Gimmic-free glam with a heady shot of insouciance, A Streetbar Named Desire is one helluva ride, discovers Piet Smedy
The Big Idea by christa ansell, co-owner
a lot of places in Jo’burg are purpose-built white boxes but this space just hummed with character. It wasn’t perfect, but perfect is boring. It was the triple volume ceilings, the light, the cosiness of it all. We had to break through walls, drill into roof slabs, build staircases and tear out mezzanine levels, but the bones of the space were magically salubrious. They spoke to a faded opulence that we wanted to create. We wanted lush richness and an air of neglected debauchery – and a streetbar named desire just popped into my head. a playful name riffing off an amazing narrative, unforgettable characters, and evoking a bygone era. We weren’t interested in creating the coolest, sexiest new bar in town. We simply wanted a place that embodied the desire to be alive. The fact that it was a bar, on a street, didn’t hurt either.
The look by tristan du plessis and dino Mavrokordatos, studio a, and christa ansell
We had wanted the whole place to be a study in immersive monochromatic colour blocking in hues of green so that, as you walked in, you were immediately picked up out of your everyday life and transported somewhere and to some time entirely new. using a deep palette of textures was the key to creating this unique, particularly tactile, experience. There had to be a contradiction between luxurious and edgy – an inherent playfulness – that was achieved through custom brass light fittings, cut crystal light fixtures and exposed fluorescent tube lighting (for that bit of edge), which all created this glowing ambiance. Booth seating in plush velvet further added to the intimacy between guests. another key feature is the beautiful handmade green tiles on the pillars, each one a different shade and slightly imperfect shape and the aged mirrors, which add a hazy layer, like a faded memory.
The final touch, in contradiction to all this lushness, was framing the irreverent scribbles of characters from the play and alfred hitchcockinspired sinister, super high-gloss photos that we shot specifically for this project (courtesy of the incredibly talented Jana + Koos).
clockwise A copper plate Above The Interior white marble BAR reads ‘I’ve Always depended on The kindness of strangers’; owners Thomas hughes, christa Ansell, grant Ansell, martin jakoby; velvet Banquette seats And Antique mirrors