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Dilworth Coffee goes Charlotte modern



The rarity of this week's Creative Living column is that unlike most residential designs CL covers, you are free to enter this space at your leisure and see the interior work for yourself. Dilworth Coffee (1235 East Blvd.) has been a Charlotte staple for decades, and its previous interior design had remained the same for the past 22 years. Dark wood, wobbly brick floor, covered windows and limited seating made the coffeehouse more of a hard swallow than a comforting cuppa.

The old favorite needed to evolve, and Cindy Urbanik of CU-Interiors was the designer to do it. Urbanik is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited designer, so the new industrial-modern look of Dilworth Coffee is not only artistic, comfortable and functional, but environmentally friendly.

The main transformation comes from the bright new openness of the space. New tables, new chairs, new areas to sit, and an unencumbered view bathed in natural light take Dilworth Coffee from cave-like to open spring meadow. For nighttime and cloudy days, an airy gray ceiling blends with additional lighting to illuminate the space. You'll have plenty of light and seating to spend hours sipping coffee and pretending to write your novel.

Two new artistic features decorate the freshly painted walls. One is a socially responsible art wall, featuring work from, an organization that promotes different artists and charities. Parts of the proceeds from the purchased art are donated to various charities, like Doctors Without Borders and Teach For America. The other eye-catching feature is the worn wood paneling that graces the wall above the new seating banquette and ties the hues of the entire design together.

"All the wood is reclaimed from an old barn," Urbanik says. "I look at barns in a different way now."

The natural weathering of the repurposed wood shines in grainy gray and bronze. It harkens back to the original interior of dark wood, but claims its own artistic uniqueness that rivals the paintings in this modern setting. You may never look at the wood of an old barn the same way, either. Underneath the beautiful rustic wood is ample seating and another nod to the old Dilworth space.

"This used to be an old countertop that really didn't get used much," Urbanik explains. Turned bench and covered in lush velvet, the space now has a wall of seating that was missing before. "I think it's a nice contrast with the wood and adds a little bit of softness," she says. (In addition, it's owner Mona Rhee's favorite change.)

In an effort to minimize waste and keep the coffeehouse operational during the holiday season, CU-Interiors opted to cover rather than remove the lopsided brick floor with hardwood. The golden color of an India Pale Ale, it contrasts nicely with the dark java tones of the wooden porch pillars that frame the tail-end of the bar. Like walking onto a welcoming front porch of an old friend's house, the pillars draw the flow of traffic to the counter where patrons place their orders. The counter base is original, again to reduce waste by ripping it out for a replacement, but the countertop is a concrete mix provided by local workers.

Local is the key word here: Local vendors sold the recycled porch columns and repurposed barn wood; local installers laid the floor and built the tables; and local coffee is sold at the establishment.

"Local," Urbanik says. "That's something important to me across the board."

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