Free to Feed – a heart warming social enterprise

Free to Feed is a heart warming social enterprise creating empowering employment opportunities for people seeking asylum and refugees through the creation of shared food experiences. After operating out of their High St Northcote fit out which Circle Studio Architects completed 3 years ago, they were ready to grow up and move to a bigger space. The new site, the heritage lister Former Clifton Motor Garage, was expansive, exciting and full of potential. This opened door for Free to Feed to plan for new ventures, however the space still needed the warm and cozy atmosphere the previous space provided. 

This project was truly a community effort and Circle Studio Architects were one of the many local designers and makers who played a part in the creation of the space and making the vision happen. Many hands came together to build, donate, and sponsor and the result is an inviting space with personality and character. The brief was to retain the existing functioning commercial kitchen and bar but revamp the tired interiors to reflect the Free to Feed vibe. The new space needed to be able to accommodate cooking classes and dinners, but also be flexible and adapt to the many events and community uses that may happen in the future.

Free to Feed is a not-for-profit social enterprise which advocates for refugees and new migrant through food-oriented initiatives. The organisation offers cooking classes, catering, and workshops which are hosted by their many cooks to share their culinary skills, traditions and stories in new communities.

The key challenges were how to make a vast expansive space feel warm and inviting. The building was vast and cavernous but still needed to feel intimate in areas. In planning the space, areas were zoned according to the atmosphere that was desired by the clients – ie, the Living Room/ Salon, the Long Table Dining Room, the Ballroom, the Movie Room, the Sunny Event Nook, the Briefing Space. This helped create a narrative for how each of the areas would be used, as well as orient how it should be fitted out. 

The building is heritage listed and this posed some restrictions on what could be done internally and externally. As a result, there were no structural changes or work to the services and all interventions were about surface treatment only. One of the project’s biggest challenges was the budget. With a limited budget, some things were left out of the final scope. With the nature of working within existing structures coupled with sponsored products, it was also important to make what was available work. However the end result is eclectic and earthy and this suits the Free to Feed aesthetic. 

Other collaborators that donated and supported this incredible initiative are,  Styling: Made Rupert, Wignells fireplace, Tint -paint, Pop and Scott – lighting, Proxima Melbourne – joinery, Ambience Lighting – lights , Anchor Ceramics – lights , Shade Collective – curtains ,CJ and C Constructions – builders. 

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