No. 19 is the third establishment open and run by the successful husband-wife duo of Domenic and Diana Caruso and another fantastic work by the much-lauded design team, Biasol. The team has created an all-new, but heritage-inspired kind of space in Ascot Vale. Immediately, you’re struck by the cleanliness and near-minimalistic simplicity at first glance. A closer look, however, tells a story with more personality.
Chic and sleek
The neat, bright design isn’t just another eatery’s turn to the old adage, less is more. Rather, it’s informed by and subtly influenced by Greek delicatessens that had their time in the spotlight in Melbourne in the 1950s. The Mediterranean flavour is subtle in its touches, with Moroccan tiles patterned in hand-painted shades of teal and green, and timeless concrete benches that add a touch of permanence to the location.
More going on than you might think
As pared back as it all is, it’s easy for the casual viewer to miss the sentimentality that beats quietly under the surface of the location. Its impressive height, sporting 4.5-meter tall ceilings, could run the risk of making it look bare. However, the use of vertical space contrasts the cleanliness of floor space. It’s not crowded, but gold-tilted drooping lights and sporadic dashes of free greenery, from steel frames, from potted cacti, and draping from the tops of partitions, give it just enough going on to let out that personality. At the same time, it avoids being distracting, rather giving a clean, almost stoic feeling.
Not without heart
Some of the other details belie a more sentimental edge to it. It might be a stylish, slick café competing against many contemporaries, but No. 19 has a heart. For one, the name has specific meaning to the owners, being both the age they met and the date of their first son’s birth. That same sentimentality is seen in the featuring blonde, lovingly sanded timber furniture and soft, rounded edges to every surface that stop it from looking severe and industrial.
Biasol and the Carusos were aiming for a feeling of timelessness and a sense of occasion in the design of No. 19. In brass and in concrete, in sleekness and in painstakingly crafted and painted tiles, that comes across. But it’s not putting pomp over energy. Café culture is big in Melbourne, and No. 19 fits right as a location bustling with energy and light. With outside seating areas that perfectly match the interior and a glass entrance spanning the whole width and height of the café, it invites the outdoors in and makes for the perfect vantage to enjoy the view. Strategically spaced skylights keep that flow of natural light throughout the whole establishment, too, careful to not let shadow dominate at any point.
As sleek and contemporary as it is, No. 19 is not without personality, not without heart, and not without an energy all its own. It makes a fantastic addition to Ascot Vale, bringing old touches into modern view with a class all its own.
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