La Vita Dolce Part 2! Behind the Design

If you’re just joining in, we’re diving into a much anticipated series here on the blog about our CFD custom design of the gorgeous Chapel Hill coffee and gelato sweet-spot, La Vita Dolce! In case you’re catching up, you can see the story from the beginning, including how we met the fabulous owner Annie Johnston in the first post here! But we’ve still got more good coffee and creative vibes to send your way, and lots to to tell you about how this beloved Southern Village spot came to life. Last week we talked a little bit about timeline, and how we made strategic, big-impact changes to immediately boost the cafe’s seating capacity and transform the interior finishes. TODAY we’re going to get into all the juicy details about the next phase of improvements. Grab your latte and join us as we show you more!

Annie Johnston and Cat French in La Vita Dolce after the renovation - Cat French Design

Right on Time

Once the initial phase of the design was completed, Annie was excited to move on to the next round, which included many larger-scale changes. For this part, we got to dig into that Full-Service Design toolkit in order to create and manage some big structural changes. The trick? Annie needed to have this completed and ready to open the doors within a week’s time. This is normal for businesses that are customer-facing, and it’s critical to maintain the timeline so as not to stay closed for too long. It required a lot of planning, organization, and project management on our end, but we were up to the challenge and so happy to be able to transform the space into a true reflection of the Annie’s vision and brand.

Custom Cabinets in La Vita Dolce - Cat French Design

Counter Collaboration

Continuing to root into the Old European Vibe that Annie loved, we dove into a full redesign of the behind-the-counter area. This spot was in need of a complete overhaul to maximize space, streamline the look, and give it that perfect mix of inviting and chic, while amping up the visual interest. The goal was not only to bring in more beautiful woodwork but to also bring symmetry and cohesion to the full span of the back wall. There are a lot of moving pieces and parts in the area behind the bar (think baristas hustling to and from to help customers all day) and we also needed to accommodate and showcase the beautiful espresso machine, create attractive storage and organization (gotta keep the wine handy!) and curate easy access to the cases full of treats. To get this done (and done right) with a strict timeline we knew we had to bring in the dream team. This was still a big project- custom cabinetry, woodwork, painting, AND lighting, so strategy and efficiency were essential. We started with a general contractor who we knew was going to bring quality and skill to the job. We called in Chad of Collins Design-Build, who we’ve known for years. We’ve worked with him on many a successful project, and he was key to making the magic happen.

Behind the Design Discussions at La Vita Dolce Cafe - Cat French Design

From Rendering to Renovation

If you’ve been following us for awhile, you know we love to do some good ole’ design homework. By that we mean, getting to know every inch of the space to determine the absolute best way to improve use and functionality, which we consider to be critical components of every design. After a slew of detailed measurements and thorough documentation to nail down each and every logistical detail, the vision truly started to come to life. Our tech wizard and design pro Jamie took on the creation of complete scale drawings and CAD work, and Chad brought in his team of experts to start transforming the space.

Going with the Grain

First up was a full custom cabinet design. For this specific job, we worked with Chad to bring in Thompson Millwork. These folks are the real deal, and they put together an incredible ensemble of custom cabinetry based on our design and detailed drawings. Annie loved the warm tone of the woodgrain combined with the sleek chrome hardware. Clean lines and custom wine storage made them even more glorious. Thompson also crafted and integrated that beautiful arched section which both defines and elevates the presentation and feel of the entire space.

Custom Cabinets, Wine Rack and New Tile in La Vita Dolce Cafe - Cat French Design

Tile it Up

We brought in a fantastic tile vendor, Traditions in Tile at Brier Creek, who helped us source tile for this perfect Moroccan-inspired look. We love it because it’s clean and bright, but still full of visual interest. The unique shape draws your eye right into those gorgeous angles and slopes. Combining this tile with a darker grout provided just the right contrast, and the perfect mix of classic and contemporary- bringing together that old world feel with the more modern and chic elements of the design.

Wonderful Cloud Tiles in La Vita Dolce Cafe - Cat French Design
New Wine Storage at La Vita Dolce Cafe - Cat French Design

Best Face Forward

Y’all, we’ve gotta talk for a minute about the bar. It’s large, in charge, and the very first thing you see when you walk into the cafe. It needed some focused attention and lots of design love to bring the aesthetic in line with Annie’s vision and make it a complement to the overall space. With such a large piece, creating the perfect visual balance is what it’s all about. To make feel at home against the beautiful custom cabinetry, Thompson Millwork also helped us completely re-face the front of the bar and OH my, what a huge difference it made. Check out this glorious before and after:

Before renovation Photo of La Vita Dolce Cafe - Cat French Design
After Renovation Photo of La Vita Dolce Cafe - Cat French Design

And there’s more…

There’s still more to come! Next week we’ll be sharing everything about paint, lighting, and that classic CFD styling that we all love to love. Until then, we’ll leave you with one more stunning before-and-after (along with Alina, who is happiest with an amazing cup of coffee in hand!) Keep following for more La Vita Dolce behind-the-scenes- and in the meantime, keep up with more of the latest CFD happenings and lots of beautiful La Vita Dolce images on our our Facebook Page or catch us on instagram @Catfrenchdesign.

Pre-Renovation Photo at La Vita Dolce Cafe - Cat French Design
Alina Kosmala modeling with a cup of coffee at La Vita Dolce Cafe Post Renovation - Cat French Design