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52: 03 - The Stables of Como

Name: The Stables of Como
Address: Como House & Garden. Cnr Williams Road & Lechlade Avenue, South Yarra
Served by: Katherine
Design by: Owners 

Continuing the theme from Project 52:02, team Super Tectonics stays local this week and takes a stroll to a hidden gem in the leafy suburb of South Yarra. When visiting The Stables of Como, or simply "The Stables" as it has become known as,  you feel a million miles away despite being a stones throw from the Melbourne city fringe.

So what’s good about The Stables? 

First and foremost, it’s located within the gorgeous grounds of the historic Como House and Gardens. So before or after your café visit, you can take a stroll around the gardens, peruse the 160 year old mansion and be surrounded by horticultural and architectural history #design nerd heaven! 

But gardens aside, the obvious lovely feature of this café is the fact that yes you guessed it, the café is housed in an old Stable, and once inside the vaulted ceiling is the cafés crowning glory - it doesn’t get your attention immediately, but that’s why it works. Add to this the magic of a delightfully angled skylight that spotlights whomever sits below it and the natural light flooding this particular section of the café is just divine. 

Now lighting can difficult to get right, and here at Super Tectonics we have a deep-seeded hatred of down lights and their unnecessary overuse. But oddly enough, the Stables has a huge amount of down lights but you don;t actually notice this. The  skylight is a significant contributing factor to this – your eye is distracted by it and the light it delivers. 

The Stables uses some great Industrial light fittings. The three pendants over the coffee zone are perfect; matching the beautiful green coffee machine, the green coffee sauces, the green foliage – it seems like too much green, but it just works. And, the five pendants hanging over the reclaimed green timber display counter highlighting an undulating landscape of sweet treats in delicate vessels and beautiful glassware is pure perfection. But when we add five and three (pendants) together this equals overkill. Next time exercise restraint and retain the pendants over the food display for maximum visual impact. 

From a planning perspective, The Stables ticks all the right boxes. Great entry, identifiable counter, coffee waiting area and a variety of seating inside and out. But a cleaver feature which I am sure is often overlooked is a folded timber room divider which screens the entry from the main seating area. With glass panels removed sporadically from it’s folds, these windows  provide curious framed glimpses through to the high bar area - a simple resolution of zoning that doesn’t require a solid partition. Tidy. 

Lastly, the Stables branding is refined and fitting for the location. The menu is an extension of this with gorgeous florals and serif text mirroring the palette of materials and historical nature of the site. The only fault we could find – the menu says Spring 2013. Come on it’s summer, lets update! 

What could be better about The Stable? 

THE ACOUSTICS!!! If the food wasn’t so damn good, Super Tectonics would never go back to this place as the acoustics are sickening. When you combine laughing Toorak ladies with a coffee grinder, open kitchen and full café of people, the decibels are out of control. Some serious acoustic treatment is required, but in saying that it doesn't seem to be affecting business. 

The Stables have perfected the shabby-farm-chic-garden aesthetic however the industrial high bar in the waiting area seems at odd with the rest of the café – a big old farmyard timber table would be perfect in it's place, setting the mood as the first furniture item you see.  

The hessian cushions for use as a back rest against the wall are awkward. Invest instead in some quality seat cushions or upholstered seat pads - although this may make people stay longer which cafes typically these days don’t want. 

There is a nifty little pass through window from the coffee counter to the wet area of the kitchen appropriately concealing all the mess but the plastic rubbish bins in full view are disappointing. Given how perfectly preened everything else is, you notice this immediately and it’s messy. 

What’s its thing?

Just like it’s neighbour historic Como house, The Stables has aged very well. Sure it’s only be opened since mid 2013, but hospitality venues take a beating and it’s actually a very smart design move to create an aesthetic like this. It’s materiality, the palette of finishes, the architecture, the skeleton – all of these components have the farmhouse, aged feel and thus any additional wear and tear simply adds to this rich patina. 

Defining Design Details 

  • Industrial Green Pendants. Yes, there are too many of them, but they are still bloody amazing.
  • Supersized Artwork – A great way to break up a bland wall and once the lease is over you can take it with you!
  • Skylight –  Natural light just makes spaces feel nice.
  • Aged Patina – It’s aged beautifully and hides a multitude of hospitality sins.
  • Green – lovely vases of ferns and flowers just work well.
  • Wall of Joinery – Displaying café product in an organised colour palette. The neatness very much appeals to my OCD tendencies! 

The Stables owners are from the ICKE & IGBY management group and it’s interesting to note that they also created Friends of Mine in Richmond, Hawthorns Porgie + Mr. Jones and Snow Pony in Deepdene.