Cafe Tennyson + Bistro | Before & After

September last year we received a short email requesting our help to refurbish a café. The email was from Julien and Sophie Debord, a French couple who had recently bought the well-known Napier café, Ujazi. When we met with them, their brief was to makeover the café, creating a warm and welcoming space and combine Napier’s Art Deco style with a hint of French tradition.

While we began work on the design concept, we put Julien and Sophie in touch with our clever friend, Kate Merrifield Mason, of Ripe Design. Kate designed the logo and the beautiful menus for Café Tennyson + Bistro. Much discussion was had about whether to keep the Ujazi name, which was so well known in Napier, or begin this new journey with a fresh name. In the end the latter was chosen. Located on Tennyson Street, we all loved the name Tennyson. It felt quite “Gatsby” which fitted the Art Deco vibe we were going for. Our first design concept was to give an overall look to see if our vision married up with Julien and Sophie’s.

We then put a second design together with more specific pieces and finishes for the café.

With the designs approved, the next step was to implement them. With the shortest time frame we’ve ever had to work to - Sophie and Julien had given their staff two weeks holiday while the café was closed for refurbishment - we knew we had to work with a professional company with a full team of trades available to them. Your Solutions were absolutely brilliant taking our designs and making them a reality in twelve days! Yes, twelve long days to transform the café. We will be forever grateful that they made that happen.

Previously the café was painted a myriad of bright colours - orange, lime green, purple… To create that Art Deco vibe and to draw people in, we chose a stunning wallpaper called Hollywood Palm in rose gold. We teamed that with glass sphere pendants and green velvet booth seats.

Although the street front tables were often full, we noticed that people didn’t tend to sit indoors. As well as the colours we decided to change the layout inside to give it a better flow. Julien and Sophie, having owned a bar in France, knew exactly where they wanted their new counters.

A wall was removed to allow space for the pâtisserie counter. As head chef Sophie knew she wanted to fill this with French pâtisserie, salads and savoury treats.

We designed both the pâtisserie and barista counter and then handed it over to the clever joiners at Your Solutions to create. We chose a gorgeous subway tile in deep green and white with a handmade effect to emulate those French bistros that had been around for many years.

The barista counter was designed in reverse with deep green tiles and a stripe of white. It’s located straight in front of the entrance, at the end of the original counter.

installation day - looking good!

I always love a mezzanine floor, but the original upstairs area didn’t get a lot of customers. Our original design featured the Hollywood Palm wallpaper in gold and black for a moodier vibe, but to stay within budget we had to loose it. Instead we added panelling to the bottom of the wall to create an architectural feature.

Your Solutions made the panelling that we designed. We loved visiting their workshop to see it laid out on the floor, and then following the progress of it being installed and painted. It added that interest to the stairwell leading you up. We chose a glossy black for the panelling and a gorgeous pinky brown for the wall above.

The mezzanine floor is now my favourite space in the café. The gold velvet booth seats, black bistro chairs and walnut tabletops give the upstairs area a different identity whilst still feeling cohesive with downstairs.

Looking down into the main café is quite different now…

The original bathroom was quite something in the brightest Fanta orange. We gave this area its own makeover, repeating the panelling we used on the stairs and topping with another beautiful wallpaper, installed by our mate Claire Condon. A new vanity with gold tap and pretty mirror completed the look.

A lot has changed in this little café and not just the decor. As well as the treats available in the pâtisserie, you would be wise to take a seat and check out the menu. There are delicious breakfast and lunch options, and you can enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with lunch.

Sophie and Julien have more exciting ideas to introduce to Café Tennyson + Bistro, so make sure, if you’re in Napier, to pay them a visit.

Jen Sievers | Greenhouse Interiors

Before interior design became my life, what seems like a lifetime ago, I was a graphic designer. I was lucky enough to work with a variety of clever and talented people, and one of those people was the beautiful Jen Sievers. We were both working as graphic designers in a small marketing firm, but, as often happens, after the birth of our children we both changed direction slightly - me to interiors and she to fine art.

photo: Sarah Starkey

Jen has been going from strength to strength since she started painting again three years ago, and I have really enjoyed seeing her become so successful doing something she loves. Her latest achievement is so exciting, as she and I have both been huge fans of the two women Jen has recently collaborated with - Julia Green and Armelle Habib.

Julia Green is an incredibly talented stylist and writer and the founder of Greenhouse Interiors, an online destination for boutiques textiles, homewares, and fine art. Julia contacted Jen earlier this year interested in selling her work. Of course this was a no-brainer for Jen, who, like me, was a big fan of Julia's work. "So I painted a collection for her. It's been a whirlwind of work and excitement", Jen explains. "Being a part of her (Julia's) gang has been an impossible dream since the start. Life is full of incredible surprises!"

Julia worked her magic with Jen's new collection, styling each piece in a room setting which compliments and highlights the artwork. The settings were then photographed by another of our idols, Armelle Habib, who captures them so beautifully.

You can view all of Jen's latest collection here on the Greenhouse Interiors website. I'm sure you'll agree with me, the collaboration between Jen, Julia and Armelle is a winner!

