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Australian designer Matt Woods has given Chinese cafe chain The Dessert Kitchen a minimal and nature-led interior for its first outpost in Sydney. The 10-year-old chain specialises in health-conscious desserts that contain a minimal amount of fat and sugar. It obtained a site on the fringes of Chinatown for its first restaurant in Sydney. Taking cues from the food, Woods steered away from typical franchise restaurant elements and focused on natural materials that would create a “calming oasis”. The Dessert Kitchen’s first foray into Sydney called for a well-resolved and mature design response, reflective of the brand’s menu offerings,” said Woods. Timber, all FSC certified or recycled, plays a key role in the design.

Tasmanian oak is combined with reclaimed stringybark wood – a variety of Australian eucalyptus – in bench seats, tabletops and chairs. It is also sculpted into a gantry that overhangs the bar. As well as providing a point of visual interest, it includes storage space and contains acoustic treatments to baffle noise. The furniture is all set against a backdrop of white bricks, which climb the full length of the wall in some places and stop halfway up in others. On higher portions of the wall, they are arranged into a lattice with gaps in between bricks, while in shorter areas, a semicircle is sculpted into them to provide a curved nest for wall lights. Latte-coloured bench cushions, pale pink sugar pots and white metal chair legs help build the sandy colour palette.

Driven by a combination of sustainability concerns and budget constraints, Woods worked with existing elements of the space as much as he was able. “With strictly budgeted outcomes, the design has been adapted to take advantage of several existing features, which have been integrated back into the overall aesthetic,” he said. As well as using responsibly sourced timbers, he used VOC-free paint and energy-efficient or LED lighting. All material has been assessed for its embodied water and energy content – meaning how taxing it was on the environment to produce. Sydney-based Woods founded his studio in 2010 and has since designed several restaurants and cafes in the city. His previous work includes The Rabbit Hole, a whimsical tea bar in a former industrial space.

Design: Matt Woods
Photography: Dave Wheeler

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