A former Melbourne print house heavy in art deco accents is stripped back into a clean interior of exposed ceiling and earthy materials, ready to make every brunch photo aesthetically Insta-worthy and delicious. With a splash of white and peachy tan – I present you Prior Thornbury designed by Ritz & Ghougassian.
The café’s black façade can’t be missed as it stands out brilliantly against its neighbours on High Street’s busy façade. It’s a tactful and intentional choice, especially when the signage stands out in a white vintage cinema font. Inside, Prior distinguishes itself from neighbouring hospitality services with their exposed high ceilings and use of volume and void. With the walls and exposed trusses refreshed with coats of textured creamy white effectively illuminated by the array of wide windows – it makes the design to fit 80-100 people quite believable (when COVID restrictions get better, that is).
Behind the façade is an interior reflecting the art deco parapet’s palette of black, apricot, and white. The ground floor paved in Nubrik’s clay Acland White bricks draws a connection to the tiles of the parapet. The raw quality of the tile oozes warmth into the white backdrop, moreover, is also used to enhance the central masonry plinth in which an ebony fireplace and firewood sits. Continuing the language of raw architectural honesty, Ritz & Ghougassian purposely left the floor slightly uneven, creating an ongoing connection to texture and the nature of the site itself. The black on the other hand – inspired by the restaurant’s shopfront – continues as a steel bench for the window seats, window frame that exposes the outdoor dining area and a cylindrical eucalyptus planter situated by the front door.
Steadfast in demonstrating Prior’s principle in honest-to-goodness food within their architecture, Ritz & Ghougassian echo these sentiments into the furniture as well. Geometrical pieces throughout complement the apricot colours. To the south, a bar counter that separates the kitchen and dining space is made of Policrete’s pigmented concrete. Ross Didier’s Gunzel square chairs and stools accompany each table, and plush classic brown square leather seats line the north wall. Lastly, timber tables and picnic benches centrally aligned with the ceiling trusses soften the space.
Ritz Ghougassian’s lo-fi-esque interior (which I hope is also the restaurant’s playlist!) to me feels like a calming and picturesque space when I need an escape for peaceful conversations. With such raw ambience without excessive decorations, I am already dreaming of my next writer’s retreat with a plate of mouth-watering brunch at Prior Thornbury!