Floor-to-ceiling windows frame warm, low-slung pendants from which light diffuses through banana palms. Sipping frothy flat whites, locals sink into mustard-coloured, Pierre Jeanneret-inspired chairs. To walk along Westbourne Grove and not be enticed into Notting Hill’s newest café is a feat reserved for only the most strong-willed among us.
Within two months of opening in Notting Hill, BEAM Café has become the area’s go-to for Mediterranean-inspired brunches accompanied with good coffee. It’s already earned a spot on Condé Nast Traveller’s best breakfast spots in London. Thanks to its other branches in Crouch End and Highbury, Beam is a name that has long been whispered among Londoners with a penchant for hearty fare and a mid-century-minimalist aesthetic.
The designer behind that effortlessly stylish look? Ola Jachymiak, founder of Ola Jachymiak Studio. Tasked with creating an inviting, bright café from a long, narrow unit with one window, and faced with lockdown delays to boot, Ola spent a year working on what would become one of her favourite projects to date.
Splitting the café into three areas – a casual café, bar and restaurant – the designer complemented a palette of neutrals and earthy tones with natural textures, vintage furnishings and bespoke elements. The result is a warm and stylish space that complements Notting Hill’s family of boutiques and restaurants.
We sat down with Ola to dissect her design journey from Parisian architectural studio to the arched niches of Beam.
From Paris to Notting Hill: interior designer Ola Jachymiak on Beam, Westbourne Grove’s newest café.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I graduated in Interior Design at the Silesian University of Technology in Gliwice, Poland. Driven by the will to develop and curious about new challenges, I moved to Paris, where I had the opportunity to gain five years’ experience at a renowned architectural office.
When did you decide to start your own studio?
While working at the architecture studio, I developed my own style and after hours I worked on my first solo projects for clients based in Paris. At the beginning, I did quite small projects for my friends, but soon my network expanded and so did my portfolio. I started working on bigger residential projects and got my first commercial ones too. In 2017, I decided to move to London and open my own business.
Are there any differences between designing in London and Paris?
In London, many companies offer a complete architectural service: design, building, finishing works and interior design. As a result, many projects, especially residential, are quite similar – beautiful and practical but without any personal touch. In my studio, we focus on the individual needs of our clients and get to know them in order to deliver a customised design. Once we achieve a perfect shared vision of the project, we help in finding the right contractors and supervise the project.
It was a brave decision to start your own business. What was it like to set up your own studio?
Entrepreneurship is always risky. I had to learn quite a lot about running a business, proper office organisation and how to squeeze all these new tasks into my (already tight) schedule.
At first, I mostly worked on private residencies and staging projects in London but, after the first year, I broadened my scope of projects and started to work with commercial clients, including boutiques and restaurants.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I try to adapt my style to the client's needs and the architecture of the space. Each of my projects can be distinguished by a pragmatic approach and a characteristic sense of aesthetics, often combining contemporary elements, “icons” of design and vintage.
I think of my projects as if they were haute-couture pieces; even the tiniest details have an impact on the final result. To achieve this, I’m present and proactive at every stage of the project, from the refurbishment of the space to the choice of tableware.
What are the most important elements to consider when designing?
For me, the most important factor when designing a living or commercial space is practicality. Obviously, I want my designs to be beautiful but, above all, they have to highlight the bright spots of each space and turn any obstacles into a challenge. A clever division of the space is essential in order to ensure comfort, whether it’s for tenants, staff or guests.
Which project are you most proud of?
I am extremely proud of the Beam project, not only because of the end result and its positive reception, but because of the opportunity to work on such an interesting concept – and in such a good location. The café is the result of almost a year’s intensive work. I’m glad that my vision has been implemented with accuracy, which makes the interiors consistent, while the variety of materials and textures gives it an original, slightly eclectic character.
Congratulations on Beam. It’s a favourite lunch spot for the Domus Nova office – and not just because of the good coffee! What was your initial brief?
Thank you! According to the brief, the café had to accommodate 95 guests. It was necessary to arrange the space appropriately so that guests could spend lazy hours here on Sunday brunch, work on their laptops or meet in a small or large group.
As the owners of BEAM already have two other cafés [in Crouch End and Highbury], they knew exactly what to avoid and what to pay special attention to in terms of design. They wanted the café to attract guests with its pleasant, neutral interiors. They were all-in for natural materials, wooden details and a non-ostentatious, timeless yet strongly marked style. To implement this vision, we used a warm palette, played with structures and to used authentic, mid-century furniture that has now become classics of the design world.
The space is long and narrow. How did you overcome this issue?
In order to make the best use of every square centimetre, we divided the premises into three parts: the entrance, intended mainly for freelancers or smaller groups; the central part, with a bar and individual seats located next to the Royal shelving system; and the rear restaurant section with tables to accommodate large groups.
Since the light comes in through the only window, we had to carefully plan the lighting design. In the restaurant area, we installed a so-called “the sky of clouds” – spherical white lamps of various sizes were hung at different heights and the ceiling was painted with white glossy paint, which enhances the illuminating effect. This installation is visible from every corner of the café. It also references the oval shapes in the mid-century-modern style, which can be found throughout the space in the form of arched niches in the walls or a large lamp designed by George Nelson for HAY, which adorns the central part just above the bar.
How would you describe the interiors?
The colour palette makes it cosy and warm, while the contemporary and mid-century-modern elements add a trendy yet relaxed vibe.
How did you choose the colour palette?
Natural, earthy tones are warm and neutral and don’t overpower the interior. Such a colour scheme also evokes the Mediterranean-style vision expressed by Beam’s owners.
How do you want customers to feel when they walk in?
We wanted to create a unique, laid-back place that would attract customers with stylish yet cosy interiors. They shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the design.
Do you have a favourite design detail?
My favourite part of this interior has to be the central area with the bespoke bar, a huge George Nelson for HAY lampshade and Royal shelving system on the left. This section is well visible, thanks to the terracotta shade on the walls. It somehow connects all the mid-century elements into a coherent whole.
We love the casual seating area at the front of the café. Can you talk to through the inspiration behind this area?
We wanted this area to be a showcase the interiors further in. It had to draw the passer-by. Thanks to a combination of bespoke, classic and vintage elements – sourced both online and at London’s flea markets – it feels quite homelike yet Instagram-friendly.
And finally, what’s your coffee order?
Always an espresso from the La Marzocco machine.