DesignAgency converts warehouse space into F&B venue
Seeking to make a splash with its first brick-and-mortar locale in Toronto, Calgary-based Big Rock Brewery teamed with restaurateur Oliver & Bonacini and DesignAgency to transform part of a former warehouse in the city’s burgeoning Liberty Village into a brewpub. The 7,400-sq.-ft. Liberty Commons at Big Rock Brewery consists of a first-floor retail space and tasting area and a below-grade restaurant/bar.
Refurbished lecture hall seating and whimsical signage create a lighthearted feel in the brewpub’s lower-level waiting area. Photo: Brandon Barre
"We were inspired by the surrounding setting of Liberty Village, and wanted to showcase the neighborhood’s industrial past as well as its design-driven future,” says Allen Chan, who co-founded DesignAgency with Matthew Davis and Anwar Mekhayech. (That trio was featured on the cover of the January+February 2017 edition of Boutique Design). “We also wanted to create a setting to highlight the brewing process and design that spoke to the process of beer production, and how that inspires the menu.”
Comfy banquettes contrast with rough-hewn walls in the brewpub’s dining area. Photo: Brandon Barre
DesignAgency’s recipe for creating that distinctive setting involved deftly blending sophisticated finishes with reclaimed and industrial objects. “Reclaimed surfaces, including masonry, as well as the wood slat elevator screens and massive wooden beams original to the heritage building contrast with sleek geometric tile, leather banquettes and polished wood and marble tabletops,” Chan explains. “The result is a space with a polished, yet casual atmosphere.”
The inlaid message in the foyer’s floor tiling reinforces the primary focus of the venue. Photo: Brandon Barre
Whimsical touches abound throughout the space, including the “BEER HERE” lettering worked into the foyer’s hexagonal tiles and the hand-painted murals of Big Rock Brewery’s signature rooster and hops that adorn the double-height yellow brick wall leading to the lower level.
The street-facing retail/tasting area features towering wood and blackened metal merchandise shelves made visible to passersby by a large display window that was cut into the front of the building. Photo: Brandon Barre
The designers also used glass as a common element to tie together the old and the new throughout the space. That starts with the large, steel-framed panes that showcase the street-level retail/tasting space while also evoking the neighborhood’s distinctive factory windows, and continues with such touches as Edison bulbs and custom neon installations, pendant shades of blown or cast glass, ribbed architectural glass partitions between the booths and wall sconces with hand-wrought diffusers. Copper tubing, similar to that used in brewing beer, inspired the design of many custom lights throughout the project.
The stairwell leading down to the brewpub is adorned with signage and super graphics. Photo: Brandon Barre
“We were excited to breathe new life into what was once a dark, leftover basement and create interiors that showcase the brewing method,” says Chan.