“The construction of the building was really interesting—you would never be able to get away with something like that nowadays,” says Antoine Morris with a laugh. Morris is the principal of Vancouver-based architecture firm DAE, and the “interesting” structure he’s referring to is a massive, pitched-roof solid timber building in West Vancouver. The property has been recognized as a kind of community hub since the early ’60s, when it held a gas station and a grocery store.

Inside Isetta Coffee in West Vancouver.
Photo by Ema Peter.

“It was in disrepair, and the owner saw it as a jewel that he wanted to bring back,” says Javier Campos, principal designer of Campos Studio. DAE and Campos Studio collaborated to transform the campsite-like building into a modern, buzzy and welcoming space—and that called for coffee.

Guff Muench has a vintage car collection, and a bright red Isetta greets guests. It’s a fitting model: the car is Italian-designed and German-built (Muench is German and café GM Thomas Eleizegui is Italian). Photo by Ema Peter.

The structure became home to Isetta, a new café bistro from Thomas Eleizegui (who was behind the now-closed bike café Musette in Vancouver’s West End). DAE and Campos Studio kept the timber ceiling, aiming to preserve as much of that honest, old-school construction as possible.

Photo by Ema Peter.

But at eye-level, traditional meets modern: midcentury-style patinated leather seating and blown glass pendant lights mix with bright, fresh details like the curvilinear orange wall sconces by Rich Brilliant Willing and a beautiful turquoise-tiled bar.

The Colnago Master Pista bicycle mounted on Isetta’s wall is one of a kind and custom-painted by iconic graffiti artists Futura and Stash. It was made for a 2007 art show called Look Ma! No Brakes! Photo by Ema Peter.

“We spent a lot of time making sure that what was attached to the shell stayed faithful to the original,” says Campos. And, as such, that community hub vibe lives on: on any given weekday morning, Isetta is bustling with suburban commuters grabbing coffee, Lycra-suited cyclists on their way back from climbing up to Cypress Mountain andretirees catching up over sandwiches.