In this series of posts that explore a critical reading of The Drake Commissary interiors, I have enjoyed returning to the site several times. For this final installment, my focus will be the dining area.
The main dining area is positioned at the back of the space, at the end of a series of spatial cues that move the visitor through the entrance vestibule, past the lounge waiting areas, and along a wide interior street that leads to the central spatial pivot point marked by the bar. (This bar is encircled by The Drake’s newest version of the one-arm stool.) Take-out food and larder goods made on-site are available just past the bar where a busy industrial kitchen is overlooked by overflow dining areas. These secondary gathering spaces replay key features of the main dining area: vintage and custom furniture organize seating zones into intimate groupings; service zones are dressed in manufactured materials that show their tough side; signature ambient lighting in a gridded cable system covers the ceiling; and wall surfaces are activated with artful installations. Back in the main dining area, our spatial journey takes a pause as we find our table and sit down.
I have written before about how abundant interior elements in this space work together to activate its narrative potential, and the dining area is no exception. Wrapping around the back perimeter wall is a charismatic, space-defining custom bench. Its upholstered green leather seat is partnered with an inclined wooden backrest that is rhythmically studded with a row of elongated oval cushions. This detail – with plywood base revealed – references utilitarian bench seating rather than a more predictable, fully-upholstered bourgeois banquette. Pulled up to the long bench and its café tables (either marble-topped or featuring elegant brush drawings on wood surfaces) are an assortment of vintage chairs. Choices range from bent and laminated maple models, to vintage plywood stacking school chairs, to molded plywood seats (stamped THUR-OP-SEAT, European-made in the 1960s) fitted with black metal pedestals. Despite this organized composition of like elements, each seating station seems to offer a different detail and the potential of a different experience.
Is this the secret of the Drake vibe? A key feature of this interior is its ability to support quirky individuality under the oversight of a recognizable brand. All elements are dynamic, with a story to tell or a personality to present, and yet the buzz is controlled. Even the artwork surrounding the dining area is resolved at a variety of scales simultaneously: both close up and from a distance; homespun woolly texture arranged in crisp eternal geometry; contemporary portraits and digital videos displayed in historic found frames. Many narratives can coexist without one needing to dominate.
As my food arrives, I’m left wondering if the crafted balance of an adventurous taste experience in dining has an analogy in the design of interiors. Like a flavourful admixture that is evocative and fleeting, perhaps the finely-honed blend of contrasts in furniture, fixtures and materials has its own tangible spatial experience.
Interiors by: +tongtong studio