by Emily Dobby
The 70s are back – with a contemporary twist!
Whether you were a child of the era or not, the minute you step into Citrus and Cane, you might find yourself flooded with a sense of nostalgia. Originally built in 1977, the venue has lived many iterations of the decade’s iconic styles, most notably when it was the Copper Owl. We felt as though we had stepped back in time; to Los Angeles in the mid 70s.
There is a casual, laid back atmosphere evoking the 70s; rich wood panelling, varying levels (a sunken level), floating stairs, rattan furniture, plants galore, and circular light fixtures. Contemporary palettes, such as the soft millennial pink chairs, are woven into this retro aesthetic to add a nuanced and luxurious sophistication.
Tim Seibert, owner of Citrus and native Australian, comes from a family of designers and felt strongly that it was best to let the space speak to him and the design shape itself organically over time.
Spruce spoke with Tim about how this incredible space has evolved into its current state.
What designer did you work with, and why?
We worked with Raubyn Rothschild. Raubyn was recommended to us by a friend who operates Foo and Part & Parcel here in town, two spaces we really like. We didn’t have a huge budget or a white box and we believed Raubyn could help us be a little more creative and a little smarter with how we spent the budget.
Where did your design draw inspiration from?
I think a lot of the inspiration came from us, and our somewhat complicated vision for the space initially. We knew we wanted a tropical theme, and there were a lot of existing elements that we wanted to work with. Raubyn helped shape that vision, it was a very organic process. With COVID-19 delaying our planned opening, it allowed us more time to really refine our vision for the space, and instead of forcing what we thought we wanted, we let the room speak to us. There was something about the space that felt like for decades, well intentioned operators had forced it to be what they wanted, rather than letting the space be what it was originally designed and built for. Without the benefit of the extra time, we may have done the same thing.
Where did you start? Was there a specific part of the design that shaped the rest?
Our first priority was to redesign the workings and functionality of the bar. We knew that would absorb the largest portion of our budget, but it is the heart and soul of the space. It’s our sole source of income so we needed to make it as ergonomic and efficient as possible. Thankfully, we have some generous friends and industry professionals here in town who helped guide us and bounce ideas off of.
What was the biggest design challenge you faced?
Originally built in 1977, this room has lived a life! There was not a single thing we restored that went smoothly and according to plan. Let’s just say we learned a lot. Then on top of everything, add a seven month delay due to a global pandemic, and that already tight budget evaporated pretty quickly. Unfortunately some of the work Raubyn was doing for us, never came to fruition or had to be put on the back burner. As the money was running out, we had to find a way to just get the doors open. Biggest challenge? The entire project.
What design elements of the space do you love the most?
In truth, it’s a lot of the details that were here long before us. This is easily one of the most thoughtfully designed spaces in the city. The concept of arranging the room over three different levels.Those separate areas surrounding the oval bar that floats in the middle of the room like an island. Each area with its own unique ceiling detail. The terrazzo marble that defines the separate areas, is kept at seat height so as not to obstruct the view from any point of the room, giving you the feeling of being separated, but still fully connected to the rest of the room at the same time. The floating ceiling above the bar that we accentuated with a high gloss cream paint around it to contrast the detailed wood paneling. The huge windows that allow tons of natural light in during the day, and frame a beautiful sunset at night, creating incredible shadows and colour contrasts on the hexagon box ceiling. The incredible mural, the touches of gold leaf, the solid brass gates & fixtures… It just goes on and on! All of these elements combine to create a warm and welcoming space that we worked really hard to restore.
What do you want the space to convey?
Comfort and movement. There are no other spaces in Victoria like this one. There is a flow and an energy to the room that we believe comes from all the curved walls that guide you through the space. The soft furnishings, and carpet in the upper areas. The walkway that starts at the front door and guides you around the bar seamlessly, with each area having its own pathway, creates a natural movement throughout the entire room, almost like a figure eight. This organic flow helps relieve any tension in the space and has a calming effect. We also wanted to play into the idea of escapism, and this room is so unique that when you are in the space, it is easy to imagine yourself in a different city.
What are the key design elements to look for in the space?
The woodwork ceilings on either side of the room. These ceilings are a true testament to the artistry and design of the original space. You will be hard pressed to find anything like it again. One of the original photos we posted on our Instagram page, shows two men hammering this ceiling together piece by piece. One of the men in that photo is the original architect behind it all. It’s an incredible snapshot in time, displaying how differently things were done back in the late 70’s. We also hired artist Paula Gonzalez (@phaulet), to create a mural for Citrus & Cane. This was a huge piece of the puzzle as it helped us finish off some of our branding concepts and bring in the tropical element we were after.
Key Design Elements
- Brass fixtures
- The oval bar
- Terrazzo Marble elements
- Hexagon box ceiling
- Large windows