So earlier this week we spent some time with George and Holly, owners of the Pigeon Hole Cafe in Camberwell. The Pigeon Hole is not just a coffee shop (even though it does that pretty damn well), but also a fantastic space filled with mismatched furniture, artwork and books. The very best thing about it all is that the antique and vintage furniture they’ve used to create such a lovely feel is available for their customers to buy!
The Pigeon Hole has an eclectic, arty ‘living room’ feel to it – exactly the sort of vibe you’d expect from two friends who met at Art School and pursed creative careers in theatre design and education. We sat down in the cafe with Holly and George to talk all things food, furniture and starting a business.
“Because we were freelancers we sat in cafes the whole time working and we kept on looking up thinking, this looks so nice, why aren’t we doing this?! We both reached a point where we didn’t want to be doing what we were doing anymore and George’s Dad stumbled across a commercial property down the road from here that was vacant. After that, we made the decision to do it really quickly.”
Just after we pitched up for our chat at the cafe, Holly arrived carrying bags and bags of the homemade chutney that flies off the shelves. The chutneys form an important part of the Pigeon Hole menu, being slathered generously across their large sandwiches, and also played a big role in helping the cafe to form its place within the Camberwell community.
“We’d both made chutneys at Christmas for friends and family, and we knew that we needed a way to get out into the community so we thought, why don’t we just make chutneys? We can sell them on the Green and then we can talk to people. That was one of the most beneficial things that we did really!”
Funding for the cafe was raised through a Kickstarter campaign – many of the local residents who met George and Holly selling their chutney donated – and the campaign reached its target within just 30 days. Rewards for their supporters included hampers, barista training and limited edition prints. Holly and George built most the cafe themselves, using their practical making skills from art school and their sourcing experience from finding props and pieces for the theatre.
“I don’t know how we were brave enough to open a coffee shop without really working in coffee before. We had training from our coffee suppliers Volcano, but until you’re making it day in day out you’ve just got no idea. It was a steep learning curve. But now we’re good!”
The ambience in the cafe is welcoming and charming. Mismatched chairs and wooden tables sit alongside a mid-century sofa as well as the prints and artwork on the walls.
“We definitely knew we wanted it to be secondhand furniture because we already knew something about it and we wanted the space to be constantly changing. We’ve always gravitated towards mid century stuff and we didn’t want the space to be too fussy.”
The stock that fills the cafe and seats the customers is sourced from car boot sales (Wimbledon!), auctions, house clearances and the junk shops lining Streatham and Brixton Road. Lightly upcycled and placed within their new setting, everything looks fresh and inviting.
If you’re looking for a space to relax that feels as close to your arty best friend’s living room as possible, then this is the one for you.
The Pigeon Hole Cafe, 2 Datchelor place, SE5 7AP
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