Located on a busy downtown corner, the former Musette Caffè drew design inspiration from Vancouver’s favourite eco-friendly transport: the bike. The café’s walls were covered with cycling memorabilia (think jerseys, posters and even old bikes suspended from the ceiling). But this leg of the journey recently came to an end for the restaurateurs, as they decided to pivot from the eclectic, industrial concept to something a little more elevated, but just as friendly.

Banquette seating in Maxine's cafe in Vancouver.

In place of Musette is now Maxine’s, a buzzy restaurant that maintains the same easygoing energy of the bike café. The owners brought on Ste. Marie Art and Design to support the transformation. “Musette had a heavy concept and storytelling around cycling, and the owners wanted a casual neighbourhood café kind of place—something that was more versatile,” explains Julia Goergler, senior designer at Ste. Marie.

Bathroom design with patterned wallpaper

To achieve this, the designers set out to create a new space that felt both comfortable and classic. Maxine’s owners had a beautiful collection of vintage furniture, and an antique bookcase served as a model for the stunning European-style bar. “It really is the focal point of the space, and we wanted to make sure that it was functional as well as beautiful,” says Goergler. Perforated brass arches frame the natural wood shelving, and traditional touches of Carrara marble complete the bar. Around it, different seating areas each maintain their own vibe: there’s a raised seating section with dark leather banquettes and sage beadboarding, a back room with a wood coffered ceiling and French windows and doors, and a pretty patio complete with string lights that’s bursting with greenery and flowers. “I find that every little area of this restaurant has something special to it,” says Goergler.

Maxine's patio in the West End

Despite these distinct zones, the design of Maxine’s is harmonious thanks to the details. Those brass arches on the bar are complemented by hints of brass in the lighting and vintage decor. The palette of natural wood, soft green and deep red is warm and welcoming throughout. And everywhere you look, there’s texture: leather, marble, brick and steel make this restaurant a tactile treasure. “The materials speak through this project,” says Goergler. “It has that classical European feeling, but less formal—so you can really show up however you want.”

This story was originally published in September 2021.