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Top tips & inspiration for café and coffee shop décor

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There seems to be no let-up in the growth of Britain’s café culture. In 2015 we spent £7.9 billion in UK coffee shops. By 2025, that figure is predicted to rise to £15 billion, while the 20,000 coffee shops recorded in 2015 are expected to rise to 30,000 by 2025. But this is not just the story of the relentless march of the big brands such as Starbucks and Costa.

Starbucks near Leicester Square, London

The independent sector, too, is thriving, with non-chain cafés and coffee shops reporting a rise in turnover, while their absolute numbers are increasing, too.

Daily espresso and the London coffee bar scene

2 I's coffee bar in the 1950s

Britain’s love affair with coffee goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries, when coffee houses were meeting points for those interested in politics, culture, and society gossip. But if you want to trace the origins of the British coffee shop as we know it today, the best place to start would be the London coffee bar scene of the 1950s and 60s. Here, in bohemian neighbourhoods such as Soho, immigrants from Italy and elsewhere introduced the magnificent gleaming Gaggia machines with their hissing spouts and pressure gauges.

These were innocent times, and “frothy coffee” became a hit among youngsters, while Soho cafés such as the Moka Bar and the 2i’s, with their jukeboxes and live music and Formica table tops, were a focal point for a new wave of affluent postwar youngsters, playing a key role in the growth of British rock and roll. 

The Australian invasion and expat coffee bars

Most of those coffee bars have long since disappeared, although the pioneering Bar Italia, which opened in 1949 in Frith Street, Soho, is still there today – and is still owned by the same family. Over the years, a small band of cafés continued to fly the flag for decent coffee; then came the big chains, with Starbucks opening its first UK store in 1998.

But over the past decade or so, Britain’s coffee culture has received a caffeine boost with the arrival of Australian expats who have brought with them their mother country’s love of coffee (which in itself was attributable largely to Italian and Greek migrants who moved to Australia and took their coffee-drinking habits with them).

These Aussies come from a country with a strong tradition of independent coffee shops - Starbucks has been unable to get a foothold there, and now has a measly 23 stores across Australia. When these coffee-conscious Australians moved to Britain, they offered coffee of a high standard, often featuring decorative fractal patterns in the froth. 

Hipster cafe and coffee bar

These cafés – and their many imitators - also offer cool, well-designed surroundings: not the bog-standard interiors of the high street chains, but interiors with personality, a touch of quirk. (It’s interesting to note that in some of their outlets, the high street chains are now trying to adopt the interiors styles of trendy hipster cafés: exposed brickwork, pipework and conduits, handwritten blackboards, pendant lighting.)

So, if you run a café or coffee shop, or are planning to open one, what’s the best way to approach interiors, decor and furniture? 

Know your coffee shop and bistro customers

This might seem obvious, but it’s worth reinforcing the point: there is no point opening a trendy hipster-style joint with Edison lightbulbs and exposed girders if your potential customers are likely to be middle-aged and keen on tea, tablecloths and fancy doilies. And vice versa. Of course, these are two extremes, and most coffee shops will aim somewhere in the middle: cosy and comfortable enough for the tea-and-scones demographic, cool enough for the younger, trendier folk. 

Mixing and matching coffee shop and bistro furniture
There is no law stipulating that all coffee shop furniture has to match. Indeed, the crushing uniformity of the furniture in many high street chains is dispiriting, giving them an institutional feel. By mixing things up, you can give your café a distinctive character and broaden its appeal.

Tub chairs or even sofas will offer comfort to those with tired legs who want to sit back for an extended stay. Contemporary stools at the counter or clustered around “poseur” tables will accommodate those popping in for a quick espresso fix. 

New directions in coffee shop and cafe decor

Trends in furniture and decor have shifted in the past couple of years, away from the “industrial chic” favoured by hipster coffee shops and trendy cafés, towards something homelier.  Thus, wooden chairs and tables painted in light colours, or creamy whites, with natural wood surfaces have come into favour.

