Although the textures look all too familiar and the ambience feels like home to us, this is not New York City. When we saw the photos of The Grounds, we thought we were being transported to a place in Brooklyn or Queens, NY. So it was with great surprise that we found out that this quaint, cozy and inviting cafe is located in Alexandria, Australia (Building 7A, No2 Huntley St, Alexandria NSW 2015) which has furthermore been short listed for the Interior Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) in hospitality in Australia.
In a very short period of time, the beloved café, once a former warehouse and a pie factory in the early 1900's, has become popular amongst locals and a new staple in the city. The environment unfolds an architectural language that roots you in the past, allowing you however to experience it in a contemporary way as you enjoy your coffee or some of the artisan baked delicacies on offer. The interiors combine both rustic and industrial materials that give charm and personality to the space. Caroline Choker maintains the former warehouse’s integrity by embracing its language and letting it speak freely through the layered surfaces. Where exposed wood trusses give you an unfinished and open look, cement cross beams identify what is holding everything together and the polished concrete floors keep it simple as the designer articulates seating and service surfaces. Choker uses a combination of materials and textures which in their contrast with one another give the space an almost weathered finish. White subway gloss tiles, blackened steel frames, refitted shipping containers and tufted fabrics make the interior feel more like a home than the typical cookie cutter cafe we often see and unfortunately immediately disconnect with.
The blackened steel frames are suspended from the ceiling and act as a space divider between dining and servicing counters. To soften the transition, Caroline Choker uses this suspended framework to store merchandise, display decorative elements and expose foliage. Just below it, a custom millwork holds a banquette with tufted seats on one side and storage and display of products on the other. The molding breaks apart the scale of this volume giving it yet another dimension where drawers, storage, hardware, vintage displays and messaging serve to emphasize the rich history of the space.
All of these diverse and contrasting elements have been orchestrated with subtle care and close attention allowing those who frequent the space to find another dimension or detail to lovingly admire each time they enter. . One thing is certain; this is a venue which is sure to keep the local community active and conversations thriving. These are the kinds of projects that make neighbors happy and we sure hope we keep seeing more of them.