Cabin Fever

Hot on the heels of success with West Vancouver’s Ocean Club, the owners of the trendy restaurant/lounge have opened a sister location in Whistler, B.C. Sticking with the lucky formula, Vancouver-based M-Studio was again brought in to create an aesthetic that would reflect the locale, just as Ocean Club exemplified a classic Vancouver look.

At the Ocean Club (Canadian Interiors, January/February 2007), the look is unmistakably Vancouver, with traditional west coast materials and palette used in contemporary ways to create a cool, urban design. The designers were asked to provide a similar place-specific design for The Mountain Club, making it a distinctively different place, while finding ways to visually tie the related projects together.

The space designated for the new venture featured a series of small pockets, which the clients originally intended to gut, creating a single, open space. But these pockets became the catalyst for the design concept: rather than joining them, more were added. Five distinct “rooms” were established, creating a cozy cabin feeling (unlike the open seascape of Ocean), appealing after a day on the slopes.

The Mountain Club experience begins in a small foyer, delineated by acrylic panels with an icy, frosted look. The wintry vibe continues throughout the other five rooms, with elements like the Moooi Random pendant lights, which M-Studio partner Marilou Rudakewich chose for their snowball-like appearance.

The venue features not one but two dining rooms, one large, the other small and more intimate. A modern, yet slightly rustic look was achieved in the larger room by using a white wallcovering with a woodgrain pattern. This wall provided the first opportunity to bring in a design element from Ocean: the artwork. “One of the things that people were constantly saying they like about Ocean was the photography on the walls,” says Rudakewich. So the same up-lit niches were built in, this time housing photographs of the area by Alex Piro.

Rudakewich says she had been looking for a chance to use a Design Tex product that allows massive images to be printed on to vinyl wallcoverings, and found it at Mountain. “It was just sort of one of those ‘Well, what do we do with this blank wall?’ situations,” says Rudakewich, “So we said, ‘Why not use that product and one of the photos to do a big mural, like in the old Sears catalogues?'” The result – a huge black and white image of a snowy mountainscape – is actually fairly subtle and nothing like the 1970s nature wallpaper murals, which may very well be the epitome of tacky. Opposite the wall is the bar itself, another highlight of the project. The base is built of stacked firelogs, a playful cabin allusion, while the white quartzite top is another reference to Ocean.

More wood is used in the lounge area, where panelling, made of local alder, is used in vertical and horizontal chunks. Underneath, the walls are lined with white vinyl seating, as at Ocean, with tufting added to make the look less clean and more cozy. Red lighting underneath the banquettes, as well as under the bar, add an extra urban touch.

In the end, Rudakewich says, there weren’t many design ideas pulled from Ocean, simply because the vastly different footprints made it impossible. But that footprint is a big part of what makes the design work so well; “With the series of rooms, the impact isn’t all at once. You get to discover new spaces repeatedly, as you walk through. It’s like being in someone’s house. It’s not all given away, there are little surprises.”