Less is definitely more at Curio Coffee Roaster. The bijou café, hidden away up a spiral staircase, not unlike climbing up Enid Blyton’s magic faraway tree, opened in October 2020 and is already somewhat of an avant-garde darling among the Kuala Lumpur café society.
There are just four tables to choose from and in a world without movement or crowd restrictions, about 20 people can expect to sit comfortably. Loft-like and tiny, it spans no more than 600 sq ft, with the roaster taking up a quarter of the available space.
There is a palpable sense of Zen at Curio, accented by the careful placing of Japanese kokedama, those charming little moss-covered balls from which one ornamental plant grows, a lot of natural light and a tiny outdoor balcony garden that evokes real Tokyo neighbourhoods, away from the megalopolis’ famed buzz and bustle.
Adding further to the om vibe is its neighbour, a yoga shala named Simplylife. “I actually found this space through Ken, one of Simplylife’s founders,” says Curio’s owner Chris Leow. “He is a good friend and they’ve been here for six years. My intention was to get just a little space to roast beans.”
Another friend, Kim Hin Neoh of George Town-based Studio Eleven, was duly enlisted to manage the design and aesthetics. An architecture graduate of Universiti Sains Malaysia, Neoh was introduced to him by Curio’s other founding partner, Jook Yie. “Owning a bespoke café that reflects their characters has been a dream of theirs for some time,” says Neoh.
“This has been a long time coming. While both did give me some references on their artistic preferences, in the end I was given a total free hand when it came to the actual design of the project. I think the design space is a culmination of the many conversations we’ve had along the way, as well as being based on the trust they have in me and how well I know them personally — their tastes, personalities and style preferences.”
Simple, clean and spare could well sum up the design philosophy that guided Neoh for Curio Coffee Roaster. “It is all a balance between the simple materials selected for the project and how well they interplay with the ample daylight we managed to harness for the space. As a designer, we want people to come and feel at ease. As simple as the space appears to be, we want it to enable conversation and be a place where people come to slow down and enjoy the quality of the present moment — alone or with companions.”
Curio Coffee Roaster is at Lot 468, G26-A, Block G, Rivercity Roof Top, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Kuala Lumpur. Self-pickup from 10am-5pm (MCO hours) or order via Sama Sama Lokal by Maybank for delivery.
This article first appeared in issue No. 98, Winter 2020 of Haven.