Industrial Heartland: Sheffield Posted on 27 Oct 00:00


Olive Living is an interior design practice based in Chichester, UK. Owner, Alys Bryan, is a freelance contemporary furniture designer, wife, busy mother and homemaker. Her Olive Living Blog is a conversation about design and inspiration.

I haven’t lived in Sheffield for over 15 years.  It is my home town and a city brimming with history and culture, it is a city that I love!

The north edge of the city centre had been a deteriorating industrial neighbourhood for decades, following the demise of the city’s steel industry.  As a child I regularly visited Kelham Island Museum, learning about the city’s industrial heritage in a building surrounded by the industry’s architectural skeletons (including Wharncliff Works shown below).

 In 2010 The Grind Café opened, a stone’s throw from Kalham Island Museum, the owners are established in the property management sector and used their expertise to see that the area was due to be regenerated.  They planned to bring Sheffield a café which has provenance and quality at it’s heart, something they felt was not available at the time.

Head Chef, Scott Drury, explained that the owners designed the interior themselves, inspired by the new catering trends they were witnessing in London.  They ensured that their employees were immersed in their brand and ethos by taking them to the capital to experience their inspiration first hand.

 Waiting for development of the area to begin caused The Grind Café to have a slow start, however, in it’s 4 years of business the small café has built a strong reputation and is now a hugely popular haunt for anyone looking for great food and good coffee.  The Maple & Blueberry cake (£2.70) and large latte (£2.50) that I ordered were delicious and I am reliably informed by my parents that the quality of the lunches is outstanding.

The café is inviting.  You are greeted with fresh flowers and a vibrant seasonal grocery display.  Delicious cake is stacked high by the till whilst lunches and salads entice you from inside a covered counter.

The owners have infused the interior of the café with the industrial heritage of it’s location through the use of raw table tops and an eclectic selection of vintage metal chairs including several inspired by the Navy chair from Emeco.  The counter is lit with industrial globe shaped filament bulbs which fill the café with an inviting warm tone, energy efficient bulbs can be found here.

The Grind Café opens at 8:00am each weekday to supply breakfast to the local workforce and is looking to extend it’s opening into the evening once the large development, ironically named ‘Little Kehlam,’ is completed directly opposite the cafe.

Little Kelham is a development project by Citu who aim to be ‘… combining innovative design with low carbon materials to create beautiful, sustainable communities.’   Little Kelham is a ‘low carbon, sustainable property development ... consisting of 153 1-4 bedroom homes plus a variety of creative spaces, shops, cafes and galleries.’

I have seen a great deal of building work completed in Sheffield, much of which is ill-considered, architecturally boring and without commercial merit (although there are exceptions).  In the Kelham area new architecture has already been built and existing buildings have been sympathetically renovated, I feel that the Little Kelham developments surrounding The Grind Café are predominantly successful. The Grind Café has been joined by well respected eateries including The Milestone and Craft & Dough, this has already created a community for new home owners to join.

What is key to this development is the inclusion of not only new architecturally interesting buildings but also the integration of the renovated heritage buildings.

The industrial elements in The Grind Cafe’s interior require an element of softening with fresh flowers, in contrast I expect the renovated industrial buildings will be the element that softens the sharp lines of the new architecture within the Little Kehlam development.  In both this interior and architectural example, a design balance has been found and the industrial heritage of the neighbourhood represented.

Keep up-to-date with Alys’ interior designs by visiting her website , check out her blog here and make sure you follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Photos courtesy of Alys Bryan.