The historical remnants of a time when neon signs were alight and businesses were booming have long been a mainstay of Granville Street, Vancouver’s legendary entertainment strip.
Like much of the metropolitan area, Granville has cycled through disintegration and renovation in the post-Expo ‘86 years, evolving far from its original landscape; the revival has made Vancouver’s urban core synonymous with an innovative, multicultural fusion of characteristic heritage venues with modern design and urban architecture.
1050 Granville Street, is home to a new arts and entertainment venue, Vancouver FanClub, which has integrated many facets of old and new Vancouver, while paying homage to the old world enchantment of New Orleans.
I met with Marilou Rudakewich (interior designer) and Stella Panagiotidis (FanClub’s marketing and public relations consultant), to discuss the dynamic Bourbon Street-inspired interior design and eclectic mix of arts and entertainment.
Marilou Rudakewich, the partner and interior designer from M Studio Design Consultants Inc., led the creative transformation of FanClub’s interior. With approximately 5800 square feet to work with, two levels of ornate décor detailing to remove, and a 30-foot ceiling, Rudakewich was faced with the design challenge to transform this contemporary building into a southern-inspired “presentation house” that would allow for infinite flexibility for various arts and entertainment acts. Working alongside DA Architects & Planners and the Inline Construction team, Marilou’s interior talents went above and beyond her client’s vision.
Décor Addict: You’ve really accomplished an amazing feel for New Orleans to the interior, but still managed to incorporate a contemporary look. Was the New Orleans concept the design objective of the interior?
Marilou: I wouldn’t say it was the objective, but it was definitely the inspiration. The vision for this space was to create a feel for New Orleans that would appeal to both young and mature audiences. Joe and Waide Luciak already had a sentimental history with The Yale Hotel venue as owners/operators; and New Orleans was one of their favourite destinations, so it just seemed natural that their connection to the music and vibrancy behind Bourbon Street really became their design inspiration.
DA: The blend of antique and contemporary elements throughout really pique interest and alludes to the architectural style rather than imitating it. What was the story behind how each found its place in the space?
M: We really didn’t want things to be too literal because we wanted people to experience a sense of discovery, to unveil a story when they were looking around the room. I felt the best way to incorporate that design was to actually bring items from New Orleans to keep the authenticity of the look – the distinct architectural fixtures that you take notice of when you’re walking through the French Quarter and down Bourbon Street – like wooden doors, shutters, ironwork, lighting, and wooden corbels (French Colonial brackets supporting corner arches). Many of the design details are relics from antique warehouses and demolition sites, like the antique doorknobs that are placed on the doors under the bar top to be used for purse hooks. It’s those types of details that have really added to the character of the interiors. Take the lighting for instance, we’ve integrated the antique crystal chandeliers behind the bar, along with more classic modern lighting like the UK-based Tom Dixon fixtures and the copper light pendants from Viso.
DA: Part of what I love about this space is the feeling of being in a historical mansion, yet at the same time standing outside of it. How did that all come together during the design process?
M: We wanted to incorporate some of the outdoor aspects and bring it indoors, like the street front facades of the French Quarter. Owner Waide Luciak really wanted to have a balcony where people could watch shows from that perspective, so the southern wall balcony was an integral part of the design. The detailed lattice ironwork were stock pieces assembled by a local metal artist and we had to really be creative with the placement to replicate the look and feel of the outdoor balconies.
Stella: The Bourbon Lounge and the corridor that leads to it, has a sort of an Edwardian feel, like I’m stepping into another time period, which I really like. It makes me think of a man’s cave, as if someone like Alfred Hitchcock was there, sipping on a scotch in a suited robe. But that room was part of the original design, wasn’t it?
M: We had to keep this area because it had such an amazing amount of detail especially with the woodwork and traditional Venetian design. Because the venue is so big, the area had a private, cozy element that worked well with trying to make each room slightly different. We decided to call it the Bourbon Lounge as the traditional hole-in-the-wall private areas found in private southern mansions inspired it.
DA: Was the artwork displayed throughout FanClub, in the alcove seating area beside the bar and in the second floor VIP area, specifically commissioned for the space?
S: American artist Marcus Lundell is a friend of the Luciaks and a prolific American artist who does folk-inspired acrylic on glass art. Lundell was commissioned to create the series, which features a list of recognizable, historical figures from BC such as Captain Vancouver, Emily Carr, Gassy Jack, Jim Clark, and Waide Luciak (the Owner/Proprietor of FanClub), which really adds to the character of the room. Britta Kapalle, who is a local artist originally from Berlin and also the bar manager for FanClub, painted the multimedia collage three-piece series for the venue which is featured in the upper level of FanClub. The inspiration behind her work was a visual representation of old school entertainment, a kind of edgy, cabaret/burlesque feel reminiscent of the 1920’s, juxtaposed with contemporary elements.
DA: What has been the general response in regards to the interior and layout of the space?
S: I’ve been at FanClub right from the beginning. Waide and Joe really wanted to offer something to Vancouverites that they would be proud of, something that encompasses the richness of the arts in our city and also the eclectic variety of its people, entertainment and musical genres. Since our opening in August 2012, the reaction from patrons, artists, media, and the business community has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic! At first, they’re stunned – and you can see the wow factor on their face – and usually the first thing they say is that they’ve never seen anything like this in Vancouver. Another comment we often hear is that they’ve been to New Orleans and FanClub reminds them of the old city. There definitely was a need for this type of standalone venue on an entertainment strip that is inundated with liquor primary businesses.
DA: Typically, the formula is that when you enter a musical venue, the stage is at the opposite end of the club’s entrance. By contrast, FanClub’s stage is directly to the right of the door. Was that intentional?
S: The original idea was to place the stage in front of the French doors facing Granville Street, in keeping with the idea of walking down Bourbon Street where you often see the musical bands performing through the windows of the venues. But because of the City of Vancouver noise bylaws regarding music spillage, we weren’t able to get the necessary permits. Having the stage directly to your right as you walk in creates a welcoming experience when all of a sudden you’ve got this six piece band playing right in front of you! But it still remains front and centre from every vantage point of the space, whether seated on the main floor or on the second level looking down.
DA: Has the look and feel of FanClub predetermined the audience or genres of entertainment that come to the venue?
S: There are three aspects of FanClub. It’s first and foremost a live music venue, as well as a gastro-pub eatery featuring in-house smoked meats and bourbon, and a special events facility. The unique design of the interior and the flexibility of the space have enabled us to present a variety of eclectic musical styles – everything from electronic to jazz, piano bar to rock. Aside from music, we’ve also featured art shows, fashion shows, burlesque, aerial circus performances, spoken word, dance, and drag shows so we’re really open to anything. We’re really pushing the edge here and the venue, which is both very sexy and elegant, really lends itself to the cultural growth of the city. I definitely would say it’s not only attracted tourists but it’s a versatile and unique venue that locals can be proud of and really get excited about.