Wooden furniture features in Melbourne's Prior cafe

Ritz & Ghougassian uses bricks and Australian wood inside Melbourne's Prior cafe

The rustic materiality of this Melbourne cafe designed by architecture studio Ritz & Ghougassian is meant to reflect the fuss-free dishes on the menu.

Prior is situated along the lively high street of Melbourne's Thornbury suburb, taking over a building that once served as an industrial printing house.

Prior cafe in Melbourne features brick-lined interiors
Prior cafe occupies a building that was once a printing house

When Ritz & Ghougassian were brought on board to develop the interiors of the cafe, it stripped back any decorative elements left behind from the old fit-out, only preserving the brick walls and eight-metre-high truss ceiling.

"It was clear to us that we had to honour the original space by proposing an intervention that sat apart from the original framework of the building," the studio's co-founder, Jean-Paul Ghougassian, told Dezeen.

Wooden furniture features in Melbourne's Prior cafe
Bricks cover the cafe's floor and the base of the service bar

The space now features just a handful of elements made from unfussy materials that reflect the simple "paddock-to-plate" ethos that Prior applies to its menu.

Bricks run across the floor and form the base of the service bar that lies on one side of the room.

Apricot-hued concrete forms the upper half of the bar and the chunky ledge that runs around its outer side, providing a place for customers to rest beverages or snacks.

The hot drinks menu is presented on a mirrored panel behind the bar. It stands beside a single shelf that displays a curated selection of wine or bags of coffee which are available to buy.

Prior cafe in Melbourne features brick-lined interiors
Apricot-hued concrete forms the top of the service bar

"Honest, elegant and refined flavours informed the built environment; by taking a reductive approach to the design both in materiality and form ultimately allowed the food to be the hero," Ghougassian explained.

"Rather than simply creating a slick new eatery, there's a warmth and richness to the space, celebrating the unevenness and rough textures of the walls and floors."

Wooden furniture features in Melbourne's Prior cafe
Seating throughout the cafe is crafted from Australian Blackbutt wood

Customers can alternatively dine at the black-steel counters that have been built into the cafe's front windows or along the seating banquette that runs along the far side of the room, upholstered in chestnut-brown leather.

The banquette faces onto a row of dining tables which, along with the cafe's bench-style seats and stools, have been crafted from Australian Blackbutt wood.

"Like much of our work, using materials that are locally sourced and manufactured is important to us – this brings about an authenticity and specificity to the design that isn't easily replicated," added Ghougassian.

Prior cafe in Melbourne features brick-lined interiors
There's also a brown-leather seating banquette

At the centre of the floor plan is a box filled with timber logs and a wood burner that the studio hopes will serve as a comforting focal point of the cafe, especially during the chilly winter months.

Surrounding walls and the ceiling were freshened up with a coat of white paint.

Wooden furniture features in Melbourne's Prior cafe
A wood burner sits at the centre of the cafe

Ritz & Ghougassian was founded in 2016 by Jean-Paul Ghougassian and Gilad Ritz. Prior isn't the only cafe that the studio has designed in its home city of Melbourne – back in 2018 it completed Bentwood, which boasts brick-red interiors.

In 2017, the studio also created Penta, a minimal cafe that features concrete, terrazzo and silver-metal surfaces.

Photography is by Tom Ross.

More images and plans

Prior cafe in Melbourne by Ritz & Ghougassian
Floor plan
Prior cafe in Melbourne by Ritz & Ghougassian
Diagram
Prior cafe in Melbourne features brick-lined interiors
Wooden furniture features in Melbourne's Prior cafe