“Everyone in Victoria knows Hey Happy,” says Kyla Bidgood, principal designer of Bidgood and Co. Interiors. The café in downtown’s Market Square was known for having a friendly vibe, serving up great coffee, and being nearly impossible to sit down in. “It was a squishy space, which was part of the appeal,” says the designer.

But when the equally long, equally narrow space next door became available, Hey Happy owner Rob Kettner jumped at the opportunity for a little more elbow room. The dream was to keep the original café as-is (lime green feature wall, worn maple flooring and all) and demolish the wall between the two spaces.

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The full-on demo dream died when they saw what was behind the wall. “It’s a really old commercial building, so all of the plumbing and the electrical from the upper floors run through that wall,” explains Bidgood. Instead of taking it out completely, her team cut out sections that wouldn’t compromise the structural integrity of the 127-year-old building. After considering square cutouts, Bidgood went with rounded off, arch-like shape, which she thought was a lot more inviting.

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Soon, the plans to keep the lime green wall and original flooring also changed. But to stick with the owner’s conservative budget, Bidgood cut costs by utilizing industrial materials. They ran a linoleum sheet flooring throughout the space (the retro, pink-and-turquoise-flecked material is recalls '80s-era hospitals and kitchens, but fits just right in this fun-loving coffee shop).

They painted corrugated metal a matte powder blue, and used it both for new tables and cladding for an old service counter. To maximize space, Bidgood installed a type of seating you’d more typically expect from a high school gymnasium. “The vibe in there is so casual and so lively, we thought it would be fun to do a bleacher-style kind of take on the restaurant seating,” she says.

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The original café’s cantilevered bench seating was mirrored on the new side, the green wall got a coat of yellow paint, and Bidgood added chrome Pablo pendants and wall sconces from Andlight for a little extra sunshine. Art from UK-based Lucy Shearston keeps up the restaurant’s colourful, casual aesthetic.

The new Hey Happy certainly proves that a whole can be more than the sum of its parts— it’s a welcoming, cheery spot with a strong sense of connectivity throughout.

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Photos by James Jones.