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
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Melbourne-based architecture and interior design firm Ritz & Ghougassian is behind the polished 130-seat space, and were briefed to create a clean, but high-impact look.

637 High Street, Thornbury

Via Porta


Winner of the Best Café Design award at the 2019 Eat Drink Design Awards.

677 Whitehorse Road, Mont Albert

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

First Love Coffee


A slick specialty coffee bar by the Rustica Team. Pop by for a smooth locally roasted brew and a grab-and-go egg-and-bacon roll, then take in the peach-terracotta terrazzo and striking green marble of the pretty room – designed by architect Fiona Drago.

Shop 4/447 Collins Street, Melbourne



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

Ona Coffee


Although most of the headlines surrounding Ona rightfully focus on its coffee, we think the fit-out at the Melbourne flagship is worth calling out, too. The understated, timber-heavy design by Breathe help make the space as welcoming as it is.

22 Ovens Street, Brunswick

Sensory Lab Collins Street


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

Shop 1 30 Collins Street, Melbourne



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

1 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

Arepa Days


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

25 Preston Street, Preston



This design from the seasoned team at Flack Studio is all about modern Italian elegance. Marble, dark timber and lipstick-red leather upholstery are the starts of the show.

1 York Street, Fitzroy North
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A white-and-blue space by Ewert Leaf.

6 Railway Parade, Murrumbeena

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

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
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The Penny Drop


A house of prosperity and poached eggs serving modern Asian-Australian cuisine on Whitehorse Road.

913 Whitehorse Road, Box Hill

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

Nine Yards


At this South Melbourne spot, the interior sports terracotta-pink columns and floor-to-ceiling eucalyptus-green cabinets. Large windows let natural light into the 140-seat space, and you’ll find native flora all over the room.

228-230 Dorcas Street, South Melbourne

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

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



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

Mister Hoffman


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

85A Hoffmans Road, Niddrie

Cafe Louis


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

93 Moor Street, Fitzroy
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An old mechanic's garage turned into a pastel- and plant-heavy paradise by Mim Design.

27-29 Nicholson Street, Abbotsford

Terror Twilight


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

11-13 Johnston Street, Collingwood



As regal as the name suggests, this striking all-day spot by the owners of grab-and-go sandwich shop Earl Canteen is one of Melbourne’s most beautiful cafes. But this is a place you’ll want to linger – with mighty muffulettas, reimagined caesar salads and spicy Bloody Marys.

Atrium Entry 35 Collins Street, Melbourne