Australian designer Matt Woods leaves every inch uncovered in a renovated Sydney cafe

Tales of Terrazzo

The Messenger Cafe by Matt Woods

Sydney-based designer and self-professed foodie Matt Woods is known for his unbridled aesthetic. Motifs of his oeuvre include beautifully repurposed objects, attention to a material, and a conceptual design approach, all of which show up again and again in his significant body of work—a plethora of cafes, restaurants, bars, and retail spaces. His designs don’t hit you over the head with historic references or millennial stylistic nuances. Rather, the overall effect stems from a pleasantly unexpected aesthetic; where if you were to take all furniture, wall coverings, light fixtures, and all other elements apart and separate them into a collected pile, it would look like those things wouldn’t normally go together—and yet somehow, they do and to an impressive degree. 

For the refurbishment of The Messenger Cafe, Matt Woods devised a material palette of terrazzo, velvet, and leather. (Dave Wheeler)

Enter the otherworldly atmosphere of the Messenger Cafe, a sweeping space swathed in terrazzo. In a sentence, the materiality of the aggregate-manufactured tiles that clad most of the space become a metaphor for the scheme: beauty found in irregularly and seeming lack of uniformity. The walls, floors, countertops, and caramel leather cushioned banquettes seating are also anchored by terrazzo slabs produced by Fibonacci Stone. Woods are implemented in steeple-like triangle planes, placed in the foreground of the cafe’s curtain walls.

In a sea of grey aggregate, the bar countertop is adorned a black Bitossi vase and obsidian-hued light pendants. (Dave Wheeler)

Black ceramic dishware accentuates the black trim on the tables and the minimal chairs. (Dave Wheeler)

Here, a trove of similar black chairs and tables line the dining area; that culminates in a wall of silvery velvet curtains. Pale pink dividers line the ceiling and function as acoustic dampeners. Light fixtures drop into the space effortlessly. Cylindrical forms articulate the space above. Without a void insight, the cafe leaves no inch uncovered with unintentional design detail. 

Props like the thick of orange tree branches at the top the bar and the barefoot caped figure were styled for the photographs by Madeline McFarlane. (Dave Wheeler)