Bentwood Cafe by Ritz & Ghougassian

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    After touring the home of Julien and Kristy-Lea Moussi by Ritz & Ghougassian inside issue #32, we take a look at how their Bentwood Cafe reflects the same exceptional quality of design. 

    A short stroll down a leafy side street off Fitzroy’s Brunswick street in Melbourne’s north is where you’ll find Bentwood Cafe. It’s not on a main drag – but by no means does it attract any less attention. That’s because it’s the most recent hospitality collaboration between Melbourne’s famed cafe owners Julien and Kristy-Lea Moussi and Directors of local firm Ritz & Ghougassian, Gilad Ritz and Jean-Paul Ghougassian. The friends successfully teamed up to bring this extra special eatery to life, by drawing on the rich history and materiality of its landmark building. 

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    As we touched on inside issue #32, Bentwood Cafe takes its name from the iconic Bentwood Chair by Thonet – who’s showroom operated out of this iconic red brick and stucco building. It was here Julien purchased the Bentwood chair for his first cafe and previous to this, it was home to the furniture workshop CF Rojo & Sons. With craftsmanship running through the building’s veins, it was essential they pay homage to what was before. 

    “My brief was to create something raw yet refined, and something people hadn’t seen before, in keeping with what was here originally,” Julien Moussi said. He mentions the extent of what has been left untreated in keeping with the Fitzroyian landscape, down to the graffiti on the walls and the paint colour used prominently throughout being Burning Brier, to mimic the colour of steel primer. Other considered details include the brass plates in the bricked flooring, referencing Thonet. 

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    “Design is so important. There’s so many cafes and food and beverage places – we’re probably at the highest density in the world per capita for cafes in Melbourne. Having Bentwood on a side street we knew that we had to make some noise to get people to come here.”

    – Owner Julien Moussi

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    The warm, consistent material palette was informed by the heritage facade and the surrounding environment. Ritz & Ghougassian stuck to red-pressed bricks and buttery leather custom seating, segmenting the space with locally-sourced Blackbutt timber. The steel ceiling was one of the most challenging yet rewarding design decisions in Bentwood Cafe, engineered to create pockets of light and shade, volume and intimacy.

    One of the great things about hospitality projects like Bentwood Cafe is the ability to experience Ritz & Ghougassian’s design work and watching it evolve over time. As Julien admits, every time he goes to Bentwood Cafe he appreciates a different detail. We recommend you go and appreciate this Melbourne brunch spot for yourself too – functionally, aesthetically and gastronomically. 

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