A bright and social home inspired by cafe culture

This house in Melbourne is inspired by the city’s cafe scene and has a bright and friendly neighbourhood vibe, with colourful, communal spaces for entertaining friends and family.

  • A bright and social home inspired by cafe culture

  • A bright and social home inspired by cafe culture

  • A bright and social home inspired by cafe culture

Home Type: Landed property in Melbourne

Text by Rebecca Gross

Photography by Emma Cross


More and more, global cafe culture is serving as inspiration for home interior design in modern cities. The design of this eco-friendly house in Coburg, Melbourne is one fine example.

Inspired by Melbourne’s world-renowned cafe culture, Laneway House been designed by Zen Architects with a communal, colourful and sustainable approach.



Home to a couple and their beloved dog, the new house is “smarter, not bigger”, compared to their previous weatherboard cottage that lacked functional space, sunlight and indoor-outdoor connection. Architect Luke Rhodes tells that the couple wanted a home that “would allow them to live with a better connection to the environment while reducing energy and water use, and one that would support their love of entertaining”.

In this household, relationships with relatives and friends are fostered through the shared enjoyment of food and drink – and especially coffee.



Zen Architects reconfigured and modernised the front rooms of the existing house and added a rear extension to take advantage of the northern orientation and laneway access.

Drawing on the couple’s appreciation for eating and drinking with others, the architect looked to Melbourne’s cafe culture for inspiration and incorporated distinct functional and aesthetic elements. The kitchen, living, and indoor and outdoor dining areas flow into each other for communal enjoyment. While the kitchen has a bar area and servery to the outside, a pergola, with the beginnings of a grape vine, defines the outdoor dining space, and the car porch offers an additional gathering area and laneway access.



The mix of old and new materials similarly reflects those used in Melbourne’s neighbourhood cafes, and includes an exposed recycled brick wall,  recycled light fittings, bi-fold steel-framed glass doors, steel-framed windows and Art Deco doors.



“The materials we use often have stories of their own that imbue another layer of meaning and beauty in our architecture,” Luke explains. Yellow joinery, tiled backsplash and exterior trim are joyful and welcoming, and the FSC-certified plywood is warm and tactile with the lowered ceiling above the daybed creating an intimate area inside. Furniture and fabrics have a mid-century vibe and the New York subway sign in the living room complements the black subway tiles in the bathroom.


habitus living laneway house zen architects veranda edited

Ecologically sustainable design principles played an important role in Zen Architects’ approach to the house, including orienting the living areas to the north and minimising glazing to the south, east and west. Louvres allow cross ventilation; the exposed concrete slab offers thermal mass; angled eaves block summer sun and allow winter sun; and the pergola will shade the lower windows once the grape vine matures.

Like Melbourne’s much-loved cafes, Laneway House has a bright and friendly neighbourhood vibe where friends and family are welcomed with open arms to enjoy some of the best company and coffee in town.


More about Zen Architects here.



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