Anyone who enjoys frequenting coffee shops will tell you that coffee isn’t only a drink, but also a culture: cafes are the medium of connecting with friends or a place of ritual to unwind in a busy day. For Mitchell Williamson, coffee isn’t just a morning habit, but a potential lifestyle. This architectural student developed a mobile coffee shop that allows for both life and work inside its walls. It was designed for someone to live in, and still be easily transported to markets, festivals and anywhere else that customers are most concentrated.

When the event starts, the barista simply opens up the cart by sliding the wooden panels open and the coffee shop is ready for business. Similarly, when the day ends, they can completely close up the cart and safely retreat to the comfort of their cozy room. Inspired by the Sliding House designed by dRMM Architects, Mitchell was stretched to think outside of the box regarding the sliding panels of the coffee cart. This house has an outer shell that covers the main structure of the house and is used as a shading device– the outer layer can slide up and down to wherever is needed. The coffee home is similar in that the sliding panels open up to make more space for customers during the day, and then slide back for a more compact home. The expandable design also makes it easier to transport and it can be moved as often as necessary.

Though storage containers that have been transformed into coffee shops are popping up across South Africa, never has Mitchell seen a mobile coffee house that folds up when closed and allows for the owner to sleep in it.

The coffee home isn’t only a trendy idea, but these plans have the potential to boost an economy as well. In South Africa, a business and a lodging in the same place could greatly cut down on living expenses. However, the design is not site-specific and could operate virtually anywhere in the world; from underdeveloped countries to European markets. Mobile business spaces – like this coffee home – could also transform industries to suit a faster-paced world by following the congregation of customers for the ease of both the consumer and the entrepreneur at a fraction of the cost that it takes to open new branches. At this point in time, the cart is designed to fit on a special trailer that could be hooked up to a bakkie or fit onto a flatbed trailer, but there is always the possibility of designing an engine to make this a fully-functioning unit. Surprisingly, Mitchell says that he has not seen anything too similar to this design.
Obviously, the person who decided to take on a lifestyle like this would need to be a committed minimalist as the completed design provides for six meters by three meters of space, meaning that living space is limited. When the coffee home is opened up, the shop is fifteen square meters with the sleeping space stretched to not much larger than six square meters. Still, this imagined life housed in a coffee cart carries with it the potential for some enriching experiences that one would never get living in a conventional home. For example, travelling around in your home means that there are few ties back home, as you work on the go and have the freedom and flexibility to decide to stick around in one place for as little or as long as you’d like.

Mitchell designed this coffee home because of his own love of coffee and could see himself living as a nomadic barista. For now, it is just a dream. This unorthodox lifestyle might be difficult but the type of life that a coffee home provides could be ideal in itself. Being easily transported gives the coffee shop the ability to travel from city or province to sell their coffee and grow their brand, plus a traveling coffee shop would provide its own advertising. There’s also the added bonus of broadening your perspective as you meet lots of different people. Having said that, the person who decided to embark on this adventure would need to be committed to people, and not just coffee. This design emphasises that.

Because architecture focuses on development, Mitchell is open to this design expanding and evolving into something more than a trendy living space.

To Mitchell, the most important part of the design is the layout of the seating. The small coffee cart intentionally places the barista in the center of the service counters, making customer interaction the nucleus of the cafe. Here, an interaction will automatically be made as the coffee drinkers watch the coffee being prepared and chat to the barista. “This interaction – between coffee and the people – is deeply significant.” Mitchell says. “As Craig Charity remarks, 'Coffee has no point without people'.”

The coffee cart would need to be made out of something light enough to move around freely, yet substantial enough to withstand weather and outside forces. Mitchell visualises the frame being made out of lightweight steel and built with a wood finish. The steel would keep the cart from being too heavy to move, and the wood finish would be a nod to the coffee shop that inspired this mobile cafe, 'Lineage'. Wood is a theme throughout their coffee shops, including a coffee bar made completely out of wood. A wooden finish also adds texture to the cart and is reminiscent of the rich colour that good coffee should be.

And this architectural student’s own preference of the warm drink behind the design? “My favorite way of making coffee is the pour over method. It creates a very clean tasting cup of coffee with lots of body and flavour.” Warm, comforting, and silent? Coffee might just prove to be the perfect roommate.

Danielle Van Meter | This American citizen was born and bred in South Africa where the grass grows wild and where her husband was raised. She is a freelance writer constantly scribbling away on laptops, backs of her hands, and airplane drink napkins.

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