Fabric Architecture Studio‘s Xanthe Highfield (featured previously as designer of Sydney’s Polly and Stone) headed up the interior design for the revamp of Empire Bay Tavern’s bistro, the family-run business known locally for its traditional pub-style offering, now providing something a little more sophisticated for those travelling to the area from out of town.
Located on the Central Coast of New South Wales, between Sydney and Newcastle, Empire Bay Tavern serves cold beers and good grub; making this a great spot for friends and family to meet up and spend a few hours revelling in each others company. Whilst traditionally attracting a local clientele, with the revamp of the bistro area, Highfield and Fabric Architecture Studio focused on how the venue — that borders the Bouddi National Park — could appeal to a different crowd.
Empire Bay Tavern came with ‘good bones’, including a dramatic pitched-ceiling. The fit out was typically 1980s, a bar with two oversized sets of steel columns built-in supporting the roof, linoleum floors, flimsy partitions and uncomfortable plywood chairs that didn’t encourage patrons to linger. Looking to the National Park for inspiration, especially Angophora trees with their distinctive textured trunks and generous foliage, these trees became a catalyst for the design process.
Today, the colours of the trunks can be found in bespoke carpets, as with the foliage, conceived in an abstract pattern. The shape of the trees can also be seen in the two large inverted parasol-style lights/installations set into the bar that also conceal the former ‘nest’ of chunky columns. Thoughtfully lit, these forms also provide a contrast to the now black-painted pitched ceiling.
Due to budget restrictions, Highfield retained some of the original elements, such as the 13-metre-long bar which has been modernised with glazed terracotta-coloured tiles finish. Other colours include deep burgundy velvet and a eucalypt green hued leather for the new built-in banquette seating, as well as solid timber armchairs and tables to replace the flimsy chairs once there.
Creating a space for the more discerning Empire Bay Tavern barflies, Fabric Architecture Studio have crafted a beautiful watering hall for this beautiful part of the world.