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From Abandoned Home to Community Anchor

Ada’s Technical Books and Café

An award-winning conversion of a rundown old house into a small retail shop with a café.

Ada Lovelace was a 19th Century writer, mathematician, pioneer, and the initial inspiration for Ada’s Technical Books and Café. The impetus for the project was to create the “book retailer of the future.” Achieving this vision required adaptive reuse, an addition, and a pioneering approach to the neighborhood bookstore.

Respecting the existing home and the character of the neighborhood, the clients wanted to retain as much of the old home as possible, while still providing a great retail environment with an integrated, comfortable, and inviting café space.

The challenge of converting a dilapidated single-story Craftsman home into a refurbished, small-scale mixed-use project delighted us.

Through careful design and planning, we were able to utilize over 60% of the original structure, and salvaged all of the existing framing lumber for key fixtures within the space.

Our clients were dedicated to creating a balance of the historic and modern, and are advocates for sustainable and forward thinking. We imagined the exterior of the building as an old book cover — familiar and comfortable — while on the inside, the pages are crisp, clean, and bright.

Contrasting reused building materials with high-gloss interior finishes ties the building to its mission of a brick-and-mortar store selling books on technology.

Rusted steel signage. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Best of Both Worlds

Mixed materials — like concrete, iron, and wood — work together to create a timeless and durable aesthetic balancing the building’s historic roots with modern upgrades. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Best of Both Worlds

Mixed materials — like concrete, iron, and wood — work together to create a timeless and durable aesthetic balancing the building’s historic roots with modern upgrades. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Laser cut steel signage. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Meet Ada

Named in honor of historic figure Ada Lovelace, the bookstore and café’s signage is rendered in laser cut steel, which will weather with the passage of time, a nod to the shop’s historic roots. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Meet Ada

Named in honor of historic figure Ada Lovelace, the bookstore and café’s signage is rendered in laser cut steel, which will weather with the passage of time, a nod to the shop’s historic roots. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Come On In

A commitment to retain as much of the original home as possible kept the exterior looking warm, familiar, and inviting. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Come On In

A commitment to retain as much of the original home as possible kept the exterior looking warm, familiar, and inviting. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Peek to the back café. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Access for All

A gentle ramp framing the outdoor seating patio provides access to people of all abilities. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Access for All

A gentle ramp framing the outdoor seating patio provides access to people of all abilities. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Sunny back patio. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Patio Seating

A spacious patio area maximizes seating and allows guests to enjoy agreeable weather — when Seattle permits. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Patio Seating

A spacious patio area maximizes seating and allows guests to enjoy agreeable weather — when Seattle permits. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Central aisle of the bookshop. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Bookstore Meets Café

On one side, a whimsical retail space, on the other a pleasant café where guests can read their selections over a warm beverage or tasty treat. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Bookstore Meets Café

On one side, a whimsical retail space, on the other a pleasant café where guests can read their selections over a warm beverage or tasty treat. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Bookshop and coffeeshop café. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Bountiful Bookshelves

An abundance of tall bookshelves line the walls, all the way to the back room, fostering classic, nostalgic charm, and ensuring there’s plenty of space for display. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Bountiful Bookshelves

An abundance of tall bookshelves line the walls, all the way to the back room, fostering classic, nostalgic charm, and ensuring there’s plenty of space for display. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Handmade mobile of book pages. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Thoughtful Details

Intimate details, such as a custom mobile created from the pages of old books, contribute to the shop’s unique character and story. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Thoughtful Details

Intimate details, such as a custom mobile created from the pages of old books, contribute to the shop’s unique character and story. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

LED details in room dividers. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Light and Bright

A variety of natural and artificial light illuminates the space from different heights, angles, and vantage points, creating dimension within the interior. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Light and Bright

A variety of natural and artificial light illuminates the space from different heights, angles, and vantage points, creating dimension within the interior. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Shadow box café tables in coffeeshop. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Celebrating Reuse

