Craving for a retro look? 6 design lessons to steal from Karachi Cafe

Brief by the client: Imagine a vintage cafe to serve canteen-style finger food and traditional India chai.

Retro? Check.

Feel of the 50s? Of course.

Eerily comfortable and familiar? No doubt.

Nostalgia? You bet.

I’ve spent the past hour ooh-aahing over this space. Yes, I do swing from my minimalist end of the spectrum to this far extreme if it has an old-world charm to it and is done up every inch in a retro way.  I mean, seriously, what is there not to love about this cafe.

These breathtakingly gorgeous pictures are of the 750 sq.ft Karachi Cafe in Gachibowli, Hyderabad. If you have been to Hyderabad, you would have heard and tasted the signature biscuits from Karachi Bakery – the cafe is an outlet from them. The cafe has been designed by Aamir and Hameeda. The devil is in the details and AANDH has done an impeccable job of rendering a retro grunge feel to a space that is all of 750 sq.ft.

Karachi Cafe in Hyderabad

Six design lessons you can take away from this space:

Walls: the walls scream unabashedly of the British era. Notice the weathered/distressed wood.

Flooring: for any theme, if you get the flooring and wall treatment right, it’s half the battle won.

Karachi Cafe in Gachibowli, Hyderabad

Crockery and accessories: the authenticity of a plan does not stop at its interiors. With retro interiors, if one uses fine china or abstract cups, it will lose its appeal. The cafe takes it all the away by using kettles prevalent in that era and chai is served in clear glasses. Yes, India runs on chai. Other accessories such as the milk can are reinforced as decor elements. Notice the glass jars lined up with cookies. It’s all down to the basics. There’s no room for fancy stuff.

Furniture: a friend wanted to rewire her sofa that has been passed down generations in her home; it’s from the late 40s she says with a teak wood frame. This again was a common seating found in homes of those days. She was surprised that there were no skilled artisans now who were ready to take up the job.

Coming back to the cafe, the chairs and plain wooden tables complete the look.

Tip: weather/distress wooden furniture or scout for discarded pieces in antique shops and restore them as accessories even if you do not intend to use them as functional pieces. Every city has a neighborhood where these antique shops are present.

Artifacts: Where do I start? There are so many of them. From the vintage clock to the CRT television, it’s all there. The missing piece is the Murphy radio. Memorable moments of Hollywood and our film industry adorn the walls in frames reminiscent of generations gone by.

Tip: to create a retro look, print and frame pictures in colored frames to make a gallery wall. You can find vintage pictures of scooters, match works, fireworks, soft drinks and such.

Karachi Cafe in Hyderabad

Lighting: go easy on the lighting. Yes, it should be dim and not overly illuminated: just enough to see who is sitting across you. The pendants are classy. The ones I remember that represented that era had white conical domes in which sat an incandescent bulb.

Karachi Cafe in Hyderabad

Karachi Cafe in Hyderabad

karachi cafe in hyderabad

Knock, knock – let’s get back to the future. Thank you AANDH for taking us to this dreamy era through a space that is teeming with colors, textures, and objects one can only long for now.

Image courtesy: AANDH

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