Located on a quiet, leafy lane near Shida Night Market in Taipei, Mooi Trouve (找到魔椅), which opened earlier this month, breathes new life into a worn-down, single-family home built during the Japanese colonial era. The warm, heady fragrance of cypress wood greets visitors as they walk into a small store in front that sells vintage home accessories imported from Europe, while the spacious cafe takes visitors back nearly 70 years into the history of Taiwanese residential architecture.
Mooi Trouve is the latest project of Minfu Chien (簡銘甫), who launched Mooi in 2004 as a vintage furniture importer. The brand now includes a furniture store on Qingtian Street (青田街) next to Ecole Cafe (學校咖啡館), Chien’s first coffee shop, and Fabrik (加工廠), which focuses on European design from the 1920s to 1950s. (Chien recently closed Mooi’s first location on Fujin Street, 富錦街.)
Chien began planning Mooi Trouve three months ago after a friend told him that National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學, known as Taida, 台大) was seeking a tenant for the structure near Taishun Street that once served as faculty housing. Built in 1943, it had stood empty for several years along with other similar structures owned by the school. Taida is now seeking business owners to occupy the former residences, many of which were constructed during the Japanese colonial era, and turn them into cafes or stores.
When the Mooi Trouve renovation team began working on the house, they expected the project to take three weeks, but ended up spending twice that time because the building was more run-down than Chien had anticipated.
“Taida said we could do anything we wanted inside, as long as we preserved the exterior’s original appearance,” Chien says.
ADDRESS: 4, Ln 16, Taishun St, Taipei City (台北市泰順街16巷4號)
OPEN: Sunday to Thursday 10am to 10pm, Friday and Saturday 10am to midnight. Meals are served from 10am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm
TELEPHONE: (02) 2366-1335
ON THE NET: blog.roodo.com/mooitaiwan
While tearing out the rotted floorboards, workers discovered that the wooden planks had simply been laid on top of bricks without any fasteners. The entire floor had to be redone, but Chien kept the walls and roof intact. The property came with an adjacent parking lot that was turned into a wooden deck, complete with vintage theater seats, two painted wooden carousel horses salvaged from the Taipei Children’s Recreation Center (台北市立兒童育樂中心) and a play area with a pint-sized slide.
The cafe’s interior design spotlights the soaring ceiling with its sturdy cypress beams.
“People look up as soon as they walk in,” Chien says. “We don’t want anything to distract from that.”
Chien chose neutral colors for the furniture and kept the unpainted walls bare except for a few movie posters. Tables were custom built for the space, but most chairs, which include mid-century modern and industrial styles, were once used in German schools or gyms in the 1960s and 1970s; many lighting fixtures are also vintage.
Across the wooden deck is a single-story house similar in design to the Mooi Trouve building. Chien installed floor-to-ceiling windows on that side of the cafe to spotlight its neighbor’s silhouette.
“We want to make sure there is a connection to the house next door,” Chien says.
Mooi Trouve’s design elements create an interior that is expansive and airy but homey. The building’s wooden structure and floorboards absorb sound even when the cafe is full. Though Mooi Trouve only opened this month, it already has a steady stream of visitors even on weekdays, many settling in with their books or laptops.