Hipsters Meet Youngsters
November 5, 2018
Walking into a coffee shop mid-day, I would expect to be surrounded by chill acoustic Leon Bridges or Sufjan Stevens playing in the background. I would expect laptops to be open, headphones in, and pens quietly scratching the surface of papers. I would expect the youngest people in the shop to be middle schoolers ordering frappuccinos with extra whipped cream, and adults glaring at them as they run out laughing to take selfies. I would expect a coffee shop, but thanks to co-owner and designer Devin Westberg, Fox and Kit is not a coffee shop, it is a coffee haus.
“We wanted to promote the Coffee Haus, for families and friends to meet there to talk and enjoy life. A place that is about coffee, friends and family. A place where kids are playing and adults catching up not just faces in screens.”
When I first walked into Fox and Kit my gaze immediately went to the bohemian swing chairs hanging in the window of the cafe to my right. Structured bamboo oval frames contrasted with chic, fluffy, pink pillow accents ready for good books and stylish magazines. I then looked to my left and saw a white carrera marble counter full of pastries with powdered sugar dustings and a large assortment of carefully branded coffees and teas. While I was already sold by the front of the space, I had heard rumors about a playground in the back.
A playground was an understatement; the back of Fox and Kit is a childhood wonderland. A full dress-up zone is accompanied by rolling hills of grass, illuminated tunnels that only children under 4 feet can fit through and bridges fill the space above. As I looked around, a few kids were prancing around the grass, parents were catching up and few were working on their computers.
It was clear that the space I had entered was carefully thought through by a designer, but what I didn’t know was the man in a cheerful floral button up behind the design was right in front of me. As I began talking with Westberg his purpose and meaning for Fox and Kit impressed me far beyond what I had seen as a trendy, instagramable coffee stop.
A week later I talked with Westberg (the owner) on the phone. His enthusiastic voice came through the speaker phone as he began his story. After traveling for some time, Westberg and his wife moved back to the United States from Japan and were living in Southern California with their son. While traveling and in SoCal, they often found there were few spaces that satisfied the whole family. Westberg described traditional playgrounds as “ really ugly, gross and unimaginative, very dumbed down towards kids with rainbows, unicorns, princesses and castles” then followed to say, “ and as designers we [Westberg and his wife Kyoko] knew there could be a much better way and create a space where adults would actually want to hang out with their kids.” From here came the idea to incorporate a modern playground into a cafe so all parties could be content.
As the family continued traveling, Westberg and his wife picked up on subtle details from all over the world. “We would absorb any ideas for a kids playground from different art museums and cafes we would go to and that’s why there are so many little details in there that are literally things that we just come up with or that we would be like oh my god, I love how they are doing that we should do something similar.” Europe stuck out and specifically European coffee culture in Vienna. “We wanted to promote the coffee haus, spelled in German, because we were so inspired by the coffee culture in Europe and specifically Vienna. We really loved going there in the winter; it’s more like a bar just to hang out.” Westberg knew he didn’t want to create a place where people came to work all day solely focused on a computer. He wanted to create a family space. Through travels in Japan, where his wife is originally from, he was inspired by repeating arches and doorways, and from his own roots, simple Scandinavian design.
Once returning to Marin beginning a search for a space for Westberg’s coffee haus, there were very specific things he was looking for. As a design team, every aspect of the space mattered:, the ceilings, the size of the space, the location. There was a certain feel the husband-wife duo knew they needed their space to have. Novato and San Anselmo were too far away for families from Sausalito, Tiburon and Mill Valley. Real Estate agents suggested large warehouse spaces that were too large and unwelcoming. Eventually, after 14 months of looking, Westberg came across a building on C street in San Rafael that was closer to what they were imagining. Despite a good location and the correct square footage, something was missing. Being a designer and heavily detail oriented, Westberg knew to look for hidden gems within the basic building.
The ceiling was the first “hidden gem” Westberg encountered. “I popped up the ceiling panel because it had and office looking ceiling panel with bright fluorescent lighting, it was terrible, but I knew the roof could possibly be very tall because the front was tall, so I propped up the ceiling panel and was like oh my god, this ceiling is amazing, we are taking it.” A array of repeating high wood beams wrapped with surrounding space.
After finally finding the perfect space, the couple has some trouble with permits because their idea was different. “A playground inside a cafe… so are you starting a preschool ?” These were the types of questions Westberg had to challenge, but through motivation and dedication his vision started to become a reality. After creating a space that was well thought out and welcoming for people of all ages, Westberg spent time to find roasters and bakeries to partner with.
Through his constant focus on detail and care, life as a small business owner has quickly become crazy; “Work for yourself and you will never have a day off again”. Despite the somewhat hecticness that Westberg has in his life balancing his own family, Fox and Kit and his love for travel, he makes the people and places around him feel relaxed and worthy. He takes risks and sees the potential in traditional spaces of playgrounds, cafes and offices.
Where an old unknown office building with bad lighting and low energy used to sit now resides a Fox and Kit, a coffee haus for any and all occasions to check out, slow down, spend an afternoon as a kid or enjoy a good cup of coffee surrounded by friends and family.
“ I didn’t really say those words to myself [Fox and Kit as a family], that that was what I wanted, by that’s just who I am.”