From Rio de Janeiro to Vienna, we find ourselves drawn to the grand cafés of the belle époque. We swoon over the buns and brioches; we are lured in by the Mozartkugeln and Sachertorte. These huge places echo to the sound of Thonet chairs being manoeuvred across parquet floors, of waiting staff shuttling back and forth with tea and coffee. But what about a version for today? Designed to still be around in 100 years, we’ll have a modern interior by Studio Ilse with a great chair from Maruni. It will be vast, with cakes both classic and contemporary, the best magazines and cabinets of books that a sticky thumb could never spoil.
2- Man with the Plan
The architect surgery for dull homes
You stare at that wall and wonder if your home would look better without it. You contemplate moving the staircase – is that an impossible task? Fear not. All you need to do is book yourself a slot with Xavier, the architect doctor. Appointments are charged at a strict €100 and last one hour. He will look at the symptoms your house presents and prescribe a course of treatment. Then you can go home and either swing the sledgehammer yourself or ask for a further consultation with a specialist. Our doctor with the nice bedside manner lets you get instant help without having to commit to a lengthy and costly operation.
3- Between the Covers
A modern library makeover
We’d launch a library right in the thick of things at a bustling department store so shoppers – and those dragged along – can shut out the retail cacophony. In Singapore, Library@orchard opened in October in a mega-mall called Ngee Ann City. The roomy two-storey bibliophile haven stacks over 100,000 fiction and non-fiction titles on its wavy white shelves. Our version will be a simpler and more intimate affair: a tasteful selection of books and magazines for adults and children, and comfortable sofas and a strict no-chatter policy. In essence, it is an answer to the prayers of bored children and fatigued parents willing to pay for some peace and quiet.
4- Shower and Go
The place to fix your looks
You’ve been at work all day, you need to go to dinner and all you want is a shower and a chance to put your new outfit on in comfort. Sure you could head to your company’s loos, splash yourself with water from the sink and try to change in the miniscule cubicle. But why not come on over to a branch of Shower and Go instead? We have private cubicles with Agape showers, Imabari towels and Maak Lab soaps. You can even have a spritz with a bottle of Hinoki. And rather than drag your work clothes to dinner, leave them here and collect them in the morning – we’ll even launder them for you. Bad hair? We have a gentleman on hand who can wax a gent’s locks back into shape and a nice woman who will fix a wobbly chignon.
5- Bed Times
Hotel by the hour (no, not that kind)
A pay-by-the-hour hotel might sound more risqué than risky but we think it’s time the notion outgrew its sexed-up South American associations. Far from accommodating speedy trysts, our comfy new venture makes its money from business travellers who are happy to pay a premium not to get turfed out of the place at midday when they would much prefer to leave at 14.00. When you do decide to check out, you'll find our hotel car regularly shuttling back and forth to the airport. But there’s no rush. Too many hotels devote themselve to being slavishly amenable to guests’ every whim but then offer uncompromising check-out times. Not us.
6- Ambassador Carrot
Grocery shop that's an embassy too
Our new grocery business takes its cues from Pur Südtirol in Merano, Italy, which looks the part as well as promoting aspiring food producers from around the region. Our Harry Thaler-designed spaces will serve the community and give its entrepreneurs a leg-up at the same time. We can see them popping up all across Europe, each tending to its own unique spot.
7- Easy Riders
Fresh taxi company concept
Freshly pressed uniforms and a genuine smile mark out our taxi drivers, who combine the London cabbie’s rigorous knowledge with Japanese firm Nihon Kotsu’s white-gloved service and impeccably clean cars. We have an app but you’ll want to hang on to your driver’s well-designed business card, too. Priced higher than the Ubers of this world, we’re still cheaper than some meaner taxi monopolies.
8- Go Away
A new kind of travel agent
For going places we glance back to the future. Remember the travel agent? We’d like them back. Over every website pitching cheapness as value and user-generated tosh as editorial, we favour a property with a doorbell over a portal with a password. There’s a rota of knowledgeable, well-travelled staff for whose advice and expertise you pay. And take note: would you buy a summer sojourn from a lady without a suntan?
9- Cool Tools
Exactly what you've been looking for
A good neighbourhood hardware shop can fix many a mundane task. However, the product offer is too often geared towards diy handymen: drill bits, socket sets and adjustable what-nots. How about a tool shop for the less common task? A haven for instruments singular and rare, items that ordinarily live in the workshops of professional tradespersons: the optician’s micro screwdriver, tweezers for stamp collectors, brass paperweights for a picture framer or a photographer’s loop. Aisles of little genius ideas you never see outside of a hobbyists catalogue. Solving a minor domestic matter is satisfying but you need the tools for the job. Bonsai secateurs anyone?
10- Run Chums
Bookable running partner
You pack your running shoes for every business trip but when you wake with a jet-lagged mind you dither and in no time it’s too late. So book in with Run Chums: go online, pick a session for the following morning and at 07.30 your Chum will be ringing your room from the loupe. No excuses. They will get you moving on intriguing new routes and – if you have time – deposit you somewhere fun for a hearty breakfast.