La Vita Dolce Part 3 – The Final Reveal

YES, the final reveal is here, and it’s love at first sip for this gorgeous Chapel Hill coffee house design. We’re so glad you’ve been enjoying these posts, and if you’re catching up on this series, we’ve been taking a tour of the one and only La Vita Dolce Cafe at Southern Village (see Part 1 and Part 2 here!). This beautiful complete interior redesign was a collaboration of CFD and amazing local entrepreneur Annie Johnston. Along with a team of superhero industry pros, we brought vision, life, and all the chic vibes to this beloved Chapel Hill spot. Today we’re going to dig into more behind-the-design challenges and solutions, design strategy, and all the details that made it picture perfect. So let’s clink those cappuccinos and make our way to the final design finish.

Design in Business

When we’re looking at commercial interiors, there’s quite a bit more than meets the eye. We talk a lot about business design in this post, but creating a business interior is more than just a beautiful finish. It’s also about creating an image that aligns with the business’s individual goals and values and showcasing their unique brand. And especially important when it comes to a place where customers spend time- we’re creating an inviting, memorable space where people WANT to be. A perfect cafe concept certainly has a lot to do with aesthetics, but it’s also critical to establish and curate the way a space feels when you’re there. Annie had already worked incredibly hard to establish a meaningful community spot at La Vita Dolce, and it was our job to reflect that in every detail of the design.

New Paint and banquette in La Vita Dolce - Cat French Design

At First Sight

The first thing that greets your eye when you enter a space matters – a LOT. Especially in places where there are multi-use areas (think ordering, paying, sitting, etc). It’s not something that we’d normally think about too much as a customer, but when we’re getting down to the science of good design, the flow in a commercial space is critical- and it all begins with where your eye goes the second you step through the door. For La Vita Dolce, one of the major tasks on the must-have list was centering the space and creating a focal point. Remember that gorgeous arch that was crafted by Thompson Millwork? It’s for more than just looks, y’all! It was also a strategic component to bring beautiful visual symmetry directly across from the front doors, to elevate your gaze upon entering the space. Coupled with the mirrored finish below, it also serves up some good ole’ design flair, and showcases the main event- i.e. the incredible espresso machine (she’s a beauty!).

New tile, Cabinets, Back Splash and lighting in La Vita Dolce - Cat French Design

Light Roast

It’s been tough keeping this project under wraps until now- and the hardest thing not to share? This incredible chandelier. To create lots of visual impact and a one-of-a-kind aesthetic, we brought in this glorious large-scale fixture from Arteriors to serve as the central lighting feature. She casts the perfect glow and dimension from the center of the space, creating that relaxed, soft interior that makes you want to stay for hours. Playing off the reflectivity of the back bar and side mirrors, the space is filled with just the right brightness. We also brought in fresh paint (huge shout out to Certapro Chapel Hill!). Lighting is one of the key ways we love to create depth and tone, and combined with the perfect wall color palette the design impact was exactly what we wanted.

New Chandelier in La Vita Dolce - Cat French Design

Gelato and Flow

Completely redesigning the entry point, back bar, and the seating scheme also tackled another major challenge- creating the right pathway for customers to be able to enter, order, be served, and enjoy. The tasty goodies (fresh Gelato for days, people!) needed to be easily accessible along this route. And, we also wanted to be sure the space as a whole felt open vs. crowded or condensed. It was a tall order, but so worth it. We love this before and after from just inside the front doors:

Before Shot of La Vita Dolce - Cat French Design
New cabinets and lighting in La Vita Dolce - Cat French Design

Graceful Exit

How you leave a space matters, too. To maximize floor space and ease of transition, we created a custom station that included a place for waste and recycling- we wanted this to be convenient, but also attractive and concealed enough that it wasn’t a distraction. We’re all about some good strategic functionality, so we also designed it to cleverly store a high-chair for those younger soon-to-be coffee lovers. To anchor this area and give it an extra sense of belonging and purpose, we had it cozy-up to a stunning custom loveseat to it on the other side. This rich, jewel-toned beauty draws your eye straight in and perfectly complements the adjacent custom booth upholstery. We also love how gorgeous her reflection is in the ornate mirror on the opposite wall. Dressed up with some bright, luxe pillows- she’s the favorite sipping spot for many loyal LVD patrons.

the final reveal of La Vita Dolce make over - Cat French Design
From the front, it’s on the left (if you almost missed it, that’s good! Seamless was the name of the game)
Annie Johnston in your newly redesigned space - Cat French Design
Annie also has a great love for the blue loveseat!

Made to Order

We wanted to make this space to feel super cozy for patrons, and truly one-of-a-kind for Annie. Styling this spot was so much fun- bringing in gorgeous large art and sleek accessories to bring together that timeless, chic, old European vibe. To keep it fresh and bright, green friends were a must. Annie loves the plant life as much as we do, and lots of carefully chosen greenery kept the visual lively while also complementing the beautiful large tree which provides just the right ambiance.

Cat styling La Vita Dolce for Final Reveal - Cat French Design

Hitting Home

This was an awesome project in so many ways- from a design standpoint, we loved the unique challenges of this space and working to find truly creative, workable, beautiful solutions to each of them. It’s also something special when you get to create a space that so many folks will get to use and enjoy- from locals and regulars to visitors and more- we love being part of the La Vita Dolce community and getting to bring some extra beauty and design-joy to our own home right here Southern Village. We’re beyond grateful for the talented professionals who showed up in a big way to make this a huge success- thank you to Collins Design Build, Carolina Custom Booth, Thompson Millwork, Traditions in Tile, Certapro Painters Chapel Hill, and most of all Annie for being our dream team!

Styling team during the photoshoot - Cat French Design

This is still just the beginning! If you’ve enjoyed La Vita Dolce, you are in for even more great food and design joy- we’ve also partnered with Annie to design her sister restaurant, Market and Moss! This brand new restaurant concept is also right here in Southern Village, and it’s going to be INCREDIBLE. Check out our latest update here, and keep following for the big reveal coming soon!