Designing the Right Aesthetic for Your Coffee Shop

Coffee drinkers are steadily returning to out-of-home sipping as COVID-19 risks diminish. The crowded cafe sector gives consumers plenty of options to choose where they get their caffeinated buzz. Part of what drives this decision goes beyond the beans, blends, and brews being served at the counter. Because coffee shops are also the spot for many to work virtually, study, meet clients, and catch up with friends, the coffee shop atmosphere is a key element to bringing in customers. 

Creating the right aesthetic for your coffee shop depends on the vision you have for your business. Will you be a spot for bustling executives who want no fuss and plenty of work space? Or are you envisioning a cafe where customers can drink and read for hours on comfy chairs? There are several decisions to create the ideal environment for your coffee shop. A unique, inviting, and thriving coffee shop is well within your reach if you nail down the following elements.


Before opening your coffee shop, you likely did research on your local community and surroundings. It’s time to pull those findings back out of the filing cabinet. When deciding the atmosphere you want, it’s key to consider who your target market is and how it’ll fit within your community. If your coffee shop is located next to a university, your aesthetic should appeal to students. If it’s near an office park, an aesthetic drawing in the lunch hour crowd will go far. 

Customers are often eager to support small, local coffee shops rather than corporate chains. To keep with the neighborhood spirit, consider incorporating community and regional elements into your cafe aesthetics. Name a special latte after the local sports’ team mascot. Hang decor for holidays. Make your coffee shop an extension of customers’ happy places, and they’ll keep coming back for more.


Ambiance is an all encompassing term for a space’s certain vibe, and it can be hard to achieve. You don’t see ambiance, you feel it—making it all the more complex for business owners to create. There are several elements that contribute to a cafe’s ambiance. Some of them we cover below, and some are more permanent fixtures, such as lighting, paint colors, and furniture.

To create the right ambiance for your cafe, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do you want guests to feel when they enter your coffee shop? 

    • Content?

    • Energized?

    • Productive?

    • Calm?

  • What do you want customers to get out of visiting your coffee shop?

  • What would you like customers to say to their friends/family when recommending your coffee shop?


Don’t let AirPods or headphones fool you into thinking coffee shop music isn’t an absolute necessity. Even if your customers are zoned out in their own tunes, no one likes a stale, quiet coffee shop. That’s why it even has its own category on Spotify. “Coffee house music” has traditionally included soft, acoustic songs from indie/folk singers and bands. And while the genre certainly fits most coffee shop needs, you can break from the norm.

Customers appreciate individuality, especially where they least expect it. Don’t be afraid to experiment with rock, punk, hip hop, and instrumental if your customers are willing to push the envelope with you. 


A famed skit of “Portlandia” called Bad Art Good Walls tells us everything we need to know about coffee shop art. The side-stitching parody satirically plays out the “bad” art often found in coffee shops. The unfortunate stereotype reinforces why artwork should be a thoughtful decision for coffee shop owners. 

You don’t want to let your coffee shop be a statistic. When it comes to sourcing artwork, consider the following:

  • Stay away from the typical. Pictures and paintings of coffee cups, coffee beans, and the related does little to inject personality into your space.

  • Artwork should drive ambiance too. Go back to the checklist above, and find artwork that evokes the vibe you’re trying to achieve.

  • Artwork isn’t confined to a frame. Look at neon signs, painted murals, tapestries, macrame wall hangings, and more. Texture and versatility are a must.

  • Identify a theme or color palette for unity. While you don’t need to stick to a specific color story, it can help to bring cohesion to your coffee shop decor.


Coffee shop owners often have promotions, specials, and other offerings at their disposal. Depending on your clientele and the engagement you want from your customers, your marketing efforts play into the environment you’re creating at your cafe. In addition, your marketing materials and collateral—such as your website, business cards, menus, and signage —need to align with the aesthetic you’ve established in your coffee shop. Remember, brand consistency is key.


Coffee shops can boost profits by selling retail items in addition to their edible creations. Whether you’re making your own branded merchandise or reselling unique items that appeal to your customers, retail setups can go a long way in establishing aesthetics. If your customer can pick up a killer brew while also getting that special something for their mother-in-law, it’s a win-win.


Coffee houses are well known to be a place of community gatherings. Will yours be? It’s an important question to ask and a pillar of your marketing efforts. Live music, open mic, workshops, and hobby meet-ups are just a few examples of the way events can contribute to your overall ambiance and aesthetic. If events are a core part of your coffee shop business, your aesthetic will need to be able to adapt to the patrons in your space.

Creating the right aesthetic for your coffee shop is complex. But transactions with SumUp are easy. To pay and get paid seamlessly and securely, SumUp has coffee shop owners covered. Discover how we help small businesses like yours by visiting

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Claire Grady