paneling, refurbishing chairs), so this vision needed to be shared by the whole team to execute it effectively.  

What was your favorite part about working on this project?

My favorite part of this project was bringing new life to a place that helped raise me. This is where I had my first job, and I have a lot of great memories in this space. Many of the people I met while working here I am still friends with today, and I really enjoyed reminiscing over those times. Back then, the space was full of energy, and these memories fueled brainstorming and helped direct the whole team in the effort to build new excitement and energy around an area that I remember fondly.

Do you have any final words of encouragement or advice for people tackling a commercial design project?

When designing for a commercial project, listening to and understanding your client’s needs and wants for the space is important. Unlike residential rooms, commercial spaces are often used to bring in revenue! To help a business develop and reach its next chapter, the space has to be attractive to potential customers and ultimately set the stage for an experience that will leave them wanting to return. It’s important for the client to feel confident in the space and for the aesthetic to coincide with the client’s business goals.

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Date Posted
March 17, 2023



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