A tight, loud, standing-room-only space doesn’t sound like the typical inspiration for a modern-day restaurant. But when Vancouver, BC-based design firm Ste Marie accepted the task of designing a new tapas bar in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, that was the exact direction given.
“Our clients were motivated to provide a tapas bar that emulated the vibrancy of many of their favorite bars throughout Spain,” says Rachel Martinuk, lead designer at Ste Marie. “We recognized that part of the success of these bars is that they are lively, that the service is informal and hospitable, but that there is no effort spent on the physical comforts and norms of North American dining. Spaces are tight, acoustics are loud and you may or may not be offered a place to sit. Offering a comfortable seat never really came up!”
Called Como Taperia, the 1,400-square-foot small-plates restaurant is a casual spot with a simple, terra-cotta-hued backdrop that takes its cues from three looming brick chimneys within Barcelona’s Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies (Gardens of the Three Chimneys). Now an urban park, the structures are leftover from the La Canadenca power plant built by Canadian utility company Barcelona Traction, Power and Light in the early 20th century. The warm-hued tiles clad walls and columns throughout the space and lend a neutral setting to highlight the cobalt blue accents, inspired by works from the late Spanish artist Joan Miró.
“When we were building the story of this unfussy space, we would intentionally make an unexpected choice, move in a different direction or take a left turn,” Martinuk says. “This, to us, was inspired by the casual and celebratory nature of the Spanish working class. These detours are most evident in the use of color, and the way the Joan Miró-inspired blue is applied throughout the space: a little bit here, a little bit there, and then some painted on the wall down the hall for no reason in particular.”
This “haphazard” approach, as Martinuk calls it, helps create a cozy and relaxed atmosphere, where old-world Spanish charm exists in every corner. Sometimes there isn’t a seat up for grabs, but there is definitely no such thing as dining alone.
Como Taperia, 201 E. 7th Ave., Vancouver, BC; comotaperia.com