The French Connection


Twenty-five years ago Laurent Boulangerie Patisserie sought to bring a little bit of Paris to Melbourne. With their original premise in South Yarra’s Como building hitting it’s capacity, a Victorian ex-bank building in the heart of Little Collins Street in the Melbourne CBD was ripe for remodelling.

Some might say that the distinctive style of French bistros and cafés has endured because of nostalgia: emerging during La Belle Epoque (widely considered to be one of France’s most glamorous and romantic periods) and followed closely by the Art Noveau movement. Acknowledging the design of this time as our inspiration – curves, flourishes and serif fonts, muted complementary colours, images with a sienna tinge to them, antique mirrors, chandeliers and ornate mouldings – we strove to bring traditional French elements together in a fresh contemporary narrative.

Cafés are at the essence of social and culinary life in Paris, and the quintessential ones often take over street corners, with a selection of seating indoors and out, small tables (usually round) and plenty of timber detailing. Reflecting this tradition, our seating plan allowed for small pavement settings, plenty of individual bar style seating, intimate table pairs and lush banquettes.

The ornate mirrors were designed as a bespoke feature whose layers of etched French script set the tone for complementary signage, branding and even crockery – all created by our graphics team. While a grand curving timber staircase, inlaid entrance mosaics and huge feature floral installation positioned under a sparkling chandelier all collaborated to greet customers with a bold vision of French opulence.

Paris café culture is world-renowned, and for good reason: sitting and sipping in a French café is among one of the finest pleasures of visiting Europe. The concept behind this Little Collins Street flagship store has been so successful that Laurent Bakery have emulated the design across their extensive retail network ever since.


Photographer: Unknown