A well thought-out renovation breathes new life into a 40-year-old Melbourne icon, according to the function centre’s director, Eric Cohen
Leonda first opened in 1970 and was quickly established as the ‘it’ venue in Melbourne. Once owned by Christopher Skase, it’s held both the Brownlows and the Logies in the past. Myself and my wife Carly, along with the Sofer and Keshett families, purchased it in 2006 and immediately renovated the interior from top to bottom; it took approximately five months in between functions. Since that time, it has grown in popularity as a venue with over 400 functions a year. I think it’s fair to say that Leonda By The Yarra is living up to its iconic status. The property consists of a large and small function room. The ballroom can hold 1000 people for cocktails or around 600 for a sit-down function. The garden room holds about 200 for cocktails and about 150 for sit-down. Both rooms have large balconies overlooking the Yarra.
“About six months ago, we had the entire garden area landscaped and the exterior of the building renovated. Both entrances were reworked with new tiling, paving and painting. The exterior of the building was ’70s-style orange brick which we had completely rendered. There were a lot of curved arches that we squared off and the exterior was painted white. The change was dramatic. It transformed a dark, old-fashioned place into a fresh new building that fits right in with today’s modern, clean look.
“We didn’t close during this renovation so we had to do the work between functions that had already been booked. It was a bit of a challenge but in order to keep out clients happy, we would do things such as hiring extra trees to camouflage unfinished areas.
“The ballroom and the garden room are now open, versatile spaces that are completely pillarless. They can be decked out or themed for any kind of function. The colour palette has been kept white so it’s very easy to decorate. The carpet is custom designed in a light brown taupe with our logo incorporated into the weave. Both rooms have large-size dance floors with intricate timber parquetry. These are original features and quite unique—a venue built today would not go to the expense of adding such a detail.
“Another original item is the expansive white marble floor in the bar area. We have updated the bar so the white of the floor is reflected in the furnishing, cupboards and fascias. It’s a fantastic place for a pre-dinner drink.
“The kitchen is situated between the two rooms and was built with a lot of foresight. It is large and we have not needed to change anything structurally. All the equipment has been updated but the layout has remained the same.
“Our lighting is all dimmable downlights so the mood can be matched to the type of event. We have the ability to change from a 600-seat corporate seminar to a wedding for 300 guests within an hour. Being available for breakfast, lunch and dinner functions, we’re often called upon to manage those quick turnarounds.”
Leonda by the Yarra
2 Wallen Rd
Tel: (03) 9819 1933