Vim and Vigor: Verve Coffee Roastery del Sur


Catherine Johnson and Rebecca Rudolph of Design, Bitches create a bright welcoming all-day space in the Arts District for Verve Coffee Roastery that highlights its position as the leaders of coffee’s third wave.

Photos throughout by Effie Tyler Benjamin

Design, Bitches’ projects, including Checker Hall (for which they won our 2019 Restaurant Design Award), Superba, The Oinkster, The Springs DTLA, Little Fatty and Coolhaus encourage mingling and lingering. Those qualities are also in evidence at Verve Coffee Roastery del Sur, their latest project; Located in the heart of the Arts District, the bright, airy cafe swirls a cupping room, a 110 seat cafe with food, courtesy of former Chopped contestant Mario Tolentino, a 18 tap craft bar, which offers non-alcoholic coffee drinks riffed off of cocktail classics, around an enormous coffee roasting machine, creating a all-day cafe out of a former warehouse.

The immense space, with custom millwork by Taber Company, blends light fixtures by Siemon & Salazar, Brendan Ravenhill & RichBrilliantWilling, with chairs and stools from Fryn, textile art by Windy Chien, wall graphics created by Young Jerks, wallpaper by Fayce and an array of decorative tile by Cle, Tierra y Fuego and Ann Sacks in a room that tosses out the dark alphabet of cafe culture in favor of sun-blasted modernist touches, from light woods to large stretches of glass.

“We first met Colby Barr & Ryan O’Donovan, the co-founders of Verve, in 2016 when we collaborated on their San Francisco cafe,” says Cathy, speaking on behalf of Design, Bitches, “We developed an immediate rapport, quickly discovering a common love of all things Californian, including West Coast Modernism, and of how you connect people over everyday activities like grabbing a cup of coffee.”

“The life of a place is a key element of our design philosophy,” Cathy continues, “Our favorite places provide a sense of discovery and we instill unexpected moments and opportunities for surprise in all of our work.”

Showcasing the entire scope of the coffee creating process, from roasting to training to tasting and crafting, was key for Verve. Here that starts with the giant cast iron Probat machine, framed in a glass-fronted room in one corner, that is the space’s centerpiece. The cafe also embraces the very Southern California ethos of blurring the line between indoors and out. “Both Verve and Design, Bitches share a deep love of nature and bringing the outdoors in,” Cathy explains, noting, “We were thrilled to find that Terremoto, the landscape designers, share our passion for dioramas and Natural History Museum exhibits — which were big influences on the interior plantings.”

The addition of the mezzanine level serves multiple purposes: the tasting room is located there; it offers a bird’s eye view of the activity in the cafe below; and, by breaking up the room’s large volume, it helps the cavernous space to feel more human-scaled and welcoming “By allowing it to both wrap around and project out into the empty space above, it dramatically increases the variety of possible experiences,” says Cathy.

“Our favorite spot is in the window seat in the conversation pit with its view of the 4th street bridge as your backdrop,” says Cathy, “And our favorite reaction so far was when Colby entered the space. It was close to the end of construction and he hadn’t been to the site in a while. Seeing his mouth drop and his entire face light up with excitement? Priceless.” Here both the space and the coffee offer a jolt of excitement.

Verve Coffee Roastery del Sur, 500 Mateo Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, 213.419.5077