Introducing SAI

Dael and I are very proud to introduce you to our latest project, SAI, (lower) 205 Emerson Street, Napier. The project took a good eight or nine months and was quite a journey, so we were thrilled when the doors finally opened to the public two weeks ago. Some of you may have been following the progress on our Instagram page, but now we're pleased to share it with you officially.

photo: Florence Charvin

In March of this year we received an email from Sasi (our future client) saying she was visiting from Sydney, was opening a restaurant in Napier, and would we like to meet to discuss it. "Of course," we said - that sounded like a fun job. We met Sasi on site soon after and suddenly realised what a huge task we had ahead of us.

The site for the restaurant was the old Mid City Plaza and it was being split into three tenancies along Emerson Street. It really was just a crumbling shell with loads of potential, and a lot of work to be done. This was our first big commercial project, so we were very fortunate that architect Robin Larkworthy, of Dougan Larkworthy, agreed to help us with all of the plans and working drawings, and GR8 Construction took on the build.

Our client, Sasi (below far right) already owns and runs the sister restaurant, 'SAI Old Bar Beach' in Sydney, and soon after our first meeting she flew back to Australia. Over the next few months Dael and I liaised with Sasi via email, designed the look and feel of the restaurant, and came up with various floor layouts (keeping in mind that neither of us had any experience with a commercial kitchen and what that entailed). With the expert help of Josh from Southern Hospitality, Isaac from Sydaz, Hamish Panton from Panton Consulting, and Robin Larkworthy and his team, plans were eventually sent to Council, and then it was a waiting game. In August Sasi returned to New Zealand with her niece, Wan, (below centre) who was to help Sasi with the restaurant, and eventually run it when it came time for Sasi to return home. The four of us worked closely together, and Dael and I are so thankful to both Sasi and Wan that they believed in us and allowed us to follow through with our designs.

Opening day was 8th December, and everybody involved in helping us create SAI worked extremely hard to make opening on that date happen. As well as all the tradies, Sasi and Wan's family flew in to help and it really was 'all hands on deck'.

We enlisted the help of our favourite painter and wallpaper hanger, Claire Condon, and her friend, Chris Heath, to create the fresco wall effect, and to hang the beautiful Elitis wallpaper. Asha and Marg from Little & Fox made the squabs and cushions; and Hutchinson's laid the floor for us.

Staff get ready for the very first guests (below) - everyone involved in helping to create SAI was invited to come and sample the delicious Thai food. The tiles, from The Tile Depot, around the open kitchen and behind the bar are one of my favourite features.

The food at SAI is authentic Thai food, and the staff are there to guide you, if you'd like, and answer any questions. They encourage customers to place meals in the centre of the table so you can share and taste all of the dishes.

My most favourite part of the restaurant is the beautiful bar which greets you as you enter. It was created by the amazing team at Sunshine Joinery, along with the cabinetry behind the bar, all of the bench and booth seats, the open kitchen bench top, and all of the shelving. We can't thank Rick, Ben, Felicity and their team enough.

The curved bar is created with strips of bamboo that bring gorgeous texture and warmth, and contrast beautifully with the deep teal featured throughout the restaurant.

When Sasi first briefed us on what she wanted for the restaurant, she told us her favourite colours were brown and grey. To say that Dael & I love colour is an understatement, so how were we going to make this work?! The tile, with it's earthy shades of brown, blue and grey was our starting point, and this led to the introduction of the deep teal colour. Lastly we brought in the rich raspberry red in the wallpaper and velvet sofa to balance the coolness of the blue and grey tones. Sasi was so great allowing us to do this, as we knew we were pushing her outside of her comfort zone. But luckily for us she embraced the colours and now loves them.

Thanks to the talented Laura Jeffares for the floral displays, and Rowan from Branded for all our signage.

All of the beautiful plates, bowls and cups are hand made in Thailand especially for SAI and are available to purchase. Look for the displays at the front of the restaurant and talk to staff if you're interested in purchasing anything.

It's so rewarding to see SAI fill up with people, the buzz of activity as staff ferry plates to customers, and the chefs busy in the kitchen. So much thought went into each part of the restaurant, and each phase, and we're extremely grateful to everyone who helped turn our design into a reality.

Although we thank Sasi for giving us so much freedom with our design, it was her initial brief and inspiration that shaped SAI. We took her brief and moulded it into the restaurant it is today. We may have pushed a few boundaries along the way, but Sasi was so open to our ideas, she was a joy to work with. I have been lucky enough to dine here a couple of times now, and I can tell you, wholeheartedly, that the food is amazing. There's no question where the Bibby + Brady Christmas party is being held this year!

We will miss Sasi as she heads back to Australia (today), but she's handing the torch onto Wan, and we have no doubt she will do a great job at running SAI.

A SAI website is in the making, but in the meantime have a look at this delicious menu. Bookings can be made on 06 835 3959, open 11am til late, dine in or take away. If you visit, make sure to tell them we sent you.

The lovely photographer herself, Florence Charvin.