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52: 36 - When Joni met Mary

Name: When Joni met Mary
Address: 14A Luxton Rd, South Yarra Victoria
Owned by: Joni & Mary
Design by: Alex Lake from Therefore

Super Tectonics is getting pretty good out sniffing out new cafes around our neighbourhood.  They tend to inhabit areas around train stations, just off main streets and attract a local crowd.  So this week we turned off the main street (Williams Rd) and stumbled across When Joni met Mary (WJMM).  And when we went inside this humble little café, we were met with an incredibly warm greeting and a level of service that makes you instantly feel like you’re welcome to stay at WJMM for as long as you like!

So what’s good about When Joni met Mary?

We do love a good trackside café that caters for the coffee needs of the local community.  But taking over a space that used to be a café isn’t an easy task.  But in the 16 weeks that WJMM has been open, Joni and Mary have gotten to know many of the locals, who are slowly becoming regulars.  And it’s no wonder – entering into WJMM there is a wonderfully light atmosphere from the abundance of natural light entering through the shopfront windows to the super friendly staff.

WJMM isn’t a large space, catering for about 12 people outside and 16 people inside (plus a few more if you are comfortable cozying up nice and close to your friends).  This is a good size space, easy to manage with a small staff and easy to make sure that everyone is comfortable and get good service.  WJMM has also hit on what Super Tectonics calls the magic-combination-for-interior-design in their material palette.  Sealed concrete floors, white painted brick walls (good move getting rid of the plasterboard by the way!), splashes of black used in joinery and timber table tops and seats with one colour – blue.  The main counter is tiled in a beautiful light blue tile and the chairs have a dark blue powdercoat finish, it’s all very sophisticated.

We should also mention that the white walls are broken up with the use of timber dowels – a current design trend.  The dowel serves multiple purposes as shelf holder, light rail, element to wrap cord around for lighting, and supposedly plant holders – although they were installed a little too low so currently have no plants suspended from them.  Haven’t we seen this idea somewhere before?

What is obvious from this fit out is some of the clever design decisions.  The surfaces selected are all hardwearing, easy to clean and can handle a spill here or there without it showing.  And we are super impressed with the humble use of IKEA products!  Most designers and architects are usually the first people to thumb their noses at the world’s largest furniture manufacturer.  But amongst a lot of the crap IKEA sell there is some definite gems, and the use of super basic black metal stools from IKEA along with some of the standard IKEA desk legs in black too make for an incredibly cost effective, well designed space.  And it’s so refreshing going to a café that doesn’t have replica Tolix stools!

What could be better about When Joni met Mary? 

We’ve said it time and time again that getting the downlow on what’s not so good straight from the people that work there is always the best.  And in my discussions briefly with both Joni and Mary they commented on just a few small things.  As mentioned, the timber dowel that is supposed to have plants hanging from it, is just a bit low.  But it seems relatively easy to install a few more at the right height to fit this purpose.

At some stage Joni and Mary think they’d like to upgrade the point of sale register too.  It’s a bit large and takes up too much counter space. An ipad style small footprint POS would free up some space and make it harder for staff to hide behind.

The blackboard wall behind the counter currently acts as the menu, which is ok in such a small space.  However, the swirly outlines to the different parts of the menu don’t seem to match entirely the simple design of the rest of the space.  Again, this is a small detail and nothing that needs urgent attention to rectify.

BUT, what Joni, Mary and myself all identified was a lack of complete identity!  They have a very fun hand made logo, and it’s on the windows and signage outside but there is no business card, nor is there any printed menu in case you are outside or facing away from the blackboard wall.  However, our enterprising conversation may lead to Super Tectonics helping Joni and Mary create these elements to complete the brand package and we think it’ll help bring in more customers and convert occasional customers into regulars.

What’s its thing?

WJMM hits the mark on so many different little things.  It’s just of the main street.  It’s just close enough to the station.  It’s just big enough to have space for a few groups, but just small enough to manage with a small staff and maintain a great atmosphere.  And it’s just the kind of café that has not gone overboard with design ideas, but the key elements all work so well together.  So is that one thing?  Or a combination of so many little things?

Defining Design Details

  • The magic material palette – black, white, natural material (timber and concrete) and one colour… blue.
  • Tiles to the counter – they are just a wonderful shade of blue and the matte chalky finish to them make you just want to run your hand over them.  (Or is that just us Design Nerds who do that)
  • Timber dowels – those multipurpose dowels create a variety of design elements all linked together with this simple element.
  • IKEA stuff – some good choices that no one would ever know have been sourced from the Swedish furniture heavyweight.

When Joni met Mary is the kind of place Super Tectonics enjoys returning to time after time for coffee after coffee (no loyalty card needed here).  It’s that rich combination of good atmosphere, good food and fantastic staff.  What was most interesting was finding out that Joni and Mary engaged the services of a local architect – Alex Lake – a name we here at Super Tectonics weren’t familiar with.  But a simple google search and a look on his company website and we were in fact very familiary with his work.  Alex and his company Therefore, designed Tall Timber! No wonder we are fans of WJMM too.