An island bookshelf helps give the open space structure, separating the café from the aisle while a partition of salvaged doors celebrates giving new life to the old. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Celebrating Reuse

An island bookshelf helps give the open space structure, separating the café from the aisle while a partition of salvaged doors celebrates giving new life to the old. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Items for sale in a café. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Framed Views

An open doorway in the partition wall built from an assortment of doors from the original home, looks onto the café and out to the stunning, original bay windows beyond. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Framed Views

An open doorway in the partition wall built from an assortment of doors from the original home, looks onto the café and out to the stunning, original bay windows beyond. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Café with mobile above. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Custom Mobile

The custom mobile hanging above the café brings the scale of the space’s height down, without feeling heavy overhead. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Custom Mobile

The custom mobile hanging above the café brings the scale of the space’s height down, without feeling heavy overhead. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Sculpture made of salvaged building materials. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Art of Salvaged Wood

A unique rendition of the Space Needle, crafted using layered, weathered wood salvaged from the project, overlooks the patio area. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Art of Salvaged Wood

A unique rendition of the Space Needle, crafted using layered, weathered wood salvaged from the project, overlooks the patio area. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Custom bookshelves. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Doors for Walls

Doors from the original home were used to repurposed to create a unique, wall-like division between the café and bookstore. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Doors for Walls

Doors from the original home were used to repurposed to create a unique, wall-like division between the café and bookstore. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Bookstore nook. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Cozy Fireplace

A classic fireplace with a dark-toned wooden hearth lends an intimate, old-fashioned feeling to the building, reminding visitors that the structure is a repurposed historic home. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Cozy Fireplace

A classic fireplace with a dark-toned wooden hearth lends an intimate, old-fashioned feeling to the building, reminding visitors that the structure is a repurposed historic home. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Partition made of salvaged doors. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Mood Lighting

LED lights embedded into the ends of the salvaged door partition bring a modern feeling to the space, providing customizable, lit, color accents and ambiance to the retail space. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Mood Lighting

LED lights embedded into the ends of the salvaged door partition bring a modern feeling to the space, providing customizable, lit, color accents and ambiance to the retail space. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Café register. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Defining Spaces

Rich, chocolate hardwood floors in the main café meet soft grey carpet, distinguishing the café area from the cozy reading space and bookstore. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Defining Spaces

Rich, chocolate hardwood floors in the main café meet soft grey carpet, distinguishing the café area from the cozy reading space and bookstore. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Bookstore bookshelves. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Back Room

A quieter multi-use space at the back of the café can is accessed through a passage lined with bookshelves. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Back Room

A quieter multi-use space at the back of the café can is accessed through a passage lined with bookshelves. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Ada's Technical Books & Café central aisle. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Central Aisle

The commercial spaces are organized around a central axis centered on the peak of the roof, adding a formalized element to the casual retail space. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Central Aisle

The commercial spaces are organized around a central axis centered on the peak of the roof, adding a formalized element to the casual retail space. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Salvaged doors as room divider. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Interactive Elements

A blackboard on a door panel provides a spot for announcements or engaging activities. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Interactive Elements

A blackboard on a door panel provides a spot for announcements or engaging activities. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

View to back reading room. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Ada’s Supergraphic

The Ada’s logo features prominently on the back wall, almost like a shadowy projection, above the café and retail spaces. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Ada’s Supergraphic

The Ada’s logo features prominently on the back wall, almost like a shadowy projection, above the café and retail spaces. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Shadow box café tables. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Helpful Heights

Tall ceilings grant the illusion of increased space and keep the busy space feeling expansive and breathable. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Helpful Heights

Tall ceilings grant the illusion of increased space and keep the busy space feeling expansive and breathable. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Coffee shop menus. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Classic Coffee

Right on par with the overall Ada’s aesthetic, the café uses several antique fixtures that contribute to the space’s eclectic, historic vibe. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Classic Coffee

Right on par with the overall Ada’s aesthetic, the café uses several antique fixtures that contribute to the space’s eclectic, historic vibe. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Shadow boxes as café tables. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Shadow Box Tables

