Three years ago, Fraser Greenberg and Christian Lo opened their first coffee shop, Milky’s, on Toronto’s Dundas Street West. Designed by Batay-Csorba Architects, the space features floor-to-ceiling woodwork stained with kaleidoscopic patterning. For Greenberg, who is a partner at flooring company Relative Space, and Lo, who co-runs lighting studio Anony, the project was as much an exercise in bold design as it was a way to create a neighbourhood coffee destination.
Having recently founded their own design collective, Full Fat Studio, the partners in life and work jumped at the chance to take the lead on a follow-up location, adapting the geometric language of their first café to suit a shipping container space in Toronto’s Stackt Market. One key change: while wood defined the Batay-Csorba design, the new shop — dubbed Milky’s Cloud Room — adopts honed travertine.
To emphasize the material’s variations in colour and texture, the pair opted for a matte finish and left imperfections untouched. Greenberg, who isn’t formally trained as a designer but knows a few tricks from his day job, sketched the wall pattern using lines and boxes in Microsoft Excel. Then, he and Lo used SolidWorks to introduce concave impressions designed to catch the light at different angles. A friend at stone importer Marbela helped to source the right slabs from Iran — and to find a factory willing to do such complex work.
Next, it was time to roll in the clouds. Running along the container’s long walls, LED strips loop a 30-minute sequence inspired by moments of sunshine and shadow. “In the time it takes to order a drink and walk down to pick it up, the place you entered looks very different than the place you leave,” says Greenberg.
The result is a coffee shop purpose-built for slowing down time. Where it could feel cold or severe, the intricately detailed travertine instead feels airy and animated. “The Stackt Market is not meant to be permanent,” Greenberg says. “So there’s a nice contrast against the stone, which lasts forever.”
At Milky’s Cloud Room, in Toronto, heavenly lighting accents cream-coloured travertine walls.