“There is no greater designer than nature.”

This beautiful quote from British designer Alexander McQueen is now more relevant than ever, as we come to realise how the time spent in solace but surrounded by nature, can feed our creativity. It has the power to remind us of what is truly important and when we combine the elements of our natural world with great design, we open ourselves to incredible possibilities.

On May 8th this year we were to celebrate Public Gardens Day, giving us all the opportunity to be inspired by ideas that could be used to transform homes and workplaces alike. This sadly is under threat for obvious reasons, but we can still look to nature for adding life to our interiors.

Immerse yourself in natural light

It’s vital to encourage light into your space. It evokes feelings of warmth, happiness and the comes with the added benefits of Vitamin D. In promoting more natural light – be it through full height windows, opened out masonry apertures or generous skylights, you’ll forge a natural connection with the outdoors and your space will feel refreshed.

Design A Living Wall Of Art

A fabulous way to invite the magnificence of the outdoors into your interior is by incorporating a ‘green wall’. Textures, shapes and tonal contrasts these bring will add a playful and sophisticated look that will enhance your sense of wellbeing, look great and offer a cost-effective wall finish into the mix.

Build Your Green Family

Without wishing to state the obvious, the most straightforward way of bringing in the outdoors is by enhancing your space with carefully selected plants. Our advice is ‘less is more’ – you are better having magnificent signature pieces in key locations and in suitable height planters than an array of small plants that don’t sit well with the architectural surroundings. Certain types of plants will thrive in different environments, so do your research beforehand.

The tomato that grew into a cafe

Picasso famously said that great artists steal, and as architectural designers we at SKK saw plenty of great ideas to steal at the No.8 Caf on the Isle of Wight, and to get you inspired about your own project, wed like to share them with you.


The caf owner, Jane Holman, ran the Farm Shop in the village of Bembridge for many years. One summer, following a surplus of locally grown tomatoes, Jane decided to make gazpacho soup and sell it in the shop. She couldnt make enough! The locals kept coming back for more and the idea for the caf was born.


The daily menu of fresh dishes is inspired by local farmers deliveries completely vegetarian dishes ranging from curries and soups to pasties and pies. Everything is cooked on the premises including home cakes and tray bakes.


The design concept for the caf reflects the same values as the food it serves, with Janes partner Duncan doing much of the fit-out himself and using local labour for specialist work.


Reuse, Recycle, Reclaim


Located above the Farm Shop, the Caf is reached by a custom-built, hand carved spiral staircase which, with its decorative fruit motifs, is a work of art in itself. The large serving counter and workbench are built entirely of reclaimed wood, mostly from nearby Ryde pier and railway.


When the modern wall and floor finishes were removed, vintage gems were revealed. The exposed brickwork is superb and the original floorboards were sanded back to their pristine state.


The fixtures and fittings are an eclectic mix of upcycled and donated pieces including a grand old sofa, vintage coffee tables from Hong Kong and light fittings made from repurposed Kilner jars. Every piece tells a story of a former life yet fits perfectly into its new setting.

When they realised they needed more seating for customers who come in for a quick coffee, Duncan sawed a reclaimed coffee table in half, fitted both halves to the wall and created high-bar seating with stools.


Embracing the local community, Jane invited several local craftsmen to help complete the project. Her passion for interior design, led by instinct, has resulted in one of the most original cafes we at SKK have discovered.


If youre visiting the island and fancy a cuppa, we highly recommend a visit to No.8. Children, dogs and well-behaved adults are all welcome!

7 ways to serve up a vibrant cafe culture

The caf is fast becoming the new pub. With the cost of a pint or glass of wine continuously rising, the caf is a cost-effective, family-friendly alternative for get- togethers, work meetings and local events. At SKK Design we have made a speciality of helping our clients launch new high street start-ups. Below are our seven strategies for making your caf design a popular and financial success.

By 2021 the coffee shop market is estimated to be worth a staggering 4.3 billion.

Starbucks, Costa and Pret dominate the High Street, yet even they are moving away from imposing formulaic designs. Customers expect welcoming and attractive spaces with quality goods. This is where the independents score. A growing market sector, they can provide quirky individuality with roots firmly in the local community.

Here are our 7 strategies for success in caf design:

  • Geographical Location. Ask yourself: what is missing in the areas current offer that you could provide? Does your building have an interesting history or feature you could capitalise on?
  • Use of Local Labour and Materials. Sustainability is a huge trend and creates a good deal of lasting good will. Work together with other small businesses.
  • Open Plan Kitchens. Not only can these create additional seating space, they also involve and engage the customer: sharing smells, sounds and activity.
  • Technology: see what your rivals are offering and try and improve on it. You may choose to offer only USB ports by hard stools to discourage guests from buying just one coffee!
  • Space Planning: put the customer experience first by creating an environment conducive to sales and accessibility without neglecting the aesthetics which give the space its character.
  • Maximisation. Can you offer more than daytime coffee and pastries? Could you cater to evening events like wine tastings, collaborations with local artisans and the sale of alcohol?
  • Costs. If you need to apply for Planning, Listed Building Consent or landlord approval, have an outline set of drawings and specifications that can be accurately costed by a builder.

Creating a concept for caf design is only the beginning.

Planning, design and turning your vision into reality takes expertise and experience.

Be clear on your target audience, know your market and find an architectural designer who shares your values, enthusiasm and vision.