Walk into a Verve Coffee Roasters and you'll probably want to change your to-go order to stay. Along with their roasts, the California craft coffee chain is known for its incredible design, in large part thanks to the creativity of Meghan Dorrian & Brian Friel, founders of Young America Creative.
The design duo just wrapped their latest Verve in laid-back Manhattan Beach with Fireclay front and center. We caught up with Megan to talk about YAC’s evolution and approach to design, their love of tile, and their hand in creating Verve’s standout reputation for outstanding design.
Young America Creative is a design firm founded by Meghan Dorrian & Brian Friel in 2011. Young America Creative is a multidisciplinary design studio. We believe the design process is guided by the parameters of place, material integrity, environmental responsibility, client inspiration, and a close partnership with craft. YAC has developed an architectural path with a design focus on detail and fabrication in residential and hospitality spaces. We are currently working on several residential projects, including our first ground-up residence.
Young American Creative Founders Meghan Dorrian & Brian Friel
How did you get your start in design?
How would you describe your aesthetic?
We try our best to study space, place, and light and respond to those queues in our projects. No one wants to be labeled but there’s no doubt we were highly influenced by studying architecture in Denmark and growing up in Santa Cruz.
I don’t think we would describe our aesthetic as Scandinavian but it was influential in our approach to working with natural light, and the warm tones of wood yielding bright spaces that aim to enliven the environment.
Can you tell us a bit about your design process? How does it differ between commercial and residential spaces?
The nature of commercial projects is fast, iterative, more experimental with materials and color, where every inch is studied and accounted for. The Verve Manhattan Beach project was especially challenging in that it’s one of the smallest stores we have designed, with some new XL pieces of equipment to integrate without feeling like the elephant in the room, especially the case with the soft-serve machine. The materials in the restaurant projects must be exceptionally durable and exact, with dozens of pieces of equipment nested together, like a thousand-piece puzzle.
Young American Creative Design Rendering
Residential projects have a different pace, more of a marathon than a sprint and we invest a lot of time into getting to know our clients and working through how they envision their living spaces could be.
What is your favorite part about designing commercial spaces?
The best part of designing commercial spaces is working with the materials and geeking out over the layout. For example, our goal is to never have the customer ask the question, where do I order? The layout and flow should be obvious, and ergonomic without feeling sterile. Commercial spaces are often more apt to more experimental use of materials, and detailing, for example in the design of the front of a cafe bar, you want something that can take a beating but also be playful, and finding that balance is always fun.
About the Verve Manhattan Beach
How did you get involved with Verve Coffee? Is there a story you'd like to share?
Over the past few years, we have collaborated several times with Verve on new stores, retrofits, and work at their offices/roastery in Santa Cruz. The Manhattan Beach project was our third full buildout of a store for them and the first we have completed in Los Angeles. Brian and I visited the former paper shop on New Year's Day in 2020, which turned out to be the only time we would get to visit the location before construction started (long pause in there for the ongoing pandemic). The Manhattan Beach location is the smallest, and the goal was to test if we could fit all the components of a Verve store into a very small footprint (900 sqft).
We designed the store in early 2020 and then much later that year redesigned the store layout in response to covid, with a pickup window, less interior seating, and more streamlined flow, but the vibe of the store remains as initially conceived.
What's important to you when designing Verve spaces? Is there a reoccurring theme in each location?
The design goal of a Verve store is that they become part of the neighborhood fabric; they all have a vibe, but there are no specific design standards that we adhere to. The main goal is that we keep the space feeling bright and airy, not overcrowded but not minimalistic. We pack a ton of equipment into these stores, and the real challenge is to design the stores so they don’t look messy and crowded despite having more equipment than a 200-seat restaurant.
What type of look or aesthetic were you going for? How did you come up with your color scheme and design?
We designed the Verve Manhattan Beach store directly after my first trip to Japan where I became absolutely obsessed with piano tile, often used on the exterior of buildings in Tokyo.
Tokyo Building Inspiration // Image: YAC
I don’t think the MB project feels especially Japanese, but it was (secretly) a direct reaction to my trip there. With its subtle elegance, the mosaic tile adds a rich textural element without being too loud.
Tokyo Building Inspiration // Image: YAC
In the Verve Manhattan Beach project, we use tile in a backsplash elevation in all wet conditions, but it also acts as the design element most at eye level. The glaze we chose, Dust Storm, was released while we were designing the store and it caught my eye. It has a purple hue which intentionally compliments the warmer orange tones of the oak.
Last, why do you love tile?
Tile is a multipurpose material, it is durable in that its glazed finish can handle water and high traffic usage, and it can add color, texture, and pattern to a design, and is easy to clean.
Want to see more YAC x Fireclay Tile? Check out our Verve Palo Alto Spotlight and Roses' Taproom Spotlight.
Ready to put YAC’s approach to work in your home or commercial space? Grab your samples here to get started!