Toronto’s best cup of joe may be subjective, but we can agree these beautifully designed coffee shops take interiors very seriously.
If there’s one thing Toronto isn’t lacking, it’s coffee shops. The café culture in the city is booming, and even in the wake of the pandemic, third-wave spots are still popping up on every corner. And although crafting that perfect cup of joe is still the name of the game, we’re seeing some exquisitely designed shop interiors, too — as the worlds of coffee and design merge (even bags of beans have become an exercise in branding for some roasters). So, in the name of all that is local, we’ve scoured the city for some of the best-designed cafes around — here are some of our top picks.
A true hidden gem, Sonndr is tucked into what used to be known as Dovercourt House — a former dance studio now occupied by a variety of disparate tenants (you’ll even find a small barber shop upstairs). The expansive space, animated by stained glass windows and soaring high ceilings, houses a small coffee bar and ample spaces to sip, read or study — from cozy couches to tufted benches and trendy stools.
Sam James Coffee Bar
Minimalism is the name of the game at Sam James — the function-first café prides itself on its industrial, back-to-basics look. At the shop’s Ossington location, the only furniture is a circular bench along the storefront window. Sharing the space with a Thai BBQ restaurant, the space had to remain understated, but it’s still instantly recognizable, as wallpaper art by Jeremy Jansen — a mainstay in all Sam James locations — brings the space to life.
This bakery-turned-café-turned-pizzeria might be one of Liberty Village’s best kept secrets. Located in a tiny unit with a garage door, Brodflour mills their own flour in a stone mill and uses all of it within 24 hours for optimal freshness. With interior design by Studio Markanda, in collaboration with furniture maker Raelen Storey, the space may be small, but it’s worth visiting — especially for bread lovers.
Dundas West’s Hamer’s Coffee epitomizes laidback-cool design. With interiors and furniture designed by Toronto’s own Company Company Studio — of Grape Witches and 100% Silk, two other standout retail destinations — the coffee shop’s neon accents and boxy shapes looks pleasantly haphazard, but it all comes together in a remarkably harmonious way. Playful dried floral arrangements by Gunnar add another level of whimsy to the space.
The first Hale Coffee location started out in the West End —now, the roasters have expanded their reach to downtown, with a new outpost at Church and Bloor. To maintain their brand across locations, they hired local firm Sansa Interiors to carry over the cafes signature earthy style.The studio opted for prefab millwork and a natural colour palette—featuring finishes such as unstained red oak — finished off with a striking peacock mural design to make this latest space as welcoming as could be.
Ethica Coffee Roasters
With their retail shop located in the very same building as Azure and Designlines’ HQ, it’s safe to say that our daily operations wouldn’t be possible without fuel from our talented downstairs neighbours. Aside from delicious and ethically made caffeinated drinks, Ethica sells beans for at home brews, custom art, handmade cards and even music boxes. Whether you’re in need of a quick pick-me-up or looking for a quiet space to do some work, Ethica holds a special place in our hearts.
Settle down, have a coffee, enjoy a treat – these are all terms that roughly translate to the Swedish term “Fika.” The hard-to-miss café is located right in the heart of Toronto’s Kensington market, and features an elegant Scandinavian interior. Our favourite detail is the hidden back wall layered with hundreds of old books for your viewing (or reading) pleasure. There’s no better way to finish off a long day of thrifting in Kensington market than a visit to Fika.
Nothing hits the spot quite like an ice cold summer beverage from Milky’s, located just a short drive from the Lake Shore Scenic path. Coming in at a mere 336 square feet, the small space designed by Relative Space and Batay-Csorba Architects packs a big punch with their geometric wooden interior and shelf full of small trinkets by Anony, one of our favourite local designers. Choose to “dine in,” and you’ll find your coffee and snacks served in porcelain Japanese dishes inspired by age-old designs.