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. “In Shanghai, they celebrate the green and the gold and the black,” says Soliman. “And 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— “like 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 “like a train.”

“It’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’s another secret bar—seriously. The VIP bar-within-a-bar has empty bird cages hanging from the ceiling. “It’s part of the story,” says Soliman. “You 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. “It’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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