Venue owners employ designers to create an identity as well as an interior that is unique and, potentially, award-winning. Now even the hungry and caffeine-addicted are critics of design, casting their opinions on bespoke light fittings and recycled furniture.
Adele Winteridge, director of Foolscap Studio, the studio behind the design of Melbourne espresso bar Patricia, says the push for conceptual interior design comes from the need for a well-defined brand and identity. “As the market gets more competitive in contemporary urban environments and cities there is a real need for ‘meeting places’ that people can connect and identify with,” she says. “People want to feel safe in the fact that the person who serves them a coffee knows who they are and what they want.”
As well as a sense of familiarity, customers want their encounter to be cohesive and, in a way, beautiful — from the website to the space. While plenty of venues boast impressive contemporary design, those like Patricia are built around a deeper concept.
“It is the whole package, the whole experience,” says Winteridge. “You read any review and all facets are reviewed and scrutinised. Our experience of these convivial spaces are what is important and will mean that the customer either leaves in exulted joy and tells all their friends, or leaves never to return.”
If you’re looking to feed your aesthetic desires as well as your gastronomic ones, these cafes fit the bill.
493-495 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
No matter what time of day you step over the threshold, you’ll be hard pressed to get a seat at Patricia. That’s because there are none. This alleyway coffee house is — as spelt out in mosaic tiles at the café’s entry — standing room only; coffee cups are balanced on broad bay windows and the marble espresso bar. An iconic design by Melbourne’s Foolscap Studio, the tiny room is given the illusion of space with white walls, brass features and a neon sign reading ‘sunshine’ above the all-important coffee machine. It’s here, with lattes being sipped by the window, that simplicity, in both design and function, works best.
659 Church Street, Richmond
Fulfilling their namesake like a prophecy, Top Paddock is, well, right at the top. It came as no surprise that the Richmond space took out the award for best café design at the 2013 Eat-Drink-Design Awards; the indoor-outdoor design has become almost iconic amongst Melbourne’s café-goers in little less than a year. Jointly designed by Six Degrees Architects and part owner Nathan Toleman, Top Paddock mixes urban monochrome with recycled street sign seats and lots of natural light.
Despite sitting on a busy stretch of commercial road and inhabiting 360sqm, the cafe still manages to forge intimacy in every crevice of the large space. Not one, but two coffee bars break up the vastness, as do the rich timber communal tables and panelled booths for public privacy. And that’s all before the food hits the table.
Shop 3-4, 130 Victoria Street, Seddon
You might enter Common Galaxia expecting something futuristic, but what you get is something of a cross between the Scandinavian and the supernatural. The soft oak that lines the walls, bar and ceiling is contrasted with the concrete floor and black light fittings from LifeSpaceJourney. With school-like chairs, blunt shelving and menu and cutlery caddies that hang from tables, everything here has its place.
Designed by Sunkland and fit out by Fido Projects, Common Galaxia adds a sense of cultured minimalism to Melbourne’s west.
Building 7A, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria
Bringing together multiple elements in design and business, The Grounds of Alexandria is almost an anomaly of the hospitality industry. Being a café, coffee roastery, garden and bakery, the venues multifaceted nature is carried through in its impressive design by Acme & Co. The idyllic café and garden encapsulates you in a place far away from the industrial surrounds of Alexandria — not once does it give up the game.
In the same way that the produce is seen from seed to plate, the design is local, solid and treads the line between rustic and contemporary. Keeping the concrete floors and black steel frames, the former warehouse has been supplemented with deep green tiling, sage leather banquettes and bespoke light fittings. With the doors open almost all year-round, the garden seems to grow into the café. A space to be revered, the only problem is scoring a seat.
61 Albion Street, Surry Hills
Nestled on a quiet Surry Hills street with a flat grey exterior, Reuben Hills might be the most unassuming café in Sydney. It’s only when you walk in, notice the depth of the place and proceed to look up that you realise it’s pure genius. Parts of the second floor have been removed to create a mezzanine-like landing, giving patrons a glimpse of the coffee grinding and roasting happening up above. Designed by Melbourne-based Herbert & Mason, the ceiling opens up the narrow space and draws attention to the contrast of the exposed brick and plastered walls and feature lighting. Just don’t miss the shopfront as you walk past.
Cnr Alfred and Constance Streets, Fortitude Valley
Alfred & Constance can only be described as a mish-mash of whimsy and extravagance. Occupying two Fortitude Valley Queenslanders it is a pure collision of worlds that, thanks to Derlot’s Alexander Lotersztain, just works. With several bars, dining areas and lounges, the fit out at first glance looks eclectic, but is in fact a carefully considered collection of furniture, artwork and odds and ends. While the upstairs Hemingway Room is abound in leather and velvet sofas and greenery hanging from the roof like light fittings, the dining room is dark, rich and almost gothic. With each room differing from the last, every visit to Alfred & Constance is a whole new aesthetic experience.
32a Chester Street, Newstead
Also headed by Derlot designer Alexander Lotersztain, the refurbishment of Chester Street Bakery & Bar has seen the space transform into a bright white and blue bread-making oasis. Cobalt tiles draw your attention to the wood fired oven and the white walls make the space airy and light, while the casual timber seating spills out onto the front deck. Don’t get there too early though, it’s after dark that Chester Street becomes its most charming with pot plants and fairy lights floating above the tables.
100 St Georges Terrace, Perth
A masterpiece if there ever was one, Greenhouse by Joost is, from the outset, striking, intriguing and very, very green. Lined with hundreds of potted strawberry plants on the outside façade, the collapsible venue creates minimal waste and is holistically sustainable in nature and design. Inside, you’ll be surprised that most things are made from recyclable materials — the recycled timber chairs and tables can be passed off as rustic and the spirit bottles hanging from blue rope simply look cool. The rooftop garden supplies most of the kitchens vegetables and herbs, and offers an unbeatable view for a drink, too.
16 Gordon Street, West Perth
Arguably the coolest garage in West Perth, Gordon Street Garage is a culmination of heritage and style. Occupying 533sqm, the sheer size of the space lends itself to catering to a range of diners — in-and-out espresso drinkers can guzzle at the standing coffee ledge, while others can linger in the main dining area or on the plush mezzanine. The oversized bar creates clever sections and a Mediterranean blue is flecked through the garage on the walls, floor, tiling and furnishings. With lighting fixtures hanging above tables and an outdoor garden, Foolscap Studio have given this industrial space the urban fit out it needed to become one of Perth’s contemporary dining favourites.
12 Franklin Street, Adelaide
With an original 1940’s clock that originally serviced the London, Midland and Scotland railway, a writers’ corner with names of authors written on the walls and communal bar seating, PUBLIC brings together the best elements of public space and design. The space, located on a busy Adelaide CBD street, is long, light and open and accentuated by the rich colours inside. The black marble benchtop, tiling and dark timber sits in contrast to the rustic fence paling feature wall and charcoal booths to remain warm and soft. Sitting underneath Adelaide’s biggest corporate building, designer Danielle Elia has created a space for clients and coffee lovers alike.