Art Deco and Mediterranean magnificence collide at Bar Alba, a wine bar designed by Buchan, based in Kew.
Bar Alba is the aperitivo (meaning pre-meal drink) to Centonove, a historic Italian restaurant that has been operated by Jesse and Kym Davidson for over two decades. The bar acknowledges Kew’s interwar architecture and heritage listing, channelling the old world European charm of Italy’s foremost wine bars.
Bar Alba’s exterior features an adjoining blue cobblestone laneway and passing tramline. The building is historically significant, built in 1925 and trading as a butchery, before being repurposed as a chemist. It was later occupied by a pastry maker and more recently operated as a homewares store.
Buchan’s considered treatment of the building’s history is melded with the character of an Italian bar. The linear, geometric forms of the facade are echoed within the interior. Joinery starts to reference the building's actual lines and the sinuous flow of the time. A decorative copper frame around the main shop window is replicated by gold trimmings internally. Similarly, an original leadlight window with honeycomb detailing inspires the wall joinery inside.
A small brass plaque at the door intersects subtle Italian advertising and art deco typefacing. A metal inlay in the polished concrete floor entrance traces the building’s preserved parapet and brings to life the Bar Alba name.
The bar is very much the showpiece of the space, stretching nine metres down the right hand side of the narrow space, with a Calacatta-style porcelain bar-top implemented due to its durability. It’s anchored by the expansive, original 3.6m high timber ceilings. The bar is wrapped in curvaceous, scalloped panelling in rich emerald green and heeled with brass foot rests. Curved walls bring a softness to the design, juxtaposed against the metal details and fluted wainscoting.
Buchan’s Interior Design Principal, Valerie Mack, says the design has been built around the simple desire to celebrate food and wine.
“Design of interior spaces should help to convey a unique personality that connects to both existing and prospective patrons, enhancing the brand experience and supporting both physical and emotional needs,” she says.
“It's not merely how a space looks; it’s the all-encompassing sensory experience that comes from the food, the wine and the staff that makes a space successful.”
European Gubi chairs and barstools accommodate 37 pax across three distinct dining heights inside. Different seating spaces provide versatility in the patron’s experience; seating at the bar opens up the opportunity to converse with members of staff, while single tables for two or four provide privacy and intimacy. There is also seating in the shopfront window with a view to the outside.
Deep sash windows offer glimpses to the illuminated courtyard at the rear, intimately seating 10. The Mediterranean-inspired tiling captures the atmosphere of what you would find in an Italian village, but is comfortable for Melbourne’s climate.
The bathroom tiling is artfully done with inlay feature ‘rugs’, emerald Kit Kat wall tiles and brass finishes, including modern Hollywood mirrors. Sleek lines are arranged and broken up by curved ornamental elements in true Art Deco fashion.
Bar Alba is a pivotal project in Buchan’s portfolio that showcases their expertise in boutique, intimate hospitality settings, with a team that possesses the ability to deliver a creative impact to a space, no matter its size. Despite being small in size, the project is rich in brand expression and authentic user experience.