Melbourne’s top retail outlets, bars, cafes and restaurants once again went head to head with venues nationwide to compete for the Australian Interior Design Awards 2014.

This year Figureground Architecture took the top gong for Hospitality Design for its work on Industry Beans in Fitzroy, a cafe, roastery and cupping lab that, despite its industrial aesthetic, manages a warm, sunlit interior. High commendations for the category also went to Ruyi, a modern dumpling house fitted by Hecker Guthrie with cool timber and muted reds and yellows.

The award for Retail Design went to Adriano Zumbo’s space in South Yarra, designed by Elenberg Fraser. The project was taken on by the firm as part of an annual graduate school program, and was spearheaded by a team of junior architects and designers who were given free reign on the front-of-house fit-out. The result is a decadent den of pink neon, reflective surfaces and sugar-encrusted furniture.

Hassell’s Urban Coffee Farm and Brew Bar, constructed in Southbank as part of the 2013 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, took home two awards for Installation Design and Sustainability Advancement. The pop-up plantation acted as a hub for the 2013 festival and hosted Melbourne’s coffee heavyweights including St ALi, Monk Bodhi Dharma and Proud Mary.

Speaking to jury member Ryan Russell of architecture firm Russell & George, we ask what it takes to make it as a finalist.

“They must have a cohesive vision of service, offer and design,” Russell explains. “They have to attract interest and attention. They need to be well resolved and communicate what the offer is about. Put simply, you need to look at a venue and want to go there.”

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Russell adds that a potential winner has to be a space that, “Amplifies what it has on offer” through attention to detail and thinking about how patrons engage with staff and the space.

“The venues are certainly becoming more varied from one to the next, with many different offers coming into focus. With shows such as Masterchef and the like being so culturally prevalent, the patron expectation on service and delivery has been elevated. This expectation has a knock-on effect into interior design where the same expectations are applied.”

This list of year’s winners is a sign that Melbourne venues are continuing to raise the bar, not only by making a great product, but by creating spaces to linger in too.