The OHLO Studio designed Willing Cafe in Guildford, Western Australia. Image: Supplied.
  • "[avoided] the very cliché’d cycle-café genre of bikes on a wall"
  • Persian Red Travertine counter is the key feature in the intimate space
  • The curves were not rounded for decorative purposes, they respond to the language of the existing building

Although small, this 36 sqm interior packs a punch.

Nestled in the historic suburb of Guildford, Willing Coffee by OHLO Studio is unique to the area, yet in harmony with its surroundings. It employs both masculine and feminine design cues – to create a feeling of clarity and spaciousness on a tight footprint.

Willing Coffee is housed in a new residential development in Guildford, which uses dark brick and curved openings in a palette that rests harmoniously in the neighbourhood.


Jen Lowe of OHLO Studio was tasked with completing the ground floor coffee shop interior.

“One thing Guildford has is a great old-fashioned feeling,”

Jen Lowe, Ohlo Studio

“Many venues in the area have beautiful old existing shop fronts using natural timbers. We wanted to create something of quality that responded to this history and the building itself,” said Ms Lowe.

The thoughtful interior by OHLO Studio acknowledges the local charms and quirks of Guildford by effectively combining traditional and contemporary materials and forms to create a unique interior that is modern, warm and inviting.


While the space is small, the brief was big – to create a classic Italian inspired café, designed like a jewellery box, with an interior that heavily referenced the client’s love for coffee and family history in cycling.

“We wanted to avoid the very cliché’d cycle-café genre of bikes on a wall, so we opted to use references from cycle and coffee machinery design instead.”

“In this way, it was more about subtle references combined with a great collection of cycling books on the shelves,” said Ms Lowe.

Inspired by early industrial designs from the 50s and 60s, Ms Lowe combined textures and rich materials to create a contemporary café experience that gives a nod to a period gone by.


“I wouldn’t call it a classic Italian interior. The interior takes cues from diners and classic Italian espresso equipment of the post war period and uses these in a contemporary way.

“While some detailing such as the parquetry floor has a traditional feel to it, much of the detailing, especially the combination of materials and details is contemporary. We sought to capture the texture and intimacy of a local Italian bar without actually mimicking it.”


A striking Persian Red Travertine counter is the key feature in the intimate space. The colour and texture of this remarkable stone creates a warm and inviting atmosphere and is combined with a minimal palette of stainless steel and European oak.

Ms Lowe says the minimal palette is the perfect balance of warmth and coolness. “Often less is more, especially since there are so many working elements in a café. When the people, food, equipment and books are all crammed into a tiny space there is already so much life,” she explains.


The brief called for beautiful, customer facing storage to house cycling paraphernalia, as well as a collection of books, magazines and papers for customers to peruse.

At the time of design, Ms Lowe and her team were inspired by the postwar design period. This era was influenced by space travel and the vast growth in technology that introduced household equipment to suburban homes.

The design was both tech and feminine, to appeal to the suburban housewife. This balance of masculine and feminine is evident in the design.


The curved bar detailing is Ms Lowe’s favourite design feature of Willing Coffee. “The forms of the design, such as the curve on the bar and the shelving unit were not rounded for decorative purposes, they respond to the language of the existing building, as well as the detailing in the espresso and cycling equipment we were referencing,” explains Ms Lowe.

“The most important sustainability feature is our response to the existing neighbourhood. It’s such a beautiful heritage suburb that anything that felt cookie cutter or chain-store-like would sit really poorly in the neighbourhood.”

The Willing Coffee interior design is a nod to Italian culture and cycling history, while still boasting a timeless contemporary aesthetic that will stand the test of time.


Written by Clare Ryan. Photography by Patrick Schuttler.

This story was originally published in The Architect magazine, an official publication of the Australian Institute of Architects. It has been edited for republication by The Property Tribune. 

The Property Tribune thanks the Australian Institute of Architects for the opportunity to republish the work, and shine a light on Australian architecture.

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