SmithBuilt Project: Sightglass Coffee on the New York Times Blog

Following in the footsteps of coffee innovators Blue Bottle and Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco SightGlass Coffee Roasters is my newest completed project. The New York Times T Magazine has published a beautiful slideshow about Sightglass. Read on for the story of how we built it.

Over the past year, Sightglass Coffee, Jared and Justin Morrison’s coffee roastery and cafe on Seventh Street and Folsom, has been selling coffee from a kiosk set inside an old warehouse they’re renovating. Tarps separate the espresso machine from the construction zone, and everyone who stops by for a cappuccino stoops and cranes as they stand in line, trying to see past the plastic.

SmithBuilt worked for months rebuilding the structural steel and beam interior. I am always reminded of a boat every time I look up at the elaborate old ceiling with its’ complex series of trusses.

The epic industrial space (last a sign-painting shop) still looks a mess, but it’s actually nearing completion.  We have just finished polishing the concrete floor, prestained with coffee, and the crew is getting ready to paint the exterior, punch a hole in the ceiling for the roaster’s heat vent, and finish constructing the bars.

It’s a huge space, actually, which will be divided into half cafe, half production; like most microroasters, they’re projecting that wholesale beans will be a big chunk of the business. The coffee roaster occupies a prominent place at the front, and there’s an oval coffee bar in the back and a mezzanine for storage and seating.

The front bar was constructed with a poured-in-place concrete top, diamond-polished to a worn matte finish. The front of the bar is clad in zinc sheets, hand sanded and patina washed to produce a dusted carbon effect.

As an interior wall finish we employed a Japanese wood flaming technique called Soh-sugi-ban a historical technique that has been used in Japan for centuries. The char on the wood helps protect it from water as well as making it harder for the wood to catch fire in the future, as well as just looking beautiful.


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