The art of restoring older buildings should never be lost by any generation. On the contrary, it allows our society to embrace all kinds of cultural and emotional heritage that would otherwise be lost. These old buildings tell a unique story of our past, struggles, and ambitions. They are a physical manifestation of our history and often represent a specific architectural style or era that acts as a landmark to local cities and towns.

With that in mind, we were thrilled at SFJones Architects to take on the project and subsequent award-winning Urth Caffe restoration. This was an incredible opportunity for our team to showcase our creative expertise in building restoration and repurposing of historical spaces. We take immense pride in capturing these valuable assets to repurpose them for local communities.

SFJones Architects name

With the Urth Caffe, we received a 2020 Preservation Design Award for Restoration focused on celebrating architecture firms like ours that are carefully selected by our peers, engineers, planners, critics, journalists, and other industry leaders. This is an award focused on those projects that further the purpose of the design industry while remaining aligned with the California Preservation Foundation’s mission of providing statewide leadership, advocacy, and education to preserve California’s diverse cultural heritage and historical places.

Focusing on restoring older buildings is always thrilling because of their sustainable value. Instead of demolishing something that connects our past with our present, we reuse existing structures and minimize the environmental impact of any new construction. Many historic buildings are crafted using high-quality materials and artisan skills that would usually be lost if not preserved. By restoring these fantastic facilities, we reduce waste, conserve resources, and promote sustainable development as well as a part of our collective history.

About This Project

When we first took on the Urth Caffe project, we knew it was going to require innovative restoration from the very beginning. This European-inspired building was first constructed in 1888, but was subject to multiple alterations over the years. The result was a collection of materials and design elements that had drowned out the original character of the space. That is why we were so determined to restore the building back to its former glory while also undergoing some necessary structural improvements for safety and regulatory compliance.

Innovative history
Innovative history
Innovative history

We worked closely with the city of Orange historical department and a local society of the preservation of the city . That means meticulously studying the building’s history and conducting exploratory investigations into the original structural intent of the designer. This unique approach and dedication to history allowed us to capture the complete restoration of the building’s exterior façade back to the era of significance and integrate it into the structural improvements.

As we moved through this process, we stumbled upon a significant challenge with the ground-floor storefronts. These have been covered multiple times from previous alternation and restoration attempts, leading to a height restriction we needed to overcome. Our skilled team inserted a steel moment frame to allow for full-height restoration, giving the external façade a more natural and inviting aesthetic. We also made sure to restore the building’s original wood-framed structure, an integral aspect that boosts the overall restoration process.

While we always love pouring our creativity into the look of a restoration project, we also made significant interior improvements for a more functional and welcoming space. We wanted to balance the building’s historical character while repurposing the space for modern needs. With that in mind, we transformed the first floor into a modern café and restaurant that is absolutely worth visiting. This is complete with restaurant support spaces.

The second floor was repurposed into office spaces that can support the first-floor activities or be rented out to other professionals. Our design team took plenty of time to select specific elements that boost the look and feel of the space, including lighting, art, and furniture. It is crucial to our firm that we maintain a building’s character and story when supplementing its design with visuals.

The final result was a stunning restoration that earned the Urth Caffe a 2020 Preservation Design Award for Restoration. At SFJones Architects, we are honored to have received this prized recognition from a jury of our peers. California is a competitive marketplace, and recognition for hard work and commitment to a project is always a welcome opportunity.

Our team at SFJones believes wholeheartedly in bringing every one of our client’s unique visions to life through the skillful use of various design elements. This way, we can create memorable guest experiences that maximize the potential success of any space. We do this by taking a holistic approach to design, allowing us to elevate some of the most talked about social spaces throughout Southern California.

Overall, we were able to repurpose this unique building with attractive modern amenities to attract all kinds of new tenants. This is a fantastic location to bring innovators, workers, and remote freelancers together without requiring a closed cubical space. Having a vibrant new space for the community to enjoy is critical to our role as designers. It improves the cultural significance of a space so the former glory is just as important as the current value – so all future generations can experience the same rewarding experience.

The new owners’ goal of this beautiful building was to restore it to its original Italian Revival character and bring in new tenants from the many amenities we infused into the building’s character. Not only do we believe we excelled in achieving this goal, but the result was so successful we received an award that helps the community foster a sense of collaboration and a dining space full of delicious tastes and scents.

The next time you are roaming around Santa Monica, be sure to stop into the Urth Caffe. Take your time exploring the various design and architectural elements we have painstakingly brought back out into the limelight. We hope you will have a rewarding time enjoying the hard work of our team, stakeholders, clients, and peers. We want to thank the California Preservation Foundation for this unique honor. We will cherish it!