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52: 13 - Tiny

Name: Tiny
Address: 51 Cromwell Street, Collingwood VIC
Owner: Mark Peou

 Would you believe we’ve made it to one quarter of the way through Project 52?  For this edition we’ve headed back to Collingwood – the burgeoning creative hub of Melbourne - and to a street that also happens to have a Japanese bathhouse on it.  But it’s underneath the stairs at 51 Cromwell St that caught our attention, and for all the right reasons.

So what’s good about Tiny?

Tiny is quite literally… tiny.  It’s out of the way and down a relatively uneventful street, but has been around now for almost 3 years – so it must be doing something right to keep the customers coming back.  But Collingwood is admittedly becoming the new hub for creative types (you should see the new John Wardle offices in Rokeby St, it is impressive) and there is nothing more that ‘Creatives’ enjoy than a good quality coffee.

When I asked owner Mark if he needed to change anything when he took ownership of Tiny at the end of 2013 his response was “No, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” 

Tiny is supremely efficient in it’s planning. It seats 7 inside comfortably including a very clever 2-seater bench in the entry space before the steps.  The seating is basic - IKEA Frosta stools - and the nifty ply fold-down tables mean that there is the ability to create more space if needed. This also makes it easy to clean after closing for the day.

The material palette is also very simple and consists of ply, white pegboard with a highlight colour of yellow that gets applied in various guises – from the business card and flag hanging outside, to the steel frame door colour and the legs of the stools.  It’s a very clever use of colour to add warmth to what could otherwise have been a cold space under the stairs.  And by using the pegboard this introduces a pattern to the space and perhaps even provides some acoustic absorption. Plus this pegboard provides the perfect space to fix lots of hooks and in doing so becomes valuable hanging space for all the bits and pieces. 

Even though tiny is tucked away under a set of stairs, due to the huge height in the space you don’t feel confined. Sure it’s small, you realise this, but you don’t feel claustrophobic, you feel cosy.

Everything in Tiny has its place and the designer’s of this café – Foolscap Studio have provided ample storage to the point where they still have some empty shelves.  Sure they’re quite high up, but the place isn’t full to the brim.

What could be better about Tiny?

The cork tiles at the entry stairs look a bit tired and worn, but indicate a well-used thoroughfare to the café and design studio upstairs.  They might reach the end of their life soon, so it’ll be an interesting decision as to whether they are replaced with another flooring product.

And whilst the poster to the wall adjacent to the stairwell is a fantastic image and suits both the scale and colour scheme of tiny extremely well, it would be far nicer to see this framed instead of purely pinned to the wall.  I spoke with Mark about this, and the poster is an original vintage poster that is for sale but he couldn’t justify the $500 cost of getting the image framed.

Also just like our review of Flipboard, the service area gets quite hot in summer due a distinct lack of ability to ventilate the heat that is generated from all the appliances and coffee machine.  Mark installed a temporary measure of putting a portable fan in the shelving, but possibly installing a vent through the side wall will allow that hot air to escape through to the car park adjacent.

What’s its thing?

Figuring out what to put under a staircase is a nightmare at the best of times.  It usually ends up being the place that everyone stores their junk.  That’s where Tiny have added value to 51 Cromwell St, they have seen an opportunity to utilise a dead space and create an amazingly efficient use of a small space that you want to stay in.

Defining Design Details

  • Pegboard – everyone’s doing it these days.  But to have put it in a café 3 years ago – that’s an inspired design decision.
  • Efficiency – you’d never think that 7 people, 2 staff PLUS a café can all fit under a staircase, but this works so well and really makes you question how we use space in everyday life
  • Colour palette – it’s just so simple.  The formula for this interior ticks every box and can be applied to any interior : White (pegboard), natural material (cork tile, plywood) and a pop of colour (yellow).

It was great to go to an established café, if you can call 3 years established.  Because what’s interesting to see is how all the pretty finishes wear over time - a few years after all the archi-porn photos were probably taken when this place just opened.  And Tiny is showing some signs of wear and tear, but it’s still awesome and we think it’s in good hands with new owner Mark.