Boor Bridges Brews Up Sightglass on 20th

Rich color bathed in natural light gives life to an old warehouse, as Sightglass Coffee opens their second San Fran café.

Continuing a relationship that began in 2006, Boor Bridges Architecture and co-founders of Sightglass, Jared and Justin Morrison, had worked together long before the coffee-making siblings decided to start their San Francisco-based coffee company.  When the brothers decided to open the first Sightglass establishment back in 2009, they came back to Seth Boor, co-founder and lead architect of Boor Bridges Architecture, to build out a naturally warming and welcoming cafe. As their relationship grew, it seemed only natural that they would take the reins on the 20th street project this year.

Casting gentle nods and allusions to the original 7th street design,  Boor and designer Anand Sheth wanted to focus again on bright, open space with a natural palette. When presented with the building that Seth described as “bare-bones” but with “huge potential”, it seems the team had an ideal blank canvas to work with. Aiming to emphasize the double height of the coffee house, they kept the original tall windows gracing the façade, allowing daylight to pour in from a height and flood the room with natural warmth. From the outside in, they incorporated daylight into every detail of the design, from hand-trowelled plaster on the walls to metallic brass hardware that subtly reflects the light as it is repeated throughout the space.

Three custom chandeliers are suspended from the nearly 17-foot ceiling, as well as the industrial-styled windows, it hardly comes as a surprise that Seth’s favorite feature of the design is the holistic lighting package. “We basically designed a line of light fixtures – each subtly relating to the next while having its own story, purpose and detail. The overhead pendants were designed to be reminiscent of the pendants at Sightglass on 7th.

Unlike the beautiful windows, the exterior door did not offer such a welcoming aesthetic at first. “When we came into the space, the entrance door was a temporary sheet of plywood with a padlock on it. The design for the custom steel, brass and glass entrance door started with a sketch from BBA and really took off in the hands of the fabricator, Steve Valdez. The chevron pattern embedded in the structure of the door is meant to reference the chevron pattern made of redwood sap wood on the ceiling inside.”

With such delicate attention to detail, reminiscent of the original design, and creating patterned echoes from the very entrance of the cafe to the high ceilings inside, the focus is always on the eyes and mind of the guest.

Seth noted that the “ideal patron flow” was incorporated into the design – clearly exhibiting the close nature of client and designer in their foresight, planning, and execution. “We worked closely with the owners to develop their ideal patron flow. They desired a large pastry case to accommodate a robust pastry program… we settled on a flow that incorporated a concierge that greets patrons at the pastry case, takes their orders and directs them to one of two points-of-sale and espresso stations. This moves people through the space quickly, and minimizes the length of the line.”

Taking great pleasure in the experience of Sightglass patrons, Boor and Sheth are remarkably in touch with the various points of view within the café.

“Coming into the space now, I sense the height and volume of the space, and the balance between that grandeur and the intimate details and tactile materials. It’s also fun to see patrons using the space, filling up the banquette seating, Instagramming their favorite details and moments, and finding the cozy corner that best fits the size of their group.”

While maintaining aesthetic consistency between both houses, Boor demonstrates an awareness of the different needs of each location. “This area of the Mission District is very different than the neighborhood surrounding Sightglass’ location on 7th Street. It’s much more residential, and this café was expected to serve as a second living room for many of the neighbors. The neighborhood inspired our design for the banquette, which wraps around the customer area of the café provides comfortable seating for solo patrons and groups up to 7 people. It’s a great place to meet a friend, or just people-watch.”

They are currently designing the Sightglass sidewalk seating and a parklet, which is a small street park that takes the space of parallel parking spots - part of SF’s Pavement to Parks program. “These elements will extend the amount of seating and further connect this café with its community and street life.”

Displaying admirable sense of place with innovative design, this team have created another relaxing haven for San Francisco. With a natural material palette that reflects the essence of the in-house roasted coffee beans, and high, bright space to fill with delicious aromas and the chatter of happy locals, we hope to see another Sightglass house appearing soon.

Mathew Millman Photography