by Emily Dobby
The minute we walked into Friends Of Dorothy, we immediately admired how the historical architectural elements of the building – the original grand arches laid into the warm brick – married the floral murals and luxurious textures reminiscent of the Rococo era.
The designer was able to highlight the elegance of the original space – which dates back to 1887 – while blending in opulent contemporary touches, such as a striking crystal chandelier and regal palettes of purple, jewel tones and real gold foil. The walls are adorned with cheeky interpretations of classic paintings.
The Victoria location of Friends of Dorothy was designed by the same Kelowna-based firm, East and Mack, who worked on the Kelowna locale.
SPRUCE spoke with Christine Mackereth, one of two designers from East and Mack, who is known for infusing spaces with a layered, sophisticated, and soulful atmosphere, about her ideas for Victoria’s Friends of Dorothy.
Where did you draw inspiration from for Friends Of Dorothy?
The inspiration for Friends of Dorothy came from some key words from the client. He asked for a space that felt “Bourgeois” and dripping in opulence. He also wanted the space to feel fun, vibrant and cheeky. We immediately thought of the Louixs XIV and Rococo time periods. Everything was ornate and theatrical. Art, design, and architecture was centered around love, or courtship, entertainment, or chance encounters which we thought was so spot on for the concept our client was trying to achieve. We played with these concepts and put our East + Mack Interiors twist on the Victoria location.
Where did you start? Was there a specific part of the design that shaped the rest?
In the Victoria location we wanted to keep as much of the historic architectural elements that were part of the original Willie’s Bakery. The original arches laid in brick really stood out to us as something to highlight. From there we worked with the client to create the design of the main bar. We created subtle curves to mimic and tie back to these beautiful grand arches. The washrooms were re-done prior but we wanted to have some modern-eclectic paper to the walls to make each experience different depending on which washroom you entered. The paper is incredibly vibrant and sometimes cheeky. Everything else fell into place, we wanted the space to feel more artisan with handmade murals and craftsmanship that tied back to the perfectly imperfect space.
What was the biggest design challenge you faced?
This was a project we started and completed through COVID. There were delays in a lot of the product (furniture, lighting) that we had originally selected. We had to navigate all of these hiccups for our client to ensure he’d be able to have the space completed in order to get occupancy. We did daily phone calls to suppliers to track where everything was, a lot of phone calls to New York (where all our wallpaper was manufactured from!), and hundreds of emails to ensure things in our control would arrive seamlessly for our client. This is why you hire designers … we sweat the small stuff so you don’t have to.
Can you tell me about the art?
We wanted the art to be a combination of a nod to the Rococo concept but put a modern spin on it. We sifted through image banks until we found some classic paintings we loved and literally sketched out/photoshopped smart-alecky ideas to present to the client. We worked with a local graphic designer in Victoria who really knocked it out of the park with the final imagery.
The “Let them Eat Cake” artwork has deeper meaning. This famous quote, linked to Marie Antoinette, is a phrase that is known for someone having a “I don’t care or give a sh*t”. I thought this was pretty symbolic for what our client Rudy Tomazic was trying to achieve with Friends of Dorothy. A place for the LGBT2Q+ and its allies to hang out and be themselves without judgement.
What are your favorite design elements of the space?
We took the risk of introducing a lot of over the top elements in a really curious way, which ended up creating some of my favourite moments. The vibrant cobalt ceiling, the saturated channel velvet back detail on the booths, the reeded blue bar front complete with granite + brass countertop, and artwork to make you pause (and laugh) just to name a few!
What do you want the space to convey?
We wanted this space to feel alive and have a personality of its own. A space that allows you to feel like “modern royalty” without being stuffy but rather warm and inviting.
What are the key design elements to look for in the space?
It’s hard to miss the grand chandelier at the entrance or the hand painted florals that were commissioned by a local artist. The local artists also applied real gold foil which is a really fun touch on the existing arches on the stage wall. All the decorative lighting has opulence and unexpected details to them. You must check out the wallpaper in all the bathrooms and let us know which is your favourite because we can’t decide! Lastly of course the artwork, each piece begs for a closer investigation.
Key Design Elements
- Crystal chandelier
- Floral murals
- Gold foil
- Cheeky art