Starbucks stores pop up around the globe so fast it’s as if they’ve discovered a cloning device. With 18,000 stores, it seems likely each one looks the same. Same pendant lighting. Same faux wood finishes. Same bistro tables. Yet this megastar corporation is figuring out ways to immerse themselves into international areas without appearing cloned. The result? One-of-a-kind coffee house stunners. Gone are the days of cookie-cutter stores.
It’s taken Starbucks several years to get to this point. In 2008, most of the store’s designing was being done in the Pacific Northwest. This means designers were building stores for cities in New York or Texas without actually stepping foot in those neighborhoods. It was then the company realized something. In order for stores to feel authentic, designers needed to go to the cities they were designing for. So, relocations began. Today, store designers work from 18 design studios throughout the world, 14 of them stationed in the Americas. Due to this, designers can incorporate local details (like reclaimed wood from a nearby basketball court) and build stores with local customers in mind.
The following are some of the most pristine, most unique, most beautiful Starbucks stores around the globe. What makes these stores so stunning? Specifically, Starbucks’ cultural design and how seamlessly (and ingeniously) they’ve blended their all-too-familiar logo into neighborhoods, near shrines, and inside landmark buildings. From China and Japan to Amsterdam, the UK, and beyond, Starbucks is embracing various cultures and working hard to build stores that cater to the locals (not to mention doing things eco-friendly and LEED certified.) Get ready to see just how different, and stunning, Starbucks can be when they throw caution to the corporate wind and focus on local charm, international architecture, and the cultural influences surrounding them.
Starbucks London – Conduit Street
Rainy, grey London, no better place for a Starbucks, no? Then enter Starbucks on Conduit Street, a sophisticated atmosphere serving up the same favorite flavors in a slightly different store. Upstairs, large windows look out onto the neighborhood of West End London, while downstairs, white washed brick walls, plush seating, and a large community table offer guests a lounge-like atmosphere to relax. However, what makes this Conduit Street Starbucks unique? How they blended reclaimed items of England into this modern day coffee house. Specifically reclaimed wood from Kent; old tea boxes from Bolton; and beams from an old Victorian-era brewery.
Starbucks Dazaifu – A Wooden Wonder
Located in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, this 2,260 square foot store was built near the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine (established in 919 A.D.) Due to its location, designer Kengo Kuma wanted Starbucks to blend in with the buildings on the way to the shrine. The result? The store’s most stunning feature: a two-thousand wooden stick masterpiece woven throughout the entire space. According to the design firm’s press release, “The project aimed to make a structure that harmonizes with such townscape, using a unique system of weaving thin woods.”
Starbucks Portland – Industrial and Inventive
Inspired by Portland’s passion for an eco-friendly environment, much of the store located in the post-industrial Pearl District is made from reusable materials. Reclaimed Douglas fir makes up the wood for the wall panels and back bar shelving; wood salvaged from an Oregon City farm was used for the countertops; other pieces and tasting tables were found in a local architectural store. Since Portland has a strong biking community, the large featured artwork was created from salvaged bike tubes. Talk about Starbucks listening to its local customers.
Starbucks Amsterdam – “The Bank”
When Starbucks settled inside Amsterdam’s landmark building “The Bank,” it became the largest single-space Starbucks in Europe (1,400 square feet.) Its design would ultimately need to stun, and stun it does. Particularly, the ceiling. Almost two thousand hand-cut wooden blocks were constructed together to form the Siren’s face. Dutch-born Concept Designer Director Liz Muller aimed to blend the city’s architecture with the familiarity of Starbucks. “My vision was to bring the space to life by celebrating local history and tradition while looking to the future by giving it a sense of theater and discovery.”
Starbucks Shipping Containers – Upcycle at its Finest
These eco-friendly Starbucks stores are as unique as they get. Assembled off site, the Shipping Container stores are built out of four rescued and upcycled (old materials converted into products better for the environment) steel shipping containers. Since these stores are so small, there’s literally only room for a handful of baristas, supplies, and equipment. They are drive-thru and walk-up only. The first one was built in Starbucks’ Motherland of Washington. Newer ones include Salt Lake City, Denver, and Portland. Called “Reclamation Drive-Thru[s]”, these stores are designed along LEED green building standards.
Starbucks Fuzhou – Aspirational Bistro
Enter Fuzhou, the capital of the Fujian province. Here, Starbucks captures the city’s historical charm by mirroring its interior after the Master of the Nets Garden, one of the finest gardens in China and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Starbucks smartly steered away from “going corporate” and instead, blended classical Chinese architecture with the modern flairs of an “aspirational” bistro. Meaning? This store serves as a haven for local customers, a place they can relax in air-conditioned rooms and sip on luxurious variations of local ingredients, like green-tea flavored coffee.
Starbucks Disney – Happiest (Coffee) Place on Earth
Finally, the Happiest Place on Earth just got happier. This year, Starbucks opened its first company-operated store in Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California; and it’s a stunner. From the store’s design and artwork (which includes a giant mural identifying various coffee origins and a green wall made up of 1,000 native plants in the shape of a coffee cup) to technology (like their interactive touch-screen) and extremely rare coffees, this Starbucks aims to showcase its passion for coffee, its love of nature, and dedication to customers everywhere.
Starbucks At Sea – A Floating Luxury
While the actual location may not be the most stunning, the fact that it’s aboard Royal Caribbean International’s latest ships is. Now, those aboard Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas can have everything under the sun aboard, including their soy vanilla lattes, caramel macchiatos, familiar pastries, and of course, fresh brewed Starbucks coffee. “Starbucks is a huge hit on Allure of the Seas, and the new Starbucks store aboard Oasis of the Seas is sure to be equally as successful,” says Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of hotel operations Lisa Bauer.
Starbucks Dubai – Grand Location
Much of this Starbucks’ stunning quality lies in its location, inside Dubai’s grand Ibn Battuta Mall. With more than 270 stores, 50 restaurants, and a 21-screen theater, it’s no wonder Starbucks set up shop in the world’s largest themed shopping center. The entire kiosk sits within a replica of the Shah Mosque of Isfahan, and above it is an intricate, domed Persian Style ceiling. A beautiful chandelier illuminates the familiar logo and leads weary mall goers to its coffee and treats.
Starbucks Swiss Train – Coffee (Literally) On The Go
In 2013, Starbucks launched one of their most ingenious inventions; Starbucks on a moving train. Now aboard the train line running from Geneva Airport to St. Gallen in Switzerland, Starbucks converted a double-decker train car into a full-fledged store. Comfort and coffee were two key aspects when designing this space, the warm color palette reflects various shades of coffee and the split level service and seating area combines a lounge area with wooden community tables and cozy leather chairs. Passengers can even order beverages right from their seats. Now, that’s a commute worth taking!
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