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52: 33 - Filter

Name: Filter
Address: 555 Collins St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

You know how it used to be, that in Melbourne you could get away with having a terrible fit out for your café as long as you served up an amazing café latte or short macchiato? You know... a few years back now – Gen Y probably weren’t even drinking coffee back then (although they probably started drinking coffee when they were 3).  Well that sh** just ain’t gonna cut it these days!  I mean, just look at Filter.  What – you don’t know Filter? Well get yourself down to the corner of King St and Collins St in the CBD to experience refined and considered café design setting a new standard for the Melbourne café scene.

So what’s good about Filter?  

Those cool guys from Design Office sure know a thing or two about putting together a very well considered space.  Filter by Small Batch inhabit a small space as the only tenant of this existing high rise building in the CBD.  And Design Office has come up with a café that feels both temporary and permanent at the same time.  Filter’s central freestanding joinery and slot together partitions promote an idea of a cafe ready for any move, but the quality of the interior makes it look like a design made to last.

Entering into the Filter space through a giant pivot door every surface, every detail radiates quality.  I’m talking quality design here, and quality finishes – with bespoke detailing to the two main joinery units such as super-sized chamfered corners to all joinery, thin profile corian bench tops topped with warm overhead (almost) task lighting.  Needless to say the real hero of the space is all the timber, in all it’s colourfully stained shades of green, blue and yellow.

All the little elements are also extremely well considered & consistent – no detail big or small is forgotten.  The joinery is beautifully detailed, and is also extremely functional with the inclusion of drawers below the bench top, and subtle folded metal drawers at high usage work areas.  This arrangement shows an understanding of what’s always needed in almost all workspaces, and that’s storage.  Other small details follow this consistency, with the use of acrylic for both signage and display, creating a material palette that is extremely sophisticated, and extremely refined.

There is a beautiful rhythm to the space too – from the slot together walls to the symmetry in the freestanding joinery units, that replicates something that couldn’t be ‘designed’ in the space, but has been cleverly revealed by the designers – the coffered ceiling and painted tile floor.

Circulation throughout Filter is never going to be an issue, this place is quite large – almost too much volume really!  And whilst there is a general work area to the right of the entry, there is also an interesting balance of work/seating around both joinery elements.  It’s a different feeling sitting at these elements, whilst one of the friendly staff stand right beside you concocting the next coffee order.

Filter definitely benefits from good design.  It looks like a space that is easy to keep clean and maintain, and it is all tied together nicely by quality branding and a consistent brand presence from the exterior signage, the information wrapped around the column, information embedded in the benchtop right down to the card wrap around the coffee cups to keep your hand from getting too hot when holding your takeaway coffee.

What could be better about Filter?  

Until recently there was a timber door to the large pivot entry, which has been replaced with a cool steel and glass pivot door.  I actually miss the old darkly stained timber door; no matter how poorly it worked (or how hard it was to open).  And I’m not so sure the colour of the timber to the side benches matches the cool colour palette so rigorously used throughout the rest of the timber.

It’s hard to pick on Filter when it does so much so very well.

What’s its thing?

It’s the complete package really, and there is a lot more we could have written about in this review.  But essentially Filter is about good coffee combined with amazing design sensibility.  However, can I just add that here at Super Tectonics we do love a coffered ceiling, so I’m going to comment on that here because it’s not really an added design element – more of a revealed existing element.

Defining Design Details

  • Timber stained in wonderful colour – Super Tectonics are massive fans of staining timber in colour, whilst maintaining the appearance of the grain.
  • Self Contained Joinery units – it does it all, make coffee at it, display food on it, sit at it or just admire the beautiful detailing of it.
  • Slot together partition walls – they create a rhythm throughout the space, and look to be relatively easy to relocate if Filter ever has to move.
  • Design Restraint – it could have been very easy to fill this large volume with stuff, and a whole bunch of different materials but the spatial planning and material palette of this café show the deft touch of intelligent designers.
  • Acrylic – in a variety of thicknesses but always clear, and always used to emphasize some information or display items without overwhelming them.
  • The branding – this is the complete package, from logo to business card, all the way to external signage and all so sophisticated.   

The lovely thing about Filter is that whenever team Super Tectonics has dropped in for a coffee, it has always felt like a space that we could spend hours in, doing work or just reading the paper whilst sipping a coffee.  It has a feeling of a quiet space, which perhaps comes from the immense volume itself.  It’s ethereal, almost a religious experience.  Which is why it’s perfect in a city that worships coffee.