With the space originally a run-down eatery well past its prime, owner of ‘A Thousand Blessings’ cafe, Evelyn saw potential in the misused space and begged the owner at the time to sell up.
After a year of negotiations, the space finally became hers in 2008 and so her builder, Four Seasons Commercial Interiors, and architect, UN Studio, started to transform the space into what it is today.
Although not quite heritage protected, Yarra City Council had strict ideas when it came to the façade so the architects worked closely with council to maintain the integrity of the building, while inside, an elegant mixture of jade green marble, white porcelain tiles and feature wood panelling were used generously to create a generously warm, textured interior.
With over 100 years of history and countless renovation jobs before it, the once-high ceilings had been built layer after layer until the space was low and encroaching. Upon stripping the layers the team found high, gabled ceilings which were later accentuated by high wooden beams.
A door to an outside enclave along the building’s flank had over the years turned into a makeshift storage yard, so by gutting the space and closing off access, the exterior nook is now a feature wall of sorts with a vertical herb garden on show.
Disaster struck not long after the initial renovations when the 100-year-old walls started to crumble, so rather than undertake more costly repairs, Evelyn’s builder recommended cladding the wall with recycled timber and ‘it was like opening Pandora’s Box, we then started to introduce the timber into other elements of the design because it worked so well’.
Possibly the most striking element of the design is the vibrant green marble running through the coffee bar and featured again in the smaller tables dotted throughout the café. Evelyn said she chose the marble because ‘the veins looked like they had life running through them, so rather than choosing a solid stone slab I wanted to bring that living energy into the design’, Evelyn said.
Recycled timber tables were handcrafted by the builder’s father, an 80-year-old third generation carpenter, while a beautiful reclaimed timber church pew offers seating along one of the larger walls.
‘We saw the church pew sitting out in the rain gathering moss at the Abbotsford Convent Bakery and practically begged them to let us have it,’ Evelyn said.
Repurposed copper wiring houses clusters of innovative pendant lighting which hang over the large communal table, while custom powder coated chairs in red (with ‘good luck’ pressed into the metal) and welcoming red doors – a lucky colour in many Asian cultures – pay homage to the 1000 Blessings namesake.