85 High St, Northcote VIC

In a city full of cafés and, likewise, of caffeine addicts, it takes clever design to be the pick of the bunch. Joining the family started by Touchwood and Pillar of Salt is Barry, which has been set up in a Victorian-era corner-shop café space. The look, created by Melbourne studio Techne, is all about being open to the world outside. “Honesty, simplicity and an upfront nature about the place,” says Techne’s Alex Lake.

Clean, white walls and ceilings, nifty custom shelving, communal tables and plants keep the interior fresh and airy, an effect amplified by natural light pouring in through the redesigned, large windows.

“The old shopfront had limited windows and dark timber panelling,” Lake continues. “Opening the whole thing right up with glazing and operable windows, so that particularly in the warmer months that facade can open right up and you can literally interact through it, through sight and sound — and maybe if you’re lucky, a whiff of breakfast — that promotes engagement between those in the restaurant and those outside it.” There is also a park bench just outside Barry on the footpath, which provides an extra little bit of community spirit, allowing diners and passers-by to interact.

Owner/operator Loren McBride’s favourite aspects of Barry’s design are its brightness and openness. “Before the build I was so worried that we wouldn’t be able to brighten the place up enough because it was so dark inside,” she remarks. “But the amazing windows and door have really done their job. I also love the lime wash timber used for the bar and communal tables, as well as the concrete slabs laid in the bar for the coffee machine and the display area.”

One element attracts a bit of extra attention: “The most frequent comments we get are about the shelves,” says McBride. “Customers love the shelving!”

Lake cites the custom shelving system as an example of Techne’s approach to thoughtful and functional design at Barry. “It fits perfectly along the wall, and interacts with the columns and the services on that wall,” he says. “It bends around everything and it ends up fitting perfectly. It works specifically as designed for that space.” He explains that in contrast to certain Melbourne cafe design that is “just trying to be different”, the interior design at Barry is genuine and useful. “That’s what we’re trying to achieve with a design like that — not to have anything overbearingly different. There’s some kind of integrity in the gestures.”


Light Project (Lighting): (03) 8415 1970 or
Temperature Design (Furniture): (03) 9419 1447 or
JR Richardson (Furniture): (03) 9428 1621 or

– Lucie Robson

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