How Fireside Design Build created some of Winnipeg’s best restaurants
When it comes to dining spaces, we’re not afraid to say minimalism is often mediocre, while texture can be truly tasty.
Who needs to sit within stark white walls when your eyes can devour all manner of motifs?
Perhaps that’s why we’ve been so blown away with everything that Winnipeg’s Fireside Design Build has accomplished in the last few years, whose restaurant design catalogue now includes Harth, Grey Owl, the additions at Segovia, Jenna Rae Cakes’ Forks location and Nonsuch Brewing Co.
“We try to design experientially: How are you going to feel? What are you doing in that space and how can we make you feel like you want to stay there?” said Adam Bumbolo and Jaclyn Wiebe [taking up the thought where the other left off], the two main partners in the design firm.
“If it’s comfortable, warm, human — it works. It tends not to be a white box,” the duo stated as we sat down with them for an interview at Grey Owl Coffee & Pub, the latest commercial space that they’ve designed.
Weibe has been designing professionally since 2005, while Bumbolo’s background includes carpentry, filmmaking, writing and working as a visual artist.
They met on a job site just a few years ago and immediately hit it off due to a shared aesthetic. They’ve since helped design and create some of Winnipeg’s most stunning spaces (along with designers Kristen Trafiak and Mike Page) – both residential and commercial – garnering the attention of so many of the city’s diners.
“We always wanted to do hospitality spaces, like restaurants, cafes and that kind of thing, because we’re all about creating spaces that are comfortable and places that bring people together,” said Weibe.
“Comfort is key. And that’s how we got the name Fireside, because the hearth over all of history has been the central gathering place in a home, whether you’re talking thousands of years ago or recently.”
On that note, we asked the duo just how they’ve created some of the city’s newest and handsomest rooms, which you’ll find below.*
Harth (1-980 St Anne's Road)
AB: The first full-fledged restaurant we designed was Harth. We didn’t have any experience doing restaurants. We had to work really hard to convince them that because we were hungry for it (pardon the pun), [that] we would be able to give them something really special.
JW: Firstly, we have to know all about the food. What’s your method for serving it? What’s the vibe of the space? How formal or informal? At Harth, it’s shared plates so the whole vision is the “Italian family meal.” The whole essence of this place is to have a beautiful family-style meal and try tons of different things that the chefs are making right there—you’re seeing some of the meat being finished in the fire.
AB: The centerpiece of the restaurant is the wood-fired oven. They wanted this to be a different expression of Italian food.
JW: It’s a little more casual, a little more “come into our kitchen.”
AB: So we put the wood-fired oven centre stage in the restaurant, and we wanted to bring all of the sexy things they were making outside of the kitchen and put it into the dining room. It’s a wine bar, and they have this encyclopedic knowledge of wine, which lead us to think about classical libraries. That’s where the rolling ladders come from.
JW: There is subtle library language in the architecture of the space. Our favourite spaces are when we can play with floor heights and ceilings and make impressive little cozy spots and balance that with grand, open spots. When you walk into one of these historic libraries, like the Harry Potter-style spaces, you walk in and there’s this sense of awe. Here, we want you to come in the front door and follow this path.
AB: One of the things we really like that makes Harth stand out is the artwork that were in the little nooks and at the front. It lends a sense of the human element—there’s a story to it. You have no idea that you’re in a strip mall, and it feels like a space that doesn’t exist in Winnipeg.
On Segovia’s renovations ( 484 Stradbrook Ave)
AB: With Segovia, we wanted to give it a sense of layers, of texture, and story. We made sure to include more artwork, we got rid of things that maybe didn’t skew very timeless, and tried to update them with things that stood out and still had personality but would not be dated in ten years.
JW: That’s true. Timelessness is absolutely huge because if you’re a local business owner, you’re not some outside restaurant development company that does a re-reno every five years to keep it cool. I think people respond well to timelessness. We want to bring elements of things that looked great ten years ago, and they’re going to look great in another ten years. You can bring in some trendy things in other ways, but overall, let’s keep it timeless and at the same time keep it durable so it’s going to have a nice life cycle in the restaurant and not just a throw away design.
We asked, what can we keep? Because we can’t do a full gut. I think a lot of people who go to Segovia wouldn’t have noticed there was a fireplace there— it was from the time when the building used to be a house. We simply anchored it and flanked it with red velvet curtains with a hint of pink on the bottom (whose colours we took from the piece of art that was on it). It’s brick and black, so the trick is just to shine some dramatic light on it and suddenly people are like “oh my gosh, I didn’t realize this was here before.”
