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52: 31 - Lemon Middle and Orange

Name: Lemon Middle and Orange
Address: 25 Rokeby St, Collingwood, Victoria, Australia

Once upon a time there was a 1st year Design Student called Ashley Every. One day, he went looking for some work experience. Being a true design nerd, he knocked only on the doors of Melbourne’s best Architecture and Design practices. After much walking and knocking, Mr. John Wardle opened his door to the young Ashley. And there my friends, is where the love affair began. It is only fitting then, that almost thirteen years later we visit one of Mr. Wardle’s best hospitality ventures, Lemon Middle and Orange (LM&O)

So what’s good about Lemon Middle and Orange?  

Wardle’s Angles – they’re just like Charlies Angels, but better. If you have never been in a Wardle building, he is the undisputed Australian master of angles and joinery. But before we start waxing lyrical over that, let us talk briefly about what is so unique about LM&O’s building location.

LM&O is positioned in Collingwood - the new creative precinct of Melbourne – and is home to many small-medium sized industrial factories, garages and fabricator workshops. Here, John Wardle Architects resides in the top few levels of an old paint factory. And in the odd vertical junction sandwiched between the paint factory and the adjacent building, Wardle inserted an angled perforated metal clad building. And on the ground level sits snugly Lemon Middle & Orange.

Walking under the great silver façade into the under cover outdoor seating area feels almost bunker-esque. Here a rich timber bench with small stools provide great overflow space and waiting area for the takeaway window with a glowing neon sign that brings the concrete block wall to life.

The tactile Wardle journey starts as you grip the massive vertical timber door handle and glide the sliding door to the side. Walking in, there is a stripped back industrial palette of polished concrete floors, concrete block work, ply joinery and wall cladding, with thick slabs of timber to boot. All this materiality sits within the long, deep space, sandwiched between the front and back end of the building, cuddled by beautiful steel frame windows and doors at both ends.

Due to the length of the space, the planning is simple. Kitchen, coffee, counter and service area on the right. The service area is tidy and cool in materiality with a folded metal dropped ceiling, dark and reflective. This element is one of the highlights of the space, but you almost miss it, which makes it even more special. Whilst the remainder of the fit-out - with a super long timber banquette down the left - oozes a clean warmth, and this warm/cool contrast is balanced perfectly.  

At the very back of the space a beautifully composed small area opens out, providing a considered relief with a ply joinery dividing wall acting as a dry store for the rear of the kitchen. The joinery extends and juts out into the thoroughfare ever so slightly to provide space for waiter/water station. Behind this sits a high table with stools, a wall of timber hooks for aprons and the back of the joinery wall, proudly displaying an almost Rosalie Gasciogne-like artwork that harks back to the factory days.

There are Wardle details everywhere, from the steel supports in the feet of the timber studs, chamfered angles on benches and layers of supremely detailed joinery. But it’s hard not to ogle the brilliant detailed and so damn smart lighting over the banquette seating. A horizontal wall mounted timber dowel is hung with moveable steel rods and loose electrical cable threaded through it’s inner. All excess cables are concealed beautifully in a timber cable tray and this, despite al the other amazing Wardle angles, really is the hero of the space.

What could be better about Lemon Middle and Orange?  

Although we loved the cool materiality of the service/kitchen area against the warmth of the seating area, the lights were just too cold. Change the globes to a warmer temperature and this will create a balance that is presently slightly off.

The timber Bentwood chairs are great, you can’t go past a classic but in this space, they don’t match the Wardle aesthetic. They are too rounded and decorative against the rest of the angled aesthetic and actually detract from the simplicity of the space. Cleaner chair lines would have worked better.

Whilst we love the idea of the upside-down metal bucket/bin chairs with Echo panel inserted into the top, they don’t deserve to be in this space. With such ridiculous attention paid to the amazing detailing throughout LM&O, the furniture needs to be at the same premium level and sadly this quirky seating has missed the mark.

What’s its thing?

Those Wardle angles. Whether they are executed architecturally on facades or in smaller details in joinery, you can see a Wardle Angle from a mile and damn you do it well Mr. Wardle.

Defining Design Details

  • Bespoke moveable lights. Premium detailing, super smart and they angle over the banquette seating creating little light bulb moments. .
  • Recessed banquette Cushion – a nice little detail that see’s all levels and lines maintained on this plane. Add to this the great washable, waxy graphic upholstery and you have a brilliant solution for a hospitality space.
  • Simple Planning – it looks basic, but it’s balanced so well and with great circulation space you feel cosy but not claustrophobic.
  • Henry Wilson “A Joint” tables – now they deserve to be in this space!
  • Recurring profiles – the timber bench edge profile is matched on the stainless steel service counter. Although there is consistency in form that establishes a delightful language, the materiality change creates two unique personalities.
  • The branding. From the yellow in the logo, to the yellow of the neon sign – it’s all there. Add to this the graphics of the menu and the considered specials card and the LM&O brand is firmly planted.
  • The folded metal ceiling over the service area with track lighting is a bolt out of left field and we love how it contrasts with the warmth of the timber everywhere else.

To understand the phenomenon that is the Wardle Angle, take a moment and look at Mr Wardle’s Fairhaven Beach House. Team Super Tectonics, often visit his City Hill House on our strolls around South Yarra. We’re pretty sure the owners think we are casing the joint by now.

To also understand the phenomena that is Collingwood, check out some other Project 52’s we’ve done in the area including the super tiny Tiny, the peaceful Mina No Ie and the soon to be reviewed School House Studios.