The café tables are built of glass cases, each featuring scientific relics as an homage to the building’s historic roots and its namesake. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Shadow Box Tables

The café tables are built of glass cases, each featuring scientific relics as an homage to the building’s historic roots and its namesake. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Salvaged Wood Display Shelves – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Toys for the Inquisitive

Toys to explore principles of science and engineering are displayed atop handsomely rugged bookshelves, built from repurposed wood studs salvaged from the home. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Toys for the Inquisitive

Toys to explore principles of science and engineering are displayed atop handsomely rugged bookshelves, built from repurposed wood studs salvaged from the home. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Salvaged Wood Display Shelves at Entry – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
The Warmth of Wood

Salvaged wood display shelves contrast with the neutral walls, and the organic material lends a natural warmth to the space. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

The Warmth of Wood

Salvaged wood display shelves contrast with the neutral walls, and the organic material lends a natural warmth to the space. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Double Display

The display counters in the retail space double as additional bookshelves below. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Double Display

The display counters in the retail space double as additional bookshelves below. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Point of Sale – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Shaping Spaces

The café bar, constructed using repurposed wood from the original home, is framed above with an elevated bookshelf creating the feel of a room within a room. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Shaping Spaces

The café bar, constructed using repurposed wood from the original home, is framed above with an elevated bookshelf creating the feel of a room within a room. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Coffee Shop POS – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Ada’s Warm Welcome

Positioning the coffee counter directly at the entrance means guests are greeted with the smells of warm espresso and baked goods, and can easily pop in and out with a to-go order. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Ada’s Warm Welcome

Positioning the coffee counter directly at the entrance means guests are greeted with the smells of warm espresso and baked goods, and can easily pop in and out with a to-go order. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Decorative Art Mobile – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Memorable Moments

A flurry of suspended light fixtures and mobile art works creates a memorable, unique display that fills a vast space without appearing too busy. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Memorable Moments

A flurry of suspended light fixtures and mobile art works creates a memorable, unique display that fills a vast space without appearing too busy. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Tile Inlay at Entry – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Ada’s Mosaic

At the front entrance, Ada’s name is proudly arranged into a classic black and white mosaic — a timeless tribute to the multi-use space’s namesake. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Ada’s Mosaic

At the front entrance, Ada’s name is proudly arranged into a classic black and white mosaic — a timeless tribute to the multi-use space’s namesake. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Front Patio

The front patio offers outdoor space for guests to enjoy their Ada’s selections and soak in nice weather, elevated off the sidewalk. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Front Patio

The front patio offers outdoor space for guests to enjoy their Ada’s selections and soak in nice weather, elevated off the sidewalk. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Exterior Façade at Street – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Shade Tree

Commitment to preserving a street tree in front of the building means Ada’s is shaded and teeming with natural beauty. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Shade Tree

Commitment to preserving a street tree in front of the building means Ada’s is shaded and teeming with natural beauty. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

View from street at dusk. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Craftsman Repurposed

The Craftsman roots of the historic home were passionately preserved: great bones repurposed for house’s new life as a commercial space. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Craftsman Repurposed

The Craftsman roots of the historic home were passionately preserved: great bones repurposed for house’s new life as a commercial space. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by Cindy Apple.

Outdoor café seating. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Historic Meets Modern

At the back of the historic home, a modern addition rises, housing the café’s commercial kitchen and a coworking space, The Office at Ada’s. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Historic Meets Modern

At the back of the historic home, a modern addition rises, housing the café’s commercial kitchen and a coworking space, The Office at Ada’s. Ada’s Technical Books & Café | Photo by John G Wilbanks.

Client Review
“Board & Vellum designed my retail store and did an absolutely amazing job! They were pleasant to work with, super creative, and affordable. I'm already working with them on my next project.”
View this review on Houzz.

Notes & Credits
This project was built by Model Remodel.
Photos by Cindy Apple and John G Wilbanks Photography.

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