The fitout of Mister and Miss Café suits its demographic – families – but that hasn’t limited its creative design.

Operating as a garage since 1959, with the last operator being JATT Automotive Centre, the building now has a new soul as Mister and Miss Café.

Located at 711 Whitehorse Road, Mont Albert, the rudimentary structure has been completely transformed by architect Maria Danos. While the steel trusses and wired glass remain, the pokey front door and its adjacent steel roller door have completely disappeared.

For owners Dennis Chronis and his business partner Christina Panettieri, the 300 square-metre building offered an opportunity to provide a considerably larger and informal café experience on the busy 109-tram route.

“We wanted to respect the history of the building, but our clientele are not the inner-city hipsters. We were looking for a more family-orientated environment, one that suited our demographics,” says Chronis.

While the building’s saw-tooth roof and orientation (south to west) offered opportunities to create a family-style café, Danos was mindful of integrating the past with the present. “I wanted to strengthen the connection to the outdoors, to the south (Whitehorse Road) and to the north (the presence of a neighbour’s established fig tree),” says Danos.

The front façade has been completely reworked by Danos, including the insertion of large windows fitted with built-in benches. A set of steel doors encased in steel, welcomes patrons. And inside, there’s a transparency and lightness that carries the eye from front of house to the rear courtyard-style garden.

“I wanted to make the space welcoming. But I was extremely conscious of the planning from the outset,” says Danos, who retained many of the buildings original features such as the saw-tooth ceiling and exposed brick walls.

So rather than just one style of seating, there are several. A more contained dining area that accommodates up to 12 people includes an open fireplace. And on the other side of the café is banquette-style seating, upholstered with racing green leather.

“I took some of my cues from the car industry,” says Danos, pointing out the green tiles used for the bar front and the curved perforated steel covers used to diffuse the LED lights. Other seating areas include small bar-style benches and stools, while others allow for family groups.

“There seemed to be an opportunity in Mont Albert to provide something that was larger and could cater for up to 100 people,” says Panettieri.

The outdoor areas of the café take in some of the spillover guests. The façade, for example, has been cleverly reworked to include a built-in timber bench that blends in with the chairs and tables adjacent to the pavement. And in the rear courtyard, there’s additional seating under large market umbrellas. “Previously, the outdoor space was simply used for ditching spare car parts,” says Danos.

To create a more sophisticated and less gritty environment, Danos used a simple palette of materials: polished concrete floors, hardwood, off-formed fluted concrete for part of the bar front and terrazzo tiles for feature walls.

“I wanted to keep the palette of materials quite simple, materials that also add a sense of warmth,” says Danos.

Creating a hipster-style venue was not on the agenda either for Danos or her clients. What appeals to customers in bars and cafes along Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, wouldn’t immediately appeal to those living in Mont Albert or its environs. “We didn’t want to disguise the building’s past. But it’s now certainly far from raw,” Danos says.

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