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Cafe creates big impact with its small spaces

Many would have stopped at this point, added a few tables and chairs and then described the look as ‘rustic’.

However, Kounnapis was keen to place No. 179 (after its street address) in a context that celebrated more than the views over the gardens.

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On the next block to the restaurant/cafe are the distinctive high-rise apartments designed by architect Robin Boyd in 1962.

One of Melbourne’s first high-rise towers, they must have certainly divided the community at the time, still primarily one and two-storey terraces and apartments.

“I took my design cue from looking at the philosophy of Aldo Rossi (an eminent Italian architect) who often talked about the memory of a city and the influence from the more recent past,” says Kounnapis, who, like many architects, has Boyd’s Domain Park Flats well-embedded in his psyche.

Proto-Tipo used Boyd’s treatment of the exterior, including windows and balconies, along with the lift shafts to create a secondary timber layer on the two main walls.

The apertures allow the roses to appear (at night illuminated) and the balconies are finished with brass rails to allow wine to be displayed.

“Storage was an issue for our clients. This allows them to display everything from wine through to crystal accoutrements,” says Kounnapis.

He also created a separate bar for a fuller wine display, integrating this with the Italian coffee machine that’s perched on the staggered brass bench.

“It’s an abstracted composition of a wine bar, but considerably more condensed.”

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The kitchen is just as efficient, with its jowl-by-jowl stainless steel shelves and benches, together with all of its commercial appliances.

As the cafe/restaurant is only 3.5 metres in width, the arrangement of furniture, both the built-in banquette seating and loose tables and chairs, had to be exact with not a centimetre to spare.

“There just wasn’t sufficient room to put banquette seating on either side and still have sufficient room for staff to easily move through,” says Kounnapis, who inserted some of the tabletops into ‘Boyd’s’ high-rise profile.

“I love film noir which was also an inspiration,” says Kounnapis, who unlike many young designers refrains from looking at Pinterest.

“I wanted this place to have a certain mood, but also feel like it’s integral to the neighbourhood.

It is, in a way, a time machine but still relevant today.”

Those who want an experience, as well as a light meal, will enjoy the Italian ambience of No.179.

There’s a sense of La Dolce Vita from the 1950s with a touch of elegance, like Boyd’s apartments from the early 1960s.

But it’s also a timely reminder that some of the most memorable designs come from one’s memory of the more recent past.

“It would have been just as easy to whitewash the entire place white and add some marble. But what would that say?” says Kounnapis.

Certainly not much!

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