- Article by Natalie Mortimer
WALA architecture studio has transformed a rundown Post Office into a coffee shop that reflects the idea of ‘home’.
Located in Melbourne’s inner west, The Little Man Cafe is located along the main community strip in Seddon. The corner lot site once belonged to a Post Office, which has since moved a couple of spots up the street.
The insides of the building were left severely dilapidated, however, given its prime corner shop location and prominent street frontage, the new owners were keen to revitalise this empty shell of a building and in doing so, contribute to the growth of Victoria Street.
Despite the long and narrow interior (80sqm), the owners wanted to provide ample room to cater 30 customers without funnelling them into cramped space. The owner’s desire was for a designed space which reflected the idea of ‘home’; as though the cafe is playing host and customers are walking straight into a friend’s kitchen. It had to be open while being functional.
Akin to a residential kitchen, an open plan layout was adopted to maximise the use of space and take advantage of the length of the shop. A fully equipped kitchen was allocated to the back of house, and a secondary feature kitchen (complete with a back bench and free-standing island) marked as the centrepiece of the shop, was strategically positioned to allow patrons to interact with the barista. High bench seatings are located along the length of the wall next to the kitchen.
WALA chose a restrained material and colour palette to create a balance between warm and sharp aesthetics, resulting in a welcoming yet uncluttered space. The predominantly white backdrop provides a crisp canvas for highlights of colour, including Tiffany blue for crockery and feature tiles and splashbacks. Timber accents in the joinery and loose furniture offer a warm counterpoint to the clean lines aligning with the long space.
A line of joinery fulfils storage requirements whilst providing design opportunities to craft a space that references a ‘homely kitchen’. Minimal structural intervention was required in order to preserve the bones of the buildings; existing brick walls were retained and painted and the existing pitched ceiling towards the rear was restored and repainted.
To maximise the amount of natural light in the space, previously bricked-up openings along the northern wall were retrofitted with large fixed glazed windows. Wall openings which once housed cast iron letterboxes were also repurposed as windows. This collection of randomly sized openings offers a quirky visual while referencing the original space. A skylight was added to further flood light into the back of house.
Photography by David Yeow