London-based interior designer Marie Soliman always thought of the speakeasy as having a classically European vibe: black and white, with champagne details and maybe a touch of pearl. But when she and her team at Bergman Interiors were brought on to design a hidden bar in Vancouver€™s historic Chinatown, she rightly looked to the east for inspiration. €œIn Shanghai, they celebrate the green and the gold and the black,€ says Soliman. €œAnd the green jade, or malachite, is so striking€”it€™s a work of art on its own.€

That rich hue served as a starting point for the bar, which is nestled behind Blnd Tger Dumplings. The street-facing part of the operation has an unfinished look€”€œlike it€™s been there forever, and the owner didn€™t have enough money to renovate it,€ jokes the designer€”and guests need to enter the back through a freezer door. From there, the space sheds its modest facade and transforms into the elegant, moody speakeasy.

Soliman wanted the hidden bar to evoke a sense of freedom (not just the traditional Prohibition-era refuge, but also a break from modern-day stresses). That was difficult in a room she describes as €œlike a train.€ 

€œIt€™s very challenging to create an experience in such a narrow space,€ she says. To keep the journey interesting, she divided the area into three zones. The bar, dressed in glazed green subway tiles and backlit antique mirrors, is a bold first impression that reflects the rest of the space€”including an intricate feature wall crafted out of real malachite. Beyond that, cozy booths in that same glam green mark the fine-dining section, and phoenix-shaped pendant lights from Karice add an extra punch of personality. And, at the very back, there'sanother secret bar€”seriously. The VIP bar-within-a-bar has empty bird cages hanging from the ceiling. €œIt€™s part of the story,€ says Soliman. €œYou come here to party and celebrate, to forget all the elements that are caging you in.€

The deep greens, pops of gold and bird motifs add up to a space that€™s both contemporary and classic€”and hard to keep secret. €œIt€™s rich, it€™s dramatic, it€™s moving and it€™s sexy€”and yet it is absolutely timeless,€ says the designer.

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