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52: 17 - Stovetop

Name: Stovetop
Address: 100 Leicester St Carlton
Owner: brothers George and Sam Seoud
Served by: Dana
Designed by: Rob at Piece Design 

Since moving to chilly Melbourne from sunny Brisbane, Super Tectonics has missed one architectural feature immensely. Of course we yearn for the iconic Queenslander, but there is one more element Brisbane does damn well, and that our friends…is Breezeblocks. So thankfully our salacious appetite for the humble breezeblock was recently quelled on our latest trip to Stovetop.

So what’s good about Stovetop?

Ahhh, Breezeblock. Oh how we love thee! Highly appropriate for use in a steamy Brisbane climate, but here at Stovetop they are used more decoratively and structurally. Not only do they form the plinth for the amazing communal high bar, but they are also cleverly used as support for the back of house (or in this case – centre of house) coffee and staff zone. The blocks are sheeted on the inside with white pegboard and despite this sheeting; the ‘breeziness’ of the block continues to speak volumes. Had these walled elements been a solid partition or joinery, the space would feel so much smaller. But painted white, and low levelled, they create a tapestry within the space that is light, but rich.

The central communal high-bar at the front of the space takes centre stage. Positioned behind the glazed facade, this is the hearth of the café and you are automatically drawn to it as prime seating real estate. The breezeblock plinth seems to float lightly despite being concrete, whilst the timber wrap around bench is generous in depth and edge thickness, providing earthy warmth to the otherwise cool adjacent materials.

The abundance of green leafy plants in the centre of the high bar, wrapped in woolly felt jackets is quite simply magnetising. Sitting down they form a great “Me Tarzan – You Jane” screening device, allowing coy glances through to the people on the opposite side but creating a nice private zone on a spare corner if you wish. Hanging above, a beautiful, dynamic timber pendant that drawers your eye up in the space, but then delivers your glance lightly back down with a warm wash of incandescent coloured light.

The detailed joinery design is what makes you realise this environment has been carefully considered. The almost modernist lines of the curved coffee pod and register zone nestles closely behind the high bar, with a galley style kitchen beyond to house the all the necessary, cutlery, utensils, fridge’s and so on. What makes this space so amazing is the under bench storage, there are no above bench items (aside from the great coffee machine) and because of this, the area feels expansive. Moving toward the back of the long space, an iconic shaped ‘house’ pod frames the back kitchen and wash area beautifully, whilst cleverly being concealed behind a part height partition, cleverly adorned with a simple round mirror to reflect the view back.

The palette follows the basic but hard to fault rule of: black and white plus timber – what’s missing is the POP of colour we typically see, but this doesn’t detract from the space. The hero here however, is the routed ply wall. Working in a large concrete space, the ceiling is dealt with in a tidy manner, but the applied timber wall is left quite low, creating an intimacy in an otherwise voluminous space. Combine this with delicate spotlighting and precious hanging globe pendants and you know this space has been “designed” by a designer.

What could be better about Stovetop?

Stovetop is located in the bottom of the University of Melbourne graduate school of Education and Super Tectonics mortal enemy number two (behind down lights of course) is Alpollic aluminium panel cladding. It’s materiality is cold and nasty, but it is what it is and Stovetop adds some much needed warmth to the space. 

Sam the owner mentioned he needed more room, as it gets really busy between classes and at the university. The cantilevered timber tables along the far wall are great from a design and cleaning perspective, but allow no flexibility for future growth. Add to this that they are quite long, thus taking up valuable wall space and we’d recommend smaller tables and more of them.

The semi-gloss black tiled floor is great to hide all the dirt, but sadly it shows all the crumbs and keeping it clean is tough for the poor team members who have to sweep it! We do however note that the tiles were most likely part of the base build, and therefore there isn’t much you can do as a tenant.

Lastly, there is a hum of constant noise in Stovetop, potentially the A/C duct or something else, but whatever it is, acoustic wrap it to improve the experience inside.

What’s its thing?

Ermahgerd – breezeblocks!!!

Defining Design Details

  • Glazed Bi-folds – the ability to open the front up in summer is amazing!
  • Branding –amazing thick coasters, cute business cards, slick website – Stovetop know a strong brand and it is beautiful.
  • Retrofitted Copper up stand – an afterthought design detail to conceal the sink area. A nice fix to a difficult problem.
  • Terrazo Bench top – a milky earthy pink stone, framed by a thick timber edge is just delicious.
  • Routed ply wall – it’s a little rough in some areas, but it sure is pretty.