Every year, the colour-matching company Pantone decides on its “colour of the year”, which gives an indication of the direction of design and decor trends. For 2017, it chose a refreshing green called Greenery, which Pantone describes as “a life-affirming shade”.

Going up the wall

Whether your walls are bare brick, plaster or wallpapered, they can become a canvas on which to display your coffee shop’s individuality. As consumers move away from mass-produced goods and chain stores towards the handmade and the local, they will appreciate local touches. So, if you can source vintage maps of your café’s neighbourhood, have them framed and mounted on the walls, these will add character and inviduality.

A quick online search will yield a host of websites supplying vintage maps of all areas of the country – originals and reproductions. Likewise, vintage photographs of your area will add character and become a talking point; local museums and bookshops may offer these. If you can source a vintage photograph of your own premises in a previous incarnation, this would be ideal. Alternatively, generic vintage photographs add a homely touch. Also, you might consider giving over some of your wall space to the work of local artists to display their work for sale. A rotating exhibition of artworks will send out a positive message about your café.

Light fantastic with industrial-chic

The industrial-chic bare filament Edison lightbulb trend seems to be continuing, but it is becoming something of a cliché and may have had its moment in the spotlight. So now might be the time to think about something softer. Lights set into your walls can add a warm upward glow (and also illuminate your framed maps and photos: see above), while pendant lamps with simple shades (but nothing too chintzy) add atmosphere.

Again, this is an area where you can mix things up; rather than ranks of identical lamps dangling from the ceiling, a more informal look can be achieved by varying the style, length and spacing of your lighting. LED lighting, meanwhile, is a fast-moving world and enables lighting to be installed in previously inaccessible places – walls, floors, counters, and so on. But remember, too, that the best source of light is natural, and free: the sun. So make the most of whatever window space you have – don’t clutter it up too much.

Top tables

Flowers in teapot as coffee shop table top decoration

Flowers are a kind of instant “smile”: they add colour and happiness to any table. But what to put them in? There is no reason why they should be placed in traditional vases. Vessels such as old teapots (enamel or china), decorative jam jars, Kilner preserving jars, large drinking glasses, even branded food tins (a large Colman’s mustard tin, for instance) make excellent quirky containers. The Pinterest website is a goldmine of creative decorative ideas; most of them are aimed at the home, but there’s no reason why many of the ideas can’t be used in a wider commercial setting.

And one final coffee shop tip...

Coffee beans candle

Don’t forget that the raison d’etre of your café – coffee – is attractive in itself. Dark shiny coffee beans can be stored in attractive glass jars and displayed on shelves behind the counter or around your café. Or, a glass jar half-filled with coffee beans can form an attractive candle-holder. 

But whatever you do, don’t be too concerned about keeping up with trends. In today’s world of mixing and matching and eclectic quirky interiors, if there can be said to be a trend, it is this: there are no trends. If your café or coffee shop looks warm, welcoming and friendly, you are getting it right.

How to Create a Shabby Chic Style in Your Pub or Restaurant

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Shabby chic is a style that is here to stay, businesses have been slow on the uptake but now most high-street brands are making full use it and it’s been successful. Shabby chic interior design and inspiration can now be found everywhere, from your home, in shop windows and even inside offices across the country.

Call it vintage, antique, reclaimed, rustic or French cottage, the trend of using old furniture or old looking furniture hasn’t been a relatively new trend. Judging by the way it is encompassing parts of everyday life, it isn’t going away anytime soon.

Why is Shabby Chic furniture so Popular?

One of the best parts of shabby chic is that it can be done on almost any budget. Your old furniture can be painted and distressed or sanded down to give it an old rustic look for only a few pounds.

Shabby chic furniture can be very difficult, nearly impossible to get wrong, which is why it is so great for pub and restaurant furniture. Mixing and matching furniture as well and clashing colours is all part of shabby chic, so your only limitations are your imagination.

The beginnings of shabby chic 

The origins of shabby chic come from the French country and cottage chic fashions, where distressed and worn furniture and décor is used to a brilliant effect to give a comfortable atmosphere. All the styles give a relaxed feeling that has suited many people looking to unwind at home.

