Design: Organic by design

A Taupo cafe is full of ideas, says Ben Crawford

The Storehouse Cafe in Taupo. Photo / Ben Crawford
The Storehouse Cafe in Taupo. Photo / Ben Crawford

I was born and raised on a sheep and beef farm in Edendale, between the tourism hubs of Gore and Invercargill. My childhood was wonderful with loads of space to work on my driving skills from an early age, including plenty of donuts in our old ute when Mum and Dad were away.

Since then, I've always enjoyed driving and I love a good road trip. Last Sunday I drove through the misty morning gloom to Taupo specifically to visit The Storehouse, a new cafe and the final inclusion for my book, Built for Caffeine.

An industrial street jam packed with car yards, tyre shops and garages isn't exactly where you'd expect to find a cafe. The Storehouse's dark grey, concrete block building is the most distinguished on the street. A giant white SH on its leading wall was no doubt painted there to ease uncertainties for first-time visitors like myself as to whether they're in the right place.

It was the mezzanine that sold the space to Taupo locals Brad Dellar, wife Melissa and business partner Sam King.

The place didn't look like much from the outside, but once they stepped through the old roller door and saw the two levels, double-height ceiling and exposed beams, they knew they'd found the spot.

Their vision - a one-stop destination to display and sell Brad's upcycled furniture and homewares, a space for Melissa and her sister Anna to set up a boutique florist, and a fabulous cafe to bring it all together.

They didn't begin with a detailed plan for the fit-out. Instead they started with the things they liked, designing organically as they went. The first thing they constructed was a huge shelving unit for the ground floor wall. They loved the feeling the macrocarpa brought to the room so much they decided to construct the cafe counter out of it, too.

Meanwhile Melissa had seen a patterned wall on Pinterest, asking Brad to painstakingly replicate its perfect geometry at the rear of the mezzanine. The Karen Walker orange she used looked so good it became a colour splashed through the whole space for continuity.

Brad's vintage furniture collection, the genesis of the venture, filled the remaining gaps, along with an assortment of old bikes, loads of greenery and Melissa's array of macrame pot plant holders.

Things have been flat stick since they opened in April. Customers oooh and aaah over their distinctive concept. Despite the retelling of the process as a happy-go-lucky, organic approach, the guys obviously possess an in-built eye for style. Here are five of their best ideas:

Storehouse of inspiration

1. Geometric wall

This is one of the most striking aspects of The Storehouse. Bold, symmetrical and playful, it's a fabulous alternative to wallpaper. Like Melissa, get among Pinterest and find a pattern for your space, just be sure to spend the time mapping it out on the surface first, ensuring a perfect finish with edges sharp enough to cut yourself on.

2. Macrame hangers

The retro-cool macrame hangers are ace. Get the look yourself at and fill them with everything from ferns and ivy to oranges and lemons.

3. Plywood floors

Who says plywood floors should be confined to sheds and outhouses? The timber's light blond tones and varied patterns add a simplified, relaxed and interesting dynamic to any space; add it to the mix for your home flooring, a distinctive alternative to carpet, tiles or polished timber.

4. Letter love

Take a leaf out of The Storehouse's book and make a feature of your address. Paint your street number in large numerals on your fence or spell it out alphabetically, creating a designer first impression.

5. Cable tables

This is a nifty idea. Take the ends off large electrical cable spools, fix them to legs crafted out of piping and Bob's your uncle - a unique, character-filled piece of furniture. The hardest part will be getting your hands on to the spools. Check out TradeMe, or speak to your local electrician.

Visit The Storehouse at 14 Ruanga St, Taupo or at

Ben Crawford and sister Libby won the first series of The Block NZ. They run their own creative advertising agency Libby & Ben, see

- Herald on Sunday

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