NYC’s Bluestone Lane serves up premium coffee drinks in a relaxed, authentic cafe environment that reflects its Australian influence. Tucked away in a cozy corner in the West Village sits the Collective Cafe, which serves healthy, locally-sourced breakfast and lunch dishes in a casual yet sophisticated cafe environment. We talked to the team at Bluestone about their food philosophy and about their favorite cafe items.
Tell us about your background. How did you become a designer? What led you to start the Caswell Design Group?
I decided at a young age that I wanted to be a designer. It was only through interior design college when I was 18-21 that I discovered the excitement of hospitality design. Finding the right balance between the inherent creative freedom that it lends itself to and what really works both for the customer experience and for the staff is always a challenge, but always fun! After 4 years of involvement in design and construction management (a integral part of being a designer) for Fourth Wall Restaurants in NYC, I decided it was time to kick off with my own company. After years in Sydney and NYC full time, I now split my time between Denver, Colorado and New York, so it’s great to have the flexibility.
How did you become a part of Bluestone Lane?
About a year ago an Australian friend in the construction business, Maclean Henzell (builder or BL West Village), introduced me to Nick Stone. Nick came to me with the brief for the West Village Collective Cafe. It was a dream project and it naturally went from one to another – it’s been incredible working with them all ever since.
What was your inspiration in designing the Bluestone Lane spaces? What atmosphere were you trying to create?
Bluestone already had two beautifully designed stores in Manhattan but were seeking a new approach, one which would authenticate their brand. I wanted to transport a little slice of Australia and the beach coffee culture into the heart of the West Village. Our vision was to create a cozy and comfortable, yet bright and aesthetically inviting atmosphere. I added some soft furnishings such as cushions, which you don’t often see in hospitably spaces. These were sourced from an amazing Australian textile design company, Walter-G, who create one-of-a-kind designs block printed by artisans in India. I think this made a big difference to the vibe of the space and helped to created a homey, welcoming environment. My inspiration was mainly drawn from the Australian lifestyle, which brings the outside in and is very relaxed, yet upbeat. The full glass frontage is unique and gave me a great stepping stone to design a bright, colorful space.
What is unique about Bluestone? What makes it special?
Bluestone, the company, is unique as it’s still a small tight knit group of friends, but is proving itself to be an incredibly successful corporate brand. Jon Krieger, one of the partners is our Real Estate guru. He finds the most incredible spaces and honestly, (when you see some of the upcoming ones), there is no other business in NYC that I can think of with such a diverse range of locations and unique spaces – great for the designer!. Spaces aside, the food mastered by the inspired Sappho Hatzis will literally blow your mind!
What is your food and cooking philosophy?
I confess a big part of my life is great food – eating it, talking about it, cooking it, designing for it! Fresh, healthy produce is always an absolute fave… but I exert a lot of energy living in the mountains and running around NYC, so often beef my meals up with extra flavor and carbs. It’s all about balance though – I will usually eat accordingly to what I am putting out. A home cooked meal is very hard to beat, but a busy life doesn’t always make it possible. Lucky there are many wonderful fresh choices, such as Bluestone Lane!
Which dishes are your favorites at Bluestone? Which coffee drinks?
I could eat the quinoa porridge EVERY day of the week! When really hungry, I have created a little gem of a dish – ‘Avo Smash’ with a side of corn fritters, poached egg and bacon… all on one plate of course – I promise you’ll never look back 🙂 There is only one drink for me at the Greenwich Ave store… it’s called The Magic by our barista extraordinaire, Kirk. Life changing!
What is your relationship to the other people at the meal (at the shoot?) How do you all work together?
The Bluestone ‘family’ is pretty special. We are all very passionate about the brand and all talk on the phone countless times a day. Even as a contracted worker, it feels as though I am in-house. We all have lots of fun, which makes putting in the extra effort worthwhile. We all bounce off each other incredibly well and are constantly learning about the different areas of the business from one another. My job would not be possible without our ‘Jack of all Trades’, Ash Puyol. As much of my time is spent in Colorado, I can always count on her to be on the ground getting things done.
What are some upcoming projects?
We have a busy year of Bluestone stores coming up. I am currently working on a few new spaces for them – Astor Place, the Upper East Side and Dumbo. It’s a very exciting time as they are expanding so rapidly. They are all very open to new design ideas, so I’m lucky to be able to exercise my creativity.
Where do you like to eat and drink on your days off?
When in NYC my go-to’s are Red Farm, Diablo Royale or Quality Italian, followed by cocktails at Buvette or Employees Only. On a quiet night I can’t go past my little local spot for pho on Christopher St., Pho Sure. When In Denver, I always crumble for the best ramen I have yet to try, at Uncle!
What’s for dinner tonight?
Dinner tonight is angel hair Pasta e Olio with prawns and calamari. It’s my all-time fave recipe passed on from my godmother.