The vintage styles mixed with contemporary fashion and accessories are becoming increasingly more popular as the shabby chic style continues to develop and change. Elegant restaurants and chic pubs are putting their own twists and personalities on shabby chic, improving on it and changing it slowly over time.

After becoming so popular in peoples’ homes, commercial businesses and the hospitality industry wants to recreate the cosy atmosphere in their establishments. The natural progression from homes to pubs and restaurants means that customers are used to the look and feel of rustic commercial furniture.

Shabby Chic Tables

If you’re not sure which interior design style to go for, then shabby chic is the one for you. By using different styles, shapes and sizes of table, even in different colours and tones, you can reduce the costs and hassle of filling a large area.

Let the individuality of the furniture speak for themselves and each different piece of commercial furniture becomes an eye-catching addition to your interior design. Here at Trent Furniture, we have varied ranges of tables available in many different colours and finishes so that even if you fall in love with one style, you can mix the colours to create the shabby chic look.

For a really effective way to enhance your tables, the Solid Oak Table Top can bring a quick rustic look to any table without the need for lots of work. It can be finished in a raw finish to really bring the best out of the wood textures and boost the rustic appeal of your business.

For a softer, Parisian look to your interior, the Shabby Chic Farmhouse Table brings a brilliant mix of light and dark tones with white spindle table legs and walnut table top. The white legs will complement any colour scheme you have and will make an impression on customers when decorated with rustic ornaments.

Shabby Chic Chairs and Seating 

Getting the seating right for your pub or restaurant can be really important for your customers. With shabby chic furniture and old or distressed antique furniture, the seating can be quite uncomfortable. Wobbly chairs and tables are a commonplace among some vintage eateries, while these may add to the charm of the interior, some customers will feel uncomfortable and it will impact on their experience.

Investing in new chairs that bring the shabby chic look to your business and please your customers sounds like a hard task, but Trent Furniture has got you covered. Our great ranges of dining chairs and farmhouse chairs give you the option for hundreds of combinations for different chairs that all give an individual look to the interior design. The Washington Side Chair in White will work really well with a mix of neutral wooden tones or splashes of bold colours for a clash of colours that add to your atmosphere.

For a comfortable shabby chic sofa, the chesterfield is the best choice that will invite your customers to take the weight off their feet. They add a touch of rustic class in any environment and add a wow factor to your seating area.

Shabby Chic Interior Design

Investing in new furniture is a great start to updating the look and ambience of your pub, hotel, bar or restaurant. But having lots of great looking shabby chic furniture could look out of place without the right décor.

A lot of the rustic furniture will have warm and neutral colours that have a lot of soft tones in them. Introducing pastel tones will complement your colours schemes and the bright and soft colours will amplify the light to make your room look and feel bigger.

Remember that shabby chic can be done on any budget. Commercial and industrial fittings and fixtures can be found at very reasonable prices, the rough edges and rough textures of industrial items will accompany the textures in the furniture for a theme that will flow throughout your pub or restaurant.

Recycling old furniture and decorative items is a fantastic way to add to the character of the building, a bit of DIY and a touch of paint can transform any item of furniture into something really interesting. Mix up the old and new commercial furniture for a style that will get your customers talking about your business.

Check out our ranges of shabby chic chairs and tables to help inspire you with rustic creativity.

What makes a pub table a pub table?

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Finding the right pub table

People love pub tables and here’s why: it’s somewhere for your beer to go.  It’s somewhere that’s your space in what can be a busy and loud environment.  It’s somewhere to relax.  It’s somewhere to lean.  It’s somewhere to put your food or to read a menu.  

It’s somewhere to put your mobile phone in plain sight so that you don’t have to keep getting it out of your pocket or bag to check it.  It’s somewhere to huddle around with your friends or family.  It allows space for business meetings without having to get too cosy on a sofa.

If those aren’t enough reasons (and we could go on!), pub tables also look great.  They complement the seating, utilise space and encourage your customers to take a seat, spending longer in comfort at the pub and even ordering food.

