Installed in a 19th century woolen store that was previously known as the longtime headquarters of book publisher Lonely Planet at Footscray in Melbourne, There Cafe makes dramatic but sensitive use of its heritage location. Executed with impressive restraint by Ewert Leaf, this bustling midwest hangout is a place our jury could happily imagine settling down for a long afternoon to drink coffee with friends. High-end finishes share a subtle and uniform color palette, with steel beams, leather banquettes, polished concrete, and industrial fixtures accentuating the large, almost floor-to-ceiling windows that attract waves of natural light. There is a softness in the design that plays on the grandeur of the original building. The rich textures and discoverable layers feel unconstrained, giving the venue an easy sensibility and sophistication. While many cafe layouts can quickly look old-fashioned, there is a patina that will age well in the future.
Designed as a shared meeting place, There Cafe is an uplifting and authentic hospitality proposition harnessed by the strength of its architectural setting. The clean interior celebrates the industrial character of the site while gently layering new interventions – an evolution of its historical identity. Large cathedral-shaped windows, raw steel columns, and six-meter high ceilings presented a rich architectural canvas, prompting the design team to develop a narrative around restraint, authenticity and time. A reduced palette of honest finishes, including crown cut oak, antique brass, and natural leather, harmonize with the site’s raw material profiles. The striking architectural features and the lack of direct perspectives led spatial planning to intentionally focus on the interior. A coffee counter lined with oak paneling leads visitors to the heart of the large warehouse, where leather-lined benches sweep the perimeter, addressing a vast dining room. Thonet bentwood chairs and blackened steel pendants impart a sense of nostalgia and familiarity, while delicately detailed carpentry draws inspiration from Modernist furniture, providing a contemporary counterbalance. The rigid envelope is softened by the transparent linen drape that covers the windows, accentuating the verticality of the site and tempering the abundant natural light.
90 Maribyrnong Street
49-51 Stead Street
South Melbourne, Victoria
Ana Calic, Amy Stuart, Hayley Page.
See the entire image gallery at the Eat Drink Design Awards website.