The Vertue of the Coffee Drink


  • The Vertue of the Coffee Drink
  • Two Design
  • Rosehaven Construction


This coffee shop and eatery is situated in a century-old stable building found hidden at the end of a quintessentially Melbourne lane. This unassuming location is comprised of industrial heritage elements, which inspired and informed the design. The challenge of unifying old and new was met by creating a connection with existing textures, further unified when permeated with natural light. Space was tight; every boundary was pushed to its limits to achieve all required service areas. This successful balance between form and function has resulted in ease of foot traffic, flow of service and personal space for diners.

Key Features


This site, at the end of an unseen lane off Elgin Street, has zero walk by traffic and no visible signage from street level. Given its concealed location, the only option was to produce a design which would attract the masses – a cultural destination customers would seek out. This ambition was achieved by not only the internal structure, but also the awe-inspiring sense of discovery customers experience when journeying from the street into their secret hideout. Original roof-height barn doors allow the building\’s history to influence the commercial environment as they welcome patrons to a brightly lit courtyard-come-dining space.


This pre-existing two story stable still possessed bluestone floors and almost retained the smell of straw. Retention of the building\’s existing features was instantly the highest priority. The large-scale, farm-like doors and original stairs to the barn\’s landing have been retained to pay homage to the building\’s former life. Woven into the cafe\’s modern, functional design, these focal elements also provide textural depth and act as a talking point for visitors. All new materials and design elements were carefully considered to ensure that they enhanced the original features in every possible way.


The courtyard\’s initial impression of a sanctuary filled with rough stone and immense natural light is a vista we strove to retain. As a result, the atrium space that encloses the facade was invigorated with plant life and Lexan polycarbonate fluted roof sheeting. The process of manipulating natural light also inspired us to combine raw concrete and black steel with earthy materials, which will feed off the light source to grow and age with the space. Recycled and natural timbers, raw copper and a green feature wall now morph the industrial laneway into an urban garden.


The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is an adventure into the level of design excellence expected in Melbourne’s cafe scene. Sense of place was a crucial consideration. As visitors enter through heritage barn doors they arrive straight into an animated service area where copper lights dance patterns over the natural brick walls. The impressive operational roaster sits front-and-centre and smells of freshly roasted beans permeate the lively cafe. Rising copper flues and timber clad walls draw the eye up to a distinguished roof structure, which gives diners a glimpse into the barn\’s former function.

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