So what makes a pub table look and feel great?

Different types of pub tables

Here are some popular combinations that are regularly ordered together to create a comfortable and relaxed pub environment, whether a pub is modern, traditional, country or gastro.

Round pub tables

Often, round pub tables have smaller surface areas, mainly designed for holding a number of people’s drinks whilst they sit or stand and talk.  The aim is often to fit as many people around a space saving round table as possible.  For a good combination of a round pub table with seating, we think this Round Wellington Pedestal Table is well complemented by round stools like this Tall Shaker Stool.  For lower round tables, we find that tub chairs like this Portobello Tub Chair are a popular and very comfortable option.
Tall Shaker Stool

Rectangular pub tables

Rectangular pub tables are often the best table for dining – you can fit more people around them, which means more people staying to eat!  Square stools are often the best space saving and comfortable option for rectangular pub tables.  We like this Regular Wellington Table or this Solid Oak Rustic Table with either a stool with a sturdy back like this Tall Captains Bar Chair or a stool with an extra comfortable seat, like this Tall Squareback Bar Stool.  
Solid Oak Rustic Table

Square pub tables

The beauty of square pub tables is that they’re great for space saving if you’re looking for the ‘couples’ clientele who will come in for a meal and stay for a few hours.  Similarly, they’re great for a couple of mates to sit over a pint or 7, at a space that they can reserve as theirs for the night.  For a traditional look, we like this Square Tudor Table in Dark Oak paired with Straight Leg Mates Chairs.
Straight Leg Mates Chairs

Coffee tables for pubs

For a super cosy feel, a coffee table can hold a number of drinks and nibbles whilst friends and families sit comfortably on a sofa or chair for hours on end.  A table like our Farmhouse Rectangular Coffee Table would look great with a classic like our Chesterfield Two Seater Sofa.
Chesterfield Two Seater Sofa

Pros and cons of having pub tables

The main benefits of having pub tables at your pub is that customers are more likely to stay for longer – they have a place to settle, relax and put their pint.  They are also more likely to take the opportunity to eat at the pub, or at least to have more than one drink.

The main downside is that tables take up space.  If you have a small bar area and no dining facilities, a space saving option like smaller round or square tables with bar stools would work far better than a couple of large tables, which could easily get taken up by a couple and leave groups of friends and families with nowhere to sit.

How much do pub tables cost?

Depending on the type of pub table you are looking for, we can supply your pub with as many pub tables as you need starting from less than £40 per table.  For larger tables, the cost is more likely to be around £85.  For more information, view our range of tables and if you have any questions about which chairs go with which tables, give us a call. 

Where to buy pub tables

Through Trent Furniture of course!

We specialise in furniture for pubs and provide a range of pub tables ideal for pub dining, banqueting and events.  Our tables come in a range of sizes and colours, including light and dark woods such as light oak and walnut, as well as materials like aluminium and laminate.  

How to encourage more outdoor diners

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With winter now out of the way and warmer weather on the horizon (fingers-crossed) pubs, bars and restaurants will now be looking to their outdoor space to bring in more customers. 

If your establishment is fortunate enough to have outdoor space, there is a great opportunity for owners to increase footfall throughout the spring and summer seasons, but only if it’s done right. Here are some tips:
outdoor eating on a bench 

Provide consistent, attentive service 

A common reason to avoid eating outside for visitors is the slow service. Research by Hospitality GEM shows that 48 per cent of visitors claim slow or poor service puts them off eating outside. With such a high percentage of people having this impression, it’s vital to get the service right. Ensure that there is an adequate number of staff on shift and make it clear if it is table or self-service. 

Give diners space

Research shows that 42 per cent of families with children will use outdoor space for dining. Families like outdoor areas as it gives them the chance to move around more freely. Make sure you arrange the furniture to allow space in between tables for pets and pushchairs which often accompany families. Having an area with toys and games will keep the children engaged and help parents to relax.
hotel dining outside space

Provide clean eating areas

With lots of elements to battle against, outdoor furniture needs to be able to withstand the weather. Not only does furniture need to be long-standing, it also needs to be well maintained. For simple instructions on how best to clean your furniture, see here. Furniture can also be protected by providing ashtrays and napkins.

