Embrace The Art Of Living Beautifully At This New Café And Shop


Wooden drink cabinet topped with ferns and set against a textured green wall

Photo: Katie Newburn

With her new hybrid cafe and retail collective in St. Helena, California, No|Ma House Café & Collective, owner and lead designer Ann Backen sought to create “a ‘lab’ for living a beautiful life, so to speak,” she says. Offering “an alternative to fast-paced cycles and consumption,” Backen—the cofounder and CEO of architectural firm Backen & Backen—has assembled products both old and new.

Antique furniture and garden decor mingle with goods from the likes of Marfa Stance, Haand and local artisans. The interior, she notes, nods to Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck, with their influences manifesting in oversize planters containing olive trees and the giant green-and-cream squares painted on the main floor. In addition to a living green wall, an expanse of wall space is used to project films and documentaries, along with inspiring quotes and images.

The overall aesthetic, Backen explains, is “a coexistence of opposing forces: luxurious yet humble, elegant yet understated, restorative yet energizing.” Amid a muted palette of emerald, taupe, amber, sage, khaki and pebble, saddle leather banquettes beckon. “If the No|Ma House space could talk,” she continues, “it would say, ‘Welcome. Make yourself at home; trust your taste; make a new friend; be curious; find a sweet spot to sit with a book and a snack; and stay a while.’ ”