STIR article - Color Wake-Up Call header image
Originally published in STIR®

By Kim Palmer


A resourceful designer creates a distinctive new look for a coffee shop using fresh-brewed hues and some unconventional materials.

When Mary Jo Stevens took sole ownership of Jo Jo’s Rise and Wine, a coffee shop/wine bar in Burnsville, Minn., she decided it was time to perk up its look.

“I wanted something different,” Stevens says. She wasn’t crazy about the existing color scheme — brown, green and a lot of mustard gold. Plus, the space didn’t have a cohesive aesthetic. “I wanted to make it feel warm inside, and I wanted to pull everything together.”

So Stevens invited designer Jeralyn Mohr of Full Nest Incorporated in St. Paul, Minn., to come take a look. The cozy shop had some nice features, including “a really cool stained concrete floor, and an electric fireplace with a brick surround,” Mohr says. But the interior design was tired and haphazard. “There were too many accent walls. It was time for some new energy.”

Stevens had limited funds for a makeover, but Mohr could see that new paint colors and artwork could go a long way toward updating and unifying the space. To complement the fireplace’s brick surround, Mohr suggested a deep, rich red, Fireweed (SW 6328), for the walls.

‘Too dark’?
Stevens was game. But her husband and one of her morning “regulars,” a painter himself, insisted that the color was too dark and would make the coffee shop feel “closed in.”

“I said, ‘I’m trusting Jeralyn,’” Stevens says.

The fireplace wall cried out for some artwork, so Mohr, also an accomplished muralist, proposed a hand-painted mural with a grapevine motif. Mohr often suggests murals for her clients on tight budgets. “People assume a custom mural is expensive, but a simple one can cost only a few hundred dollars — less than a lot of wallpaper options. And it’s yours and yours alone,” Mohr says.

The ceiling beams were chocolate brown, so Mohr chose similar, coffee-inspired colors for the grapevine mural: a milky mocha for the background with a deeper warm brown for the vine. The selections turned out to be aptly named. “Coincidentally, the two colors that worked best were Latte (SW 6108) and Java (SW 6090),” Mohr says.

The new colors were applied in Sherwin-Williams Duration Home® Interior Acrylic Latex Paint, chosen for its durable washability. “Let’s face it — people’s fingers are going to be on these walls,” Mohr says. “Duration goes on evenly, it’s washable, and it covers in one coat.”

Transformed trash
The main room at Jo Jo’s had another long wall that called for some distinctive artwork. Mohr considered painting a mural there, too, but then she had a better idea: a 3D sculptural collage constructed with items Stevens already had on hand, such as the bags her coffee beans arrive in, and labels from her wine bottles. “I asked her to start saving bags and labels,” Mohr says.

While Mohr wasn’t sure yet what she was going to do with the items, she thought the texture of the burlap, juxtaposed with the colorful labels, could make an attractive and interesting feature wall. “I had a vision for what I was going to do, but Mary Jo was operating on pure faith,” Mohr says. “Basically, I had her save a bunch of garbage.”

Mohr cut some of the bags to create interesting shapes, then attached them to the wall with furniture tacks. Then she embellished with beer caps, wine corks and wine labels. Finally, she wove pieces of yarn through the collage to give it additional texture and color.

“I designed by instinct,” she says. “It’s low-budget — the whole thing is basically made of trash — but it makes a big impact.”

Stevens loves the result. “It’s not at all what I’d envisioned — I thought it would be framed artwork — but I’m just in awe. It’s a great conversation piece. People walk in and comment on it.”

She’s also happy with her new paint colors — and so are her regulars. “I get so many compliments,” she says. “Even from my critical painter! When it was done, he said, ‘You girls did a good job.’”