Choosing your furniture

There are a number of options available when selecting outdoor furniture, but research shows that 72 per cent of people prefer dining tables over the 21 per cent who like picnic tables. However, with outdoor space, there is no one-size-fits-all. All spaces vary, and for that reason you need to choose furniture that fits with your style and the space that you have available.

One thing is certain though, no matter how much of an optimist you are: rain is likely. Remember to provide adequate coverage should the weather take a turn for the worse and have a few outdoor heaters to make sure customers stay well into the evening.

Trent Furniture’s extensive outdoor furniture range has something for every pub and restaurant. Browse through our outdoor chairs, tables and stools now and get your venue ready for the finer weather. 

outside restaurant furniture

Hotels in the UK with great Chesterfield sofas

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If you’re considering sprucing up your hotel with a touch of luxury, what better way than with a Chesterfield sofa!  It can be mixed in with modern interiors for a touch of class and elegance, or added to a traditional room for the finishing touch in sophistication.  Wherever you put a Chesterfield sofa, one thing is for sure - it adds style.


hotel lobby area furniture 

Where do hotels use Chesterfield sofas?

You’ve decided your hotel needs a Chesterfield sofa (great choice!) but in case you’re not sure where it should go to best complement the interior of your hotel, here are some great ideas from UK hotels for Chesterfield sofa inspiration:

Chesterfield sofas for a hotel lobby:

Chesterfield sofas for a hotel lobby 
As with almost everything else in life, first impressions count.  A Chesterfield sofa in a hotel lobby gives an immediate impression of quality and luxury.  Where could be better for someone to wait and take in their surroundings whilst their other half parks the car or gets the room key, than a comfortable, stylish, hard wearing Chesterfield sofa? 

The other benefit of having a Chesterfield sofa in a hotel lobby, rather than a fabric sofa for example, is if people are carrying drinks with them or come into the hotel out of the rain, the material is far less likely to stain or be damaged by liquids.

For style inspiration, a classic example of a Chesterfield sofa being used in a hotel lobby is at the Chesterfield Mayfair in London.  

Chesterfield sofas for a cottage or apartment hotel:

If your hotel offers penthouses, apartments or is even a cottage, having a Chesterfield sofa within the rooms adds a level of grandeur and stylish comfort that no fabric sofa could achieve.  Take the rooms at the Old Chapel House in Barnoldswick, Lancashire as an example.  Mixing modern and traditional styles, the use of Chesterfield sofas creates a character that perfectly complements the attractiveness of its grand country cottage atmosphere.

Chesterfield sofas for hotel bedrooms:

If your hotel has rooms that are large enough for sofas, you have the perfect opportunity to use those rooms as your hotel’s luxury or executive suites.  What better way to convey extravagance than to include a Chesterfield sofa in a hotel room?  It certainly makes a hotel room look more attractive on a booking website.  The rooms at Stoke Park Country Club Spa & Hotel provide an excellent example of how a luxury room is styled  by the inclusion of a Chesterfield sofa.

Chesterfield sofas for hotel event rooms:

With our experience of working with hotels across the UK, we know that luxury hotels prefer furniture that reflects the standard and quality of their hotels.  After all, seminars, weddings and other events regularly held at hotels are often what first brings people to the hotel.  It’s after that first visit that many people decide to book and can turn into guests that return year after year.

Similar to a hotel’s lobby, event rooms are important for setting  the sorts of standards that guests can expect from the rest of the hotel.  Once again, the Chesterfield Mayfair in London shows how adding a Chesterfield sofa (or several) can really improve the opulence in a hotel event room in its library event room.

How much do Chesterfield sofas cost?

You don’t have to be a large luxury hotel to afford a Chesterfield sofa.  Trent Furniture are hotel furniture specialists and sell both two and three seater Chesterfield sofas, which would add a touch of class to any hotel interior, for under £300.  For more information, visit the sofa section on our website.

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