Surfers turn run-down Cornwall factory into Open surf shop and cafe

A former surfboard factory in Cornwall has been transformed into an all-white shop and cafe by local couple Emily and Mark Anderson.


Called Open, the surf shop and coffee house is located in Saint Agnes, a village in the southwest English county.

Set 100 metres from the north Cornish coast, the space had functioned as surfboard factory for 25 years but it had become run-down over the years.

Open by Emily and Mark Anderson

“When we took it over a year ago, the factory was in a massive state of disrepair,” Emily Anderson told Dezeen.

Without any previous design experience, Emily and her surfer husband Mark overhauled the site in two and a half months. The aim was to preserve the factory’s history in a new, light and airy space for locals to produce boards and relax.

“I’ve always been interested in interiors and architecture and how people live and interact within different spaces,” Emily said. “The idea of taking on a space that had so much history and legacy and trying to preserve it, whilst bringing it up to date, really appealed [to me].

Open by Emily and Mark Anderson

“So when Mark pitched the idea of taking on the surfboard factory (across the car park from our production studio), my interest was piqued,” she added.

Measuring 50 square metres, the property was stripped back to create an open-plan layout comprising a coffee counter, lounge and surfboard shop.

“We set about knocking down walls and removing fabricated ceilings to open up and restore the space to its original industrial form,” Emily said.

A double-height wall draws attention to the project’s tall ceilings and provides a backdrop for displaying an ever-growing collection of surfboards.

Open by Emily and Mark Anderson

Bright, white interiors define Open, while natural light enters through glass doors and windows. The stark palette is intended as a reference to Cornwall’s pale cliffs, while rustic elements, like wood pieces and concrete floors, are a nod to the region’s industrial past.

“Taking inspiration from the coast, we whitewashed the walls and the vaulted ceiling, which has created a sense of light, space and ‘openness’,” Emily said. “Hence the name Open.”

The duo sourced lights from British store Skinflint – a brand that salvages and reclaims vintage industrial lighting. These particularly designs were originally produced in a warehouse in Czechoslovakia.

Open by Emily and Mark Anderson

A coffee bar is made with birch plywood and features a hand-poured, white resin worktop, reflective of the resin used for coating surfboards. Also displaying this material is the powder coated, white metal wire Hee chairs by Danish brand Hay.

“All materials within the space were carefully sourced ensuring they are as natural and neutral, and harmonious with the ocean and our cliff top location, as possible,” said Emily.

The Anderson’s love surfing and their town, and honing this sense of comfort and community informed the design. Woven pieces and potted plants are used to soften the space.

“It’s becoming harder and harder for surfboard shapers who hand-shape their boards to compete against mass-produced, overseas production, so after over 25 years in business our factory was going to shut its doors, and we didn’t want to see that happen,” she said.

In addition to providing a place to sit and relax, and buy or rent a surfboard, Open also offers workshops for customers to learn how to make a board of their own. Surfboards can also still be custom-made at the factory too.

“By the end of this year, we hope to have near on 60 boards in the club with more board shapes (from visiting shapers) providing more diversity and experimentation to our members,” said Emily.

Open by Emily and Mark Anderson

Some of the surfboards on sale at Open have been made by international shaping legends, like Simon Anderson, Neal Purchase Junior and Beau Young.

The rear end of the factory is yet to be renovated, but the duo is planning to overhaul this next. The area will provide a space for shapers to work, enthusiasts to come in and learn the craft, and visitors to understand more about the process of making surfboards.

“Surfboard factories can often feel intimidating to visit because of their busy, practical nature,” Emily said. “We want to create a space that celebrated the craft, and encouraged others to learn about it and try their hand at it.”

Open by Emily and Mark Anderson

Open is located within Wheal Kitty Workshops, a hub of creative and commercial ventures in Saint Agnes, based within a disused mine.

Other companies based here is the Anderson’s production studio Sideways, as well as a branch of UK surf shop Finisterre, and a local restaurant and catering organisation, Canteen.

Other seaside towns in Cornwall are Saint Ives and Newquay, whose Fistral Beach is one of the best-known surfing beaches in the UK.

At the furthest edge of Cornwall is Penzance, which is proposed to become the “spa town of Cornwall” with a revamp of the town’s art-deco sea pool by London-based Scott Whitby Studio.

Photography is by Emily Anderson.

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