This All-Day Cafe Is a Kaleidoscope of Color

by Andrea Reynolds

Life Alive Organic Cafe isn’t a new fast casual chain. On the contrary, Life Alive has been around for 10 years with a cult following. “There is a special energy to this place, but the way it was expressing itself felt stuck,” said Kendall Lowe, founder of PHENOMENA. Lowe, along with co-founder, Kiki Mobley, designed the newest (and our favorite) Life Alive Organic Cafe located in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston.

Why is it our favorite? Simply put, it’s a jewel box of a restaurant, gleaming with color and textures that simultaneously energize and ground you. In a word, it’s a gem.

The Designers

With over a decade of experience in architecture and design with stints at hospitality giants Rockwell Group and AvroKO, partners Kendall Lowe and Kiki Mobley were a perfect match to head the design of the new Life Alive Organic Cafe. In 2018, Lowe and Mobley left their respective careers to start PHENOMENA, an interdisciplinary interior design firm that focuses on bridging brand strategy and interior design. Mobley heads finances, operations, and digital strategy while Lowe heads interiors, graphics, and brand strategy. 

PHENOMENA worked one-on-one with the owners and investors of Life Alive, studying the brand’s heritage. They developed a strategy and brand identity to create a fully connected brand experience–including in-store messaging, menu design, even the Instagram account. “The brand’s muse is the goddess. So we took that energy, the color, the playfulness, and went for it. It felt right," said Lowe.

The Design 

Each segment of the cafe has a different color, and with it, a different energy. The color palette is inspired by vibrant and harmonic living using the seven chakras as the guide for balance and holistic wellness.

In the back of the cafe, it’s a bit more tranquil and relaxed. PHENOMENA used deep blues and indigos, noting how the dark colors allow for a sense of “escape.” On the opposite side, you will find a built-in bar and banquette, complete with bright red aniline-dyed table tops and rainbow striped upholstery. The use of red, a color known to stimulate the appetite, makes the perfect backdrop for Life Alive’s nourishing organic meals. 

280_ReeceChair_LifeAlive_GlossWhite_LtBlue1Reece chair in custom color, image via Morgan Lone Photography

The bar–notably Lowe’s favorite part of the space–is designed to accommodate a free-spirited social experience day or night. For that reason, PHENOMENA opted for vibrant colors, which manifests itself into an exquisitely happy rainbow palette. 

“The bar is my favorite part of the design. It’s where it all comes together.  All of the colors and textures create an area that feels fun and lively. We worked with so many different fabricators that came together for this part of the space. Every table top is a different dye color and was hand-stained. A local mill worker built the larger pieces and Grand Rapids Chair Company is used for most of the seating,” said Lowe.

220_Rosie_LifeAlive_GlossWhite_LtBlue2Rosie Bolt-Down barstools in Gloss White, image via Morgan Lone Photography

Amid the ROYGBIV palette, you’ll find meaningful touches that unify the entire design. The bespoke painted table tops, the indigo tapestries, the geometric tiles, the dramatic cork archways, the list goes on. We’re bias, but our favorite design detail is the furniture. You’ll find plush blue booths juxtaposed by industrial-style chairs in the tranquil blue section. In the red dining section, you’ll find nubby hand-shaped wood stools. By the rainbow bar, old-school diner stools are finished in powder blue for an updated look. 

280_ReeceChair_LifeAlive_GlossWhite_LtBlue2Reece chair in Cobalt Blue, image via Morgan Lone Photography

With all the strong colors, textures, furniture, and fixtures, the space could easily feel jarring or chaotic. However, the design team created a rare and inspiring space that feels equally dreamy and rousing. The goal of this particular Life Alive Organic Cafe was to create a space that was “uplifting, vibrant, and comfortable.” We think PHENOMENA did exactly that.

Cafe Bar Seating