Design & the Bottom Line

Mid way through last year the owners of a 'run of the mill' cafe in Kew decided they wanted to 'get a bit groovy' and appeal to a more urban bod / 'Yummy Mummy' type living in this well-heeled leafy suburb. Some good advice from a regular coffee client (an architect) was ... "engage a good interior designer and work with what you've got". Comer & King got the gig along with very modest budget (nothing new there, but in this case spent with maximum effect ... which is why you call in the expert in the first instance isn't it? ).

Once a new name, brand identity and colour palette was established and the interior concept agreed the C&K team got busy. A couple of dodgey old doors were replaced bright blue new ones (hard to miss as you are driving down High Street and the owner's loved the idea ... "we thought it was brilliant - we really stand out on the street now"). Freshly painted tones of steel blue, charcoal and taupe gave the dining spaces definition. A side board was painted and relocated.  Popular pop blue Tolix chairs, new tables, some fab light fittings, an oversized clock, a collection of plates with friendly food motives (hand drawn by Cameron Comer) and a bicycle bolted to the wall completed the transformation. Seating was reconfigured to provide 20 more seats (70 in total).

The owners are delighted with the results, both aesthetically and from a customer perspective (they are voting with their feet and wallets ... which was the intended outcome of the exercise).  Without wanting to appear too nosey about their business, I understand they are now grinding through a lot more kilos of coffee each week and a strong Saturday trade has been established (a poor trading day before the make over) (FYI there were also line ups out the door and down the foot path in the first few weeks after re-opening which has now settled into a solid, sensible pace!)

Initially regulars thought the cafe was under new management. They soon figured out it was the same owners and same chef serving up their familiar favourites. Within a week or two word had got around and they were back ... along with a whole swag of new customers who had not considered it an option previously.  I do love the pulling power of good design. Done well, it makes a big difference to the bottom line. Nice work by Comer & King who did both the branding and interior.

Fat Penguin, 713 High Street, Kew East, Melbourne.

To see more gorgeous interiors work go to

And for a peek at what it looked like before the make over ...