LONDON – In their first realised retail project, architects from the London-based studio Atelier Y A O were faced with the task of designing the interior of Milk Tea & Pearl. The shop specialises in bubble tea – Taiwanese tapioca ‘bubbles’ made from a mixture of cassava, sweet potato and yam – and the particular challenge for the team lay in optically broadening and shortening one of the narrow, tunnel-like cargo containers that comprise Shoreditch’s Boxpark pop-up market.

‘We referenced the baroque, where perspective tricks were deployed to make interiors appear higher or deeper than in reality,’ say the designers. ‘We effectively reversed such a strategy.’ The front half of the space – dubbed ‘the beach hut’ – comprises receding narrow blue slats that create a false perspective, making the space appear shallower and wider, as well as incorporating custom-designed furnishings. The slats are then continue onto the ceiling in a herringbone pattern, completing the visual illusion of an archetypal hut.

To decorate the back of the space, the architects invited Spanish artist Alberto Torres Hernandez, to continue the optical tricks by a few strategically-positioned blots of bright yellow colour that create connection with the front of the shop. According Yaojen Chuang, the studio’s founder: ‘We believe optical illusions should be used in architecture where appropriate and possible. Employing the technique draws another dimension and energy to the space, and can be a refreshing response to some physical constraints of a building.’

Photos and image Atelier Y A O.