Dion Hall is the first to admit designing the interior for cafe and modern deli Yardmill in Toorak was not without its challenges. “At just under four metres wide, the space is very narrow,” says the cofounder of Projects of Imagination. “It’s also incredibly small.” The fit-out, however, makes the most of the compact floor plan, accommodating both a kitchen and grocer.

Owner Tracey Sisson’s brief emphasised the need for an efficient back-of-house, because the majority of food on offer (salads, soups and hearty, readymade meals) is made on-site. In response, Hall sliced the floor plan in half, positioning the kitchen at the rear of the interior. This division of space gives chef Sven Schroeder ample room in which to work, without compromising the front-of-house layout.

To make the grocer appear larger than it actually is, Hall was careful not to over-embellish the space. Instead he chose an organic material palette, minimising the colour arrangement with the use of light, neutral tones. The fit-out’s most resounding design expression is undoubtedly the bespoke clay wall tiles by local ceramicist Shane Kent, installed as shingles in neat rows from floor to ceiling.

It’s a clever design device that not only appeals because of its refined, handmade aesthetic, but because it also “opens up” the tunnel-like space by making the walls appear to splay outward. Such artisanal detail exemplifies the level of craftsmanship in Yardmill’s finishes and signals an integral part of Hall’s overarching design concept.

“We’re continually engaging with local makers and artists on all our projects,” he says. “And in this case, we felt that a great way of communicating the qualities behind Tracey’s product and what she is trying to achieve was by working closely with farmers, who are artisans themselves.”

This respect for the produce is further reiterated in Kent’s bespoke food vessels, of which he has created a different collection for each season. These variously shaped bowls and plates have a clean, carefully considered rustic charm to them, and succeed in bringing the natural, “grounded” qualities of the farm to a busy urban environment.

Neatly breaking up the ceramic details are honey-coloured timber accents in the form of wooden display boards and leaning ladder shelves. These have been crafted by Alastair Bowell from the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking and continue the farm theme while providing elegant points of visual interest throughout the front-of-house grocer.

The interior’s fit-out may seem to have an “Australian flavour” to it, but Hall is hesitant to say it has a particularly Australian design vernacular. “I don’t think we’re necessarily drawing on any heritage design,” he says. “It’s more about looking at the ‘deli’ typology in a very different light and removing the strong, typical European accents we often see around Melbourne in order to establish a new approach to this type of setting.”

It’s a surprisingly bright space, considering the only source of natural light is through the façade. But Hall’s material palette allows both sunlight and the overhead spotlights to reflect off the surfaces, which seem all the more generous for their lack of embellishment. Yardmill may be domestic in scale, but its fine food offering and highly crafted fit-out makes for an experience that is as refined as it is inviting.

Yardmill Kitchen & Grocery
434 Toorak Road, Toorak
(03) 9939 4639

Mon to Fri 8am–8pm
Sat 9am–6pm