July 26, 2021

Fiona Drago Architect Crafts a Terrazzo-filled Flagship for Melbourne Coffee Shop

“Color is a very important component in this project,” Drago says. The flooring, Signorino Mornington terrazzo tile, sweeps up the walls to reflect the greenery of the park while the alcoves feature a rosy Fibonacci Stone Fatima’s Reflection terrazzo tile. Photography by Rebecca Newman. 

When it came to designing First Love Coffee’s first retail location, inspiration quickly brewed. Australians take their coffee seriously, and thus the pink and green tones of raw coffee beans are behind the palette for the brand’s Melbourne City Center location within the new Collins Arch development. The high-end storefront features three sides of floor-to-ceiling glass and views of the adjacent park. For such a prominent location, architect Fiona Drago knew the design would have to be top shelf.

Drago has worked alongside owners, renowned baker Brenton Lang and Andrew Gibbs, who opened Rustica Sourdough in Fitzroy in 2012, for nearly a decade and was happy to help the duo show off their passion for well-crafted interiors, sustainability, and of course, thoughtfully produced food and drink. What pairs better with Rustica pastries than locally brewed coffee?

Drago used the small layout as an opportunity, carving cutouts lined with LED ribbons, which also hide the plumbing and electrical work underneath. “We wanted to mix in retail with the menu to give an experience that wasn’t so compartmentalized,” Drago says. Photography by Rebecca Newman.

As First Love occupies the front tenancy, a compact 559-square-foot rectangular narrowing to just eight-and-a-half feet at certain points, the brand’s appreciation for minimally processed, recyclable materials was highlighted through clever space planning and dramatic tonality. Like Italian espresso bars, First Love Coffee has no seating but rather a timber bar for patrons who wish to enjoy their coffee with views of the greenery beyond and, to further make use of the tight layout, Drago intentionally steered away from partitions or full-height cabinetry. United by its harmonious palette, Drago aimed to venerate the coffee  experience through an integrative and intuitive retail locale.

The cabinets are brushed copper, while the Verde Alpi green marble plays off the terrazzo creating a unified vision. Photography by Rebecca Newman. 
One element of the brief included an acoustic ceiling, thus Drago leaned on a unique product—a lightweight British cork tile for a three-dimensional look. Photography by Rebecca Newman.
The minimal green, pink, and sand scheme is accented by mini copper spotlights from Artefact Industries and locally-made Anchor Ceramics Earth pendants. Photography by Rebecca Newman.
While guests wait to place their coffee order, they can enjoy self-serve sparkling water. Photography by Rebecca Newman.

Recent Projects