This is the place where everything that Super Tectonics is thinking about, talking about, seeing, doing, listening to, creating and so on gets documented.

52: 01 - Husband

Name : Husband
Address : 377 Malvern Rd, South Yarra
Web :
Served by : Donovan O’Connell
esign by: Donovan O’Connell

Husband is a discrete café tucked in amongst one of the shopping precincts along Malvern Road in South Yarra. Shielded by a big leafy tree and two audacious neighbouring storefronts, you almost miss it, but that’s the point.

So what’s good about Husband?

The fit out is just as basic yet delicious as the food it serves with an uncomplicated set of design ideas combined to create an almost Japanese-like sense of space.  The furniture from Warehouse 8 Interiors is industrial in style and honest in finish. The deep timber tables, polished concrete floor and colour scheme of white, grey, blue; complement one another perfectly. 

The main counter matches the interior in both design and style, with horizontal timber boards adding a really simple texture to the space. As the main joinery element in the fit-out, it has worn exceptionally well and invites the activities the happen in, on and around it.

The painted blue graphic that extends along one wall, dominates the space in a relaxed manner, showing a considered restraint, whilst the storefront floor to ceiling window glazing allows soft southern light into the café, complimenting the otherwise low-lit interior.

There is plenty of space between tables with a great waiting area for takeaway coffee complete with some seats and a bench outside. There is nothing worse than waiting awkwardly in the middle of a café for your coffee and this little takeaway nook is planned perfectly well to sit, stand, chat or otherwise.

Past the timber tables and up a few stairs, you’re in a new space with textural sisal carpet and a large timber table with stools, catering for larger groups. There is a super quirky Escher style fabric concealing a small storage area which also acts as an elegant backdrop to this minimalist café.

What could be better about Husband?

Artwork is always a difficult thing to get right in cafés. Whilst the product used to print the graffiti style photography artwork on the walls was new and interesting (, the images looked a bit cheap and detracted from the beautiful super graphic (see original photos of the uninterrupted super graphics here – much nicer!) Owner Donovan informed us that there are plans to upgrade the fit out of Husband in the near future and we’d suggest a local artist apply a larger scale artwork directly to the wall and fame the other artworks and mount these appropriately for a more refined finish. 

The addition of some pendant lighting would break up the space and create more visual interest, perhaps highlighting certain zones. The white shelving holding a variety of condiments in the takeaway area was quite agricultural. Replacing this with a higher quality joinery piece to match the quality of the counter adjacent to it would create a greater unison.

Husband’s Art-Deco font, albeit graphically beautiful and timeless seem at odds with the (maybe) unintentional Japanese aesthetic of the interior.  The stock used for business cards, menu and signage seem like the economical solution, an opportunity missed to continue the refined interior aesthetic. Donovan does however inform us that the menu is intentionally basic forcing people to ask questions as ‘it’s more evocative’ which is a sneaky customer service win. As Design Nerds, we do appreciate the thread of blue used in the font, through to the interior palette - even the blue masking tape used for fixing the signage.

What’s it’s 'thing'?

It’s a double-edged sword having such a sparse fit out. Whilst the simple aesthetic works well, it can in some respects also seem unfinished.  An example of this is the signage to the front window, a printed A4 piece of paper fixed with blue masking tape giving the impression that the café was new and awaiting more permanent signage. Donovan informed us that in fact, the signage has been ‘temporary’ for the three years since Husband opened.

Which in reality is potentially the best thing about Husband. You’ve probably missed it if you’ve ever driven past and owner Donovan seems to like it that way.  Every day someone new visits the café, whilst his regulars keep coming back for the awesome coffee and damn good service.

Defining Design Details

The raised back room: You really feel like relaxed royalty surveying the café from here.

Escher Inspired fabric: Just like Escher’s work, the more you gaze, the more it reveals. 

Hardwearing sisal flooring: It’s nice (and brave) to see some texture in a café floor.

Framed photograph: Beauitful shot from Tess Bukowsky. More of these frames arranged as an object would really make the space.

The fit out has aged really well, just like all Husbands should!


* Donovan invited Super Tectonics back at the end of the year to review the new fit out once it’s completed, so watch here for Project 52 + 1 – a special edition review of Husband! Donovan, get your design on, we’re coming back!