It’s been nearly two years since Opus Hotel Montreal began the transformation from its former incarnation as the Hotel Godin. Trilogy Properties, the owner of Opus Vancouver, purchased the Godin in 2007, with plans to turn it into a sister property to the West Coast boutique hotel. Having already established strong branding in the initial Vancouver location, with the help of local designer Robert Bailey, Opus Montreal would need to get the company stamp as well. But instead of shutting down to perform a massive renovation, the design has been allowed to evolve slowly and steadily since the purchase.
The Godin’s interior was done only a few years prior to the sale, by Yabu Pushelburg, and a total redesign would not have been economically or environmentally responsible. Nor was it truly necessary, says Bailey, who was brought in to give the new location a look that would blend with the original.
The Opus update started with paint. Bailey had developed a concept in the Vancouver location referred to as “lifestyle concierge,” which can match guests to one of five personalities, each of which corresponds to a different room theme. The suites have each been painted in one of five colours: red (Billy), orangey-yellow (Pierre), electric green (Mike), purply-blue (Susan) or grey (Dede). The rooms also incorporate artwork chosen to appeal to the invented personalities, and the hotel can even recommend appropriate restaurants, activities and amenities for each. The colours will be updated again in the near future and the furniture, which mostly remained from the YP design, will be replaced as well.
The existing public areas, like the lobby and corridors, have been left as they were. But there was one space missing from the Godin, that would make Opus Montreal the destination it was envisioned to be: a restaurant. Rumor has it that the Godin’s demise was due to its inability to procure a liquor license. As a result of that difficulty, the large space that occupies much of the street level of the original building had remained empty. Opus has brought this space to life with Koko Restaurant + Bar.
Koko opened just a little more than a year after the Opus takeover, and after nearly a year had the benefit of some design tweaking to perfect the look and atmosphere. The restaurant was intended to be a destination not only for hotel patrons, but also for locals, thus giving guests a taste of the city and its nightlife without even leaving the hotel. Bailey’s design delivers the same, exemplifying a fun yet sophisticated look that is very much Montreal.
The design was influenced by Coco Chanel (hence the name), with a colour scheme that is primarily black and white, with bright green accents, metallic touches and lots of pattern. The restaurant spans a large area that crosses from the new building to the old (built in 1914 by Joseph-Arthur Godin, for whom the hotel was previously named) and outside, to an impressive 2,000-square-foot terrasse (the biggest in the city).
The original concept for Koko was more bar-focused, but the food aspect became more important as planning progressed. The final result seamlessly makes the transition between restaurant and nightclub, even managing to balance both functions mid-evening. Not surprising, given that the original design premise for the building focussed on playing with the idea of night and day, a concept that Bailey noticed had accidently continued with the addition: “We had two spaces, one tall and open [in the new section] that felt like day, and one low and dark [the heritage part of the building]. That gave us the idea to stick to black and white.”
Amidst the glamour of the space, there are fun little design surprises, such as the Phillipe Starck — designed Attila gnome table. “It’s hard to accessorize in a space like that; it makes it human scale,” Bailey says. Perhaps the most memorable accessory is the Moooi horse lamp that graces the restaurant’s outside entrance, where Bailey wanted “something really strong.” The slightly absurd, light-heartedness of this piece fit the bill perfectly and certainly makes an impression on those entering Koko from the lively Sherbrooke and Saint-Laurent corner, or leaving the hotel for a night on the town. CI