Description Practice: Coffee Shop


With it being February and still too cold to do any exploring outside, for this bit of description practice, I decided to visit a new, interesting indoor place. One where I could still find a lot to describe without having to freeze my butt off in the process.


I discovered a coffee shop that isn’t like your run of the mill Starbucks. No, this one is much more unique and memorable. I won’t go into too much detail here, since that is what the rest of this post is for, so let’s get into my observations of the place on a chilly January afternoon.


My Process for These


If you are new here, how these description practices work is that I go someplace and just sit and write about what I see, hear, and smell. I pick different aspects of the environment and try to write a paragraph on them. I don’t look up words in a thesaurus and I don’t do any editing. I then share what I wrote in the next section.


Once I’ve let the descriptions sit for a day or two, I rewrite them to try and improve them while making the paragraphs more coherent. In the second version, the idea is to make something that could feasibly be used in a story, while the first version is all about collecting as many details as I can.


Lastly, even though this is actually the first thing you see in the article, I share a picture of the place I described. There are two reasons for this. One, it lets you see what I saw, and two, it allows you to attempt the description yourself.


Without further ado, let’s get into it!


My Observations


The smell of coffee permeates the air, making the room feel warm and cozy in the way that coffee shops always seem to. Even those that don’t have their own cups can enjoy the atmosphere of the shop. The outside world ceases to exist and time slows inside the shop. It feels as though one has entered another world.


The groupings of tables and chairs are all unique. None of the multitudes of chairs match the few tables. Most of the chairs don’t even match each other. The mismatched chaos adds to the room.


Random bits of furniture, knick-knacks, and oddities filled the room, all for sale. An old cello, a little rough around the edges, but still clean, leans in the corner. In another, a nook has been assembled around a coffee table missing paint in several spots. A sofa from another era now sits next to a well-worn loveseat from no more than ten years ago. A few pillows, each in different colors, shapes, and sizes adorn the seats. Stood against another wall is a dressmaker’s mannequin wearing a frilly pink nightgown from a decade best forgotten. Next to it is a wooden display case showing off a collection of jewelry. The accessories are mostly silver with polished bits of turquoise and plenty of beads.


A brickwork archway leads away from the coffee shop portion of the shop and grants people access to rooms overflowing with antiques and homemade décor. The aged red bricks have faded over the years. The red has lost some of its intensity and creeps closer and closer to the white splotches on the clay.


Over the counter, a collection of dollar bills hang from strings from the corrugated ceiling. The bills dance in the breeze caused by a nearby fan. The ceiling itself is the color of rust and adds to the earth tones of the room.


Country music plays softly in the background. At least, as softly as country music can play. The music matches the small town, country feel of the shop.


Guests either sit in groups and enjoy good conversations with one another, or they sit by themselves and enjoy the momentary escape from the outside world.


My Thoughts So Far


This is just a small sample of some of the things I could have described in this shop. As I mentioned, the place is full of all kinds of antiques and what not for visitors to purchase.


And that’s just the front/main room!


I could have kept the descriptions going for pages and pages. I could do one for each room! As it was, my chicken-scratch handwriting had already filled three pages in my notebook so I figured it was time to wrap things up.


On a side note, don’t you just hate when you think you’ve gotten a lot of writing done and then you type it up and it turns out it wasn’t much at all?


Some of the paragraphs are decently sized. The one about the various items around the room is too large for my liking. I think I’d be better off breaking it up into paragraphs each focused on the different aspects in the room. This does mean I’ll have to add a little more to some of the descriptions.


I wish I could have done more with the brick archway. I do enjoy the look of aged bricks, but my description there just feels lackluster to me. I’m not sure what more I could say though to add to it.


Anyway, that’s step one. Now let’s see what I can turn this into.


Attempt Number 2


Country music played in the background as the scent of coffee wafted through the air. The music was quiet, well as quiet as the genre allowed, yet didn’t detract from the atmosphere of the room. In fact, it added to it. The whole establishment gave off a rustic, small-town feel.


Above the front counter, dollar bills hung from thin, white twine taped to the rusty corrugated metal of the ceiling. The bills fluttered in the breeze of a nearby fan and caught the eye of all who entered. A few of the bills had been written on in markers, but the writing was impossible to make out from the distance.


The groupings of tables and chairs were all unique. None of the many chairs matched their tables or even each other. This extra bit of mismatched chaos added even more to the feel of the room. The guests either sat in small groups to enjoy one another’s company, or they sat by themselves and simply enjoy the momentary escape from the outside world. It’s one of the best parts of coffee shops, that escape. A person doesn’t even have to have a coffee to enjoy the small little world where time slows and troubles can be forgotten.


The ultimate addition to the coffee shop is the array of assorted furniture, knick-knacks, and oddities that fill the room. Not only does the store sell warm drinks and pastries, it sells these collectibles.


Everything is for sale here.


Along one wall, leaning against a post, stands an old black cello, a little rough around the edges, but still presentable. It doesn’t look like an item that most people would jump for, but it could still surprise its musician.


Close by, along a protruding wall, a nook has been assembled with a pair of loveseats, a couch, and a coffee table. The knee-high table is missing paint in several places. The couch is from another era entirely. The loveseats are newer, no older than ten years, and look far more worn than the sofa. A collection of pillows in various sizes, shapes, and colors adorn the seats.


Stood against another wall, looking out the front window is a dressmaker's mannequin. A frilly pink nightgown from a decade best left forgotten covers its body. Next to the mannequin is a wood and glass display case that contains all sorts of locally made jewelry. The items are mostly silver with polished turquoise and lots of colorful beads.


If that weren’t enough for shoppers, an aged brick archway leads to more rooms filled with even more items. Like the storefront, these back rooms are overflowing with antiques and even have some homemade items for sale. This way, when the coffee has been finished, customers can rummage through the back rooms and find something unique to take home with them.


My Final Thoughts


This time around I broke up the descriptions of the different items in the store into their own paragraphs, which meant I had to expand on the details a little more. I also condensed the description of the brick archway, because it really isn’t as important as I think it is.


As is usually the case with the second draft, I like how the paragraphs flow together better. I tried to create the flow of entering the shop, ordering a drink, and then sitting at a table and examining the chaotic room.


As with all of the other description practices, it was nice to get out of the house for a little while and just take in the sights. I do wish I could have gone someplace outside, but it is just too cold for that right now. Boy, do I miss summer and all of its warmth and sense of adventure.

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