Not so long ago, a DIY paint job and some cheap second-hand furniture was enough to open a cafe.

How things have changed.

Cafes have arguably overtaken restaurants as the focal point for Melbourne’s collective design talent. Today’s designers work with marble, brass, hardwood, imported tiles and six-figure budgets.

With so many talented architects and interior designers on the scene, it takes a lot to stand out. Many cafes just slip into the derivative pool of polished timber, white subway tiles and hanging Edison bulbs.

Or did, back in 2015. The current “it” look involves rounded edges, lots of plants, metallic highlights and dusky “millennial pink”. Some of our choices include these elements – trends have to start somewhere – but on the whole these interiors are strikingly unique.

Related Pages
Best Cafes in Melbourne
Best Coffee in Melbourne
Best Breakfast in Melbourne

Lagotto

Flack Studio is behind the interiors at this all-day Italian restaurant and cafe. The fit-out is all about lipstick-red leather couches, marble counters and burnished timber tables.

1 York Street, Fitzroy North

Higher Ground

Try not to crick your neck as you take in the 15-metre-high ceilings in this former power station, outfitted by DesignOffice.

650 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
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Vacation

Thank Therefore Studio for this pastel-driven, Miami Vice-like fit-out.

1 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

Bawa

Named after Geoffrey Bawa, a Sri Lankan architect who popularised “tropical modernism”, which blends buildings with the natural landscape. Executed by Foolscap Studio.

248 Burwood Road, Hawthorn

Vertue Coffee Roasters

An old stable converted with help from Two Design. We're particular fans of the circular-saw-shaped stools by local woodworker Michael Kelly and the brassy dodecahedron light fittings.

8 Raffa Place, Carlton

Arepa Days

This yellow, white and aqua colour palette is so cheerful, it's almost therapeutic.

25 Preston Street, Preston

Sensory Lab Collins Street

Foolscap Studio's boxy white spaceship with a cork interior.

Shop 1 30 Collins Street, Melbourne

Abacus Bar & Kitchen

These 7.5-metre-high ceilings must have been an inspiring canvas for Architects EAT, which filled the space with white-veined marble. Our favourite feature? The tall fig tree in the middle of the room.

383 Chapel Street, South Yarra
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Sloane Ranger

Finally, a cafe brave enough to ditch whites and pastels in favour of moody olive-green and grey curtains. Another winner from Architects EAT.

13 Cremorne Street, Cremorne

The Kettle Black

The way this space transitions from a modern apartment foyer to a Victorian terrace is something else. Then there's the brass and mint-green accents. Kudos, Studio You Me.

50 Albert Road, South Melbourne

Mister Hoffman

This Joanne Motee interior won a global design award in 2016. We can see why.

85A Hoffmans Road, Niddrie

No. 19

Biasol is behind this mix of polished concrete floors, bulbous brass lamps and turquoise tiles inspired by Melbourne's 1950s Greek delicatessens.

214 Union Road, Ascot Vale

Grub Fitzroy

This greenhouse doesn't need an expensive fit-out to look good. It's accumulated years of personality courtesy of owners Tim Mann and Mark Murphy, including a wrought-iron fish pond and heaps of vintage curios.

87-89 Moor Street, Fitzroy

Cafe Louis

Originally city stables, then an art gallery, this Moor Street site is a beautiful place for brunch.

93 Moor Street, Fitzroy

Acoffee

There's nothing too fancy here. Just lots and lots and lots of white. But the commitment to that "theme" is impressive – it's like stepping inside a fluorescent bulb.

30 Sackville Street, Collingwood

AU79

An old mechanic's garage turned into a pastel- and plant-heavy paradise by Mim Design.

27-29 Nicholson Street, Abbotsford
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Kitty Burns

Biasol's cubbyhouse theme is subtle but gives Kitty Burns a unique, whimsical feel.

24 Acacia Place, Abbotsford

Terror Twilight

The most understated spot on this list, but with plenty of lived-in Art-Deco charm.

11-13 Johnston Street, Collingwood