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52: 06 - Coin Laundry Cafe

Name: Coin Laundry Cafe
Address: 61 Armadale St, Armadale VIC
Phone: 9500 1888
Owner: Milad Nicolas

Sure, it’s been around for a few years now, and the website proudly tells you they won some kind of award a couple of years ago, so you may already know about Coin Laundry café in Armadale.  And whilst we aim to find the new and exciting cafes that seem to open up around Melbourne weekly, the two of us at Super Tectonics only discovered Coin Laundry Cafe a couple of months ago.  So for us, it’s all brand new.

So what’s good about Coin Laundry Cafe?

With Milad’s permission we explored Coin Laundry Café inside and out and this building has a lot going for it.  It’s got ‘good bones’ some may say.  Externally, the building is located on an active corner.  There’s local traffic – both car and foot – and directly across the road is the Armadale Train Station, making it a convenient stop for that morning coffee on the way to work.  But it’s also a destination, and it appears that people are definitely making an effort to visit and eat at Coin Laundry.  As for the building itself it has a wonderful charm about it.  Its scale is appropriate for its residential location, and it is also playfully covered with plenty of decorative elements.

Enter inside the café and the building is equally as interesting.  The height of the space is the first thing we noticed and the pressed metal on its ceiling adds texture to a space layered with pattern.  As we sat at our table close to the windows, a calming and cool breeze passed through the space due to the very large and generous sliding windows.  In a space this size, the proportion of these windows works perfectly.

The combination of material elements combines nicely to make a pleasing palette.  With white walls broken up by an existing brick wall, polished concrete floors, tiles to the counter and a mix of timber and steel furniture, this place ticks many boxes.  We especially liked the installation of tea towels to the entry.  It’s a reason to look up in this tall interior, and it could possibly assist in absorbing some of the sounds of a busy café.

But there are lots of nice details to appreciate in this space.  From bag hooks under the amazing and large timber table with great steel stools, to chairs hooked onto the wall shaker-style, to an efficient prep area and the brown paper roll hanging above one of the doors that staff can write daily menus on.  Someone has considered the layout of this space carefully and identified the potential of this space. When you consider all that can’t be designed (such as location, scale etc… it was already there!) it felt to us that regardless of what was proposed for this old coin laundry building it would be successful.  But I think we have realised that it has taken someone with a strong vision to make it all work – and it definitely works.

What could be better about Coin Laundry Cafe?

Aesthetically there are similarities between Coin Laundry and a lot of other cafes going around town.  Perhaps Coin Laundry inspired them?  It’s all so familiar and comfortable which is not a bad thing.  But perhaps then, Coin Laundry doesn’t really have it’s own identity.

There are also a few other elements that didn’t quite work.  The reo bar decorative wall element for instance is just a bit too rough.  It’s imprecise, a bit wobbly and looks a bit like a DIY installation.  The idea of using reo as a wall element is fantastic – but we would recommend covering that whole wall with it!  It currently looks a bit like ducks on a wall, rather than a considered design element.  It also took me a while to realise that the craft looking miniature clothing attached to this were probably a reference to the coin laundry this café used to be.  These nostalgic crafts seemed a bit kitsch for an otherwise sophisticated space.

The red basket pendants hanging overheard also under whelmed us.  They seemed to get a little bit lost in such a large volume.  It’s an amazing amount of space to work with and fill and if they ever get replaced they should definitely go bigger, much bigger – and bolder!

Also from a branding perspective - there isn’t really a strong and consistent idea.  I couldn’t quite tell from the logo on the basic boxboard business card if it matched the logo on the signage hanging out front.  And the menu didn’t have any identity on it at all!  (Neither does the website).  I think this reinforces our earlier comment about lacking a prominent identity.   We would definitely suggest this be looked into at an appropriate time in the future – possibly if a change in menu happens any time soon.

What’s its thing? 

Its thing is all about place.  It’s the building.  It’s the location.  It’s the surrounding context.  Essentially I think what we are saying is that it is all the stuff that you can’t design in the interior.  But like we mentioned earlier, it has taken someone with a strong vision to realise that all these things, in combination with a well-designed interior make for a great café and a great destination.

Defining Design Details

  • Height – it’s not often that a café can be set in such a high ceiling space and it feels fantastic to sit in and drink a coffee.
  • The big sliding windows – they are scaled perfectly to match the scale of the building and they allow amazing breezes to flow through the space.
  • The steel stuff – It’s the very cool looking steel stools to sit on and then rest your feet on a substantial steel tube foot rest at the base of the massive timber table that we loved,  a nice bit of steel fabrication.
  • Tea towels as a ceiling decoration – perhaps we’re clutching at straws when we said they might be good for acoustics, but as a repeated textural element they are fun. 
  • Destination – we’ve repeated it a few times now, but this building is a beautiful piece of local history and definitely worth a visit.

Milad is in the process of applying to increase the amount of outdoor seating, as shown by the bright yellow poster in the window (a planning application).  So there’ll be plenty of room for everyone to go for breakfast at Coin Laundry Café in the near future.