McNally Jackson Cafe / Front Studio Architects

© Maggie Soloday Photography

McNally Jackson Books is one of the largest independent booksellers in downtown Manhattan. The owner wished to re-conceptualize the café as a place evocative of literature as the previous café did not reflect the individual spirit and character of the bookstore and its users.  A fluid collaboration between the owner and architects, all avid readers, the newly realized space creates visceral connections to the act of reading in each programmatic function.  The majority of the renovation consisted of unique pieces conceived by , in collaboration with the bookstore owner.  The renovation was a makeover of the 600 sqf café situated within a 7,000 sqf, 2-story bookstore.

More photographs and sketches following the break.

Architects: Front Studio Architects
Location: New York City, New York,
Client: McNally Jackson Booksellers
Contractor: Ted Kilcommons Studio
Project Area: 600 sqf
Completed: 2009
Photographs: Maggie Soloday Photography

© Maggie Soloday Photography

The curved wall surrounding the seating area is covered in wallpaper made entirely of open spine books, the texture of the print adds a rippling effect of restless pages. Running along the wall is a series of folding single tables, carefully crafted to resemble a folded book when closed.

The folding tables are made from solid walnut and were designed in response to the client’s wish to be able to use the alcove seating in a more versatile manner when the store holds events. Eventually the design became “book desks” attached to the wall by a leather strap that could easily be folded up and “stored”.

The wallpaper the architects conceived of in order to bring warmth and texture to the overall café. It is a selection of open faced books, arrayed in a stacked manner. The wallpaper, from afar, creates a trompe d’oeil that teases people into thinking the far wall is covered literally in books.


The books are hanging from a series of regularly spaced steel rods. We worked in collaboration with the bookstore owner to choose the books with an eye for variation and diversity.  The new menu is made of food related quotes lit by 4 light fixtures, each dedicated to the many editions of a singular book..

The new bar was moved further into the space to create better flow. The front is made of cabinet doors covered in penny tiles with a hand picked gradation of colors and framed with walnut sides and top.  Ted Kilcommons, a cabinet maker based in Brooklyn, fabricated everything to Front Studio Architects specifications.

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Cite: "McNally Jackson Cafe / Front Studio Architects" 12 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 May 2015. <>