“As good as gold” was the vision Mim Design brought to its most recent project, a new café in suburban Melbourne, Australia. Natural light, lush greenery, and soft, welcoming spaces were established early on as key design elements, so the location – in a former mechanic garage – may seem like an unlikely home for the eatery.
With Au79 Cafe, Mim Design has transformed the once-grungy 1950s auto repair shop into a luxe spot that hosts a café, bakery, coffee roastery, and a variety of event spaces. Not to mention a botanical garden that is of such an impressive scale, it requires a dedicated gardener.
The gold standard set for the venture is expressed in the name – Au79 combines the chemical symbol and atomic number for the element – and in every detail of the 600-square-metre interior. A range of natural materials and earthy features are carefully balanced against a pastel palette and brass accents to create a comfortable opulence.
“The walls and furnishings incorporate the vibrant green and organic earthy tones of the coffee plant, while soft blush tones and custom furnishings add a touch of femininity,” says Mim Design’s creative director Emma Mahlook. A feature wall, opposite the glass-wrapped coffee roasting room, is illustrated with hand drawings of coffee plants over splashes of leafy green and aqua blue paint.
The remainder of the walls are white, with the ceiling’s exposed beams in contrasting black, highlighting the architectural character of the space. To reinforce this effect, the four-metre-high windows were lined with black-painted timber boards. These openings flood the interior spaces with light, and also offer views of the olive trees outside, creating a visual extension of the indoor garden. The original garage door was left intact and can be opened up to connect the rear event space to the elements.
The vibrant plantings inside include Staghorn ferns mounted on the walls, as well as an assortment of other plants in hanging frames from Russian designer Katerina Kopytina’s Kuiper Belt collection. On the ground, terrazzo has been poured over the existing concrete floors, and rises to form service counters. Both the bars and the floor are accented with shimmering metallic inlays. Bright rose-coloured tables from Billani make a statement among custom furnishings in softened tones of pink, blue and blush. Small tables with rounded banquette seating, wood topped tables and the pink communal tables accommodate up to 200 guests in varying degrees of intimacy.