We took five qualities of Segovia’s food: fresh, Spanish inspired, colourful, exquisitely prepared, etc. We had all these little keys, and those all translated to a design element. So that’s where we brought in colour, freshness, etc.
The wallpaper is actually a print inspired by some of the embroidery on the tapestries or bullfighting coats. That’s what we love— if it’s subtle. It feels right but it’s not so obvious like, “Look, it’s a black and white mural of Segovia in Spain.”
AB: We don’t ever want to be too on the nose.
JW: That’s like their cooking, too— they weren’t trying to replicate what you’re going to get in Spain, it was like, this is our take on it.
Jenna Rae Cakes at The Forks (1 Forks Market Road)
AB: We don’t try to push our own style or personal preferences onto other people’s spaces— we apply our own design principles and values, but that can be shaped for any real aesthetic that you’re looking for. Jenna Rae Cakes is a good example because it’s a daytime space that is bright, light and soft, verses Segovia which is dark and gothic.
JW: With Jenna Rae Cakes, even if you’re just coming for a little bit, getting some baking, and taking it to go, you should feel like it was a special space, not just another kiosk. They have 17-foot ceilings there, so we wanted to go drama with the height.
AB: It was challenging to create something with a lot of drama that had a small footprint and had to remain functional. They already have an established space, so we couldn’t start over, we had to bring some of that language over.
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Opening day at @jennaraecakes ! Our tile setter killed it with our brass monogram inlay with groutless marble micro-mosaic. The only way to get all your gold tones to match is to insist on using the same exact material. Brass-tinted aluminum would have been cheaper and easier to source, but wouldn’t match or age the same way. Here, the toe kick, inlay monogram, and tile edging look like a composition even though they are all from different suppliers. #details . . . . #ihavethisthingwithfloors #fwis #fromwhereistand #tile #tilefloor #marble #marblemosaic #monogram #brassinlay #carraramarble #tilefloor #bakery #jennaraecakes #interiordesign #interiors #designbuild #winnipeg #manitoba #canada
JW: We stood back at Fools + Horses on the main level and we’re like, “This needs to be a beacon to show you what’s up there. What can we do to catch the light?”
AB: Everything at The Forks is rustic brick and more of an industrial feeling—we wanted to completely go against that and create something that stood out.
JW: We also wanted to claim the space, so we did a tile border of 18 inches. When you’re standing outside you’re in an aisle, but when you’re stepping on this tile you’re in the space, even though there’s no walls.
Grey Owl Coffee & Pub (272 Main Street)
JW: Bryan Goertz’s [the owner of Grey Owl] passion is coffee, and the espresso machine was the first thing he had decided on—the machine is always a very important element in the space.
AB: The building itself has a certain age and a certain aesthetic to it, and we wanted to carry that through.
JW: He fell in love with the building. It’s beautiful from the street, but when you came in, it was super stark, super sterile. Looking one way, it’s like, “Oh, windows!” but every other way it’s concrete, so he wanted none of that.
Brian had been to lots of pubs in Scotland, and a proper pub should be open for coffee and then cocktails. That space needs to transition from day to night and dark colours can work in the day— people seem to think it has to be white and bright, and have that third wave aesthetic.
We had pub inspiration and then we had this tropical, deco glam kind of thing. We definitely knew we wanted a tree and a central coffee station.
We started with the chairs, because chairs are so important in any space. From the chair design, we were able to implement some geometry into the space. Pubs always have paneling, so we reinterpreted it in a modern way.
AB: It also has a residential, manor, drawing room feel that we wanted to create.
JW: We could not buy light fixtures on our tight budget, so we had to make them. Those are plastic tubes from Rona that are meant to go around a fluorescent lightbulb tube. They’re very lightweight. We played with how they would reflect and refract the light. When you have a tight budget but you want to drop the ceiling a little, when you have this 14ft height, and we wanted this huge tree to fill in some of these vertical spaces.
Nonsuch Brewing Co. (125 Pacific Avenue)
JW: [For the incredibly-Instagrammable ceiling installation], they’re actually umbrellas, then we cut the stem off, and then we sourced gold lightbulbs. The bottom of it is gold, so no light goes down, all of the light goes off the umbrella.
AB: And we sourced all the furniture, helped them create a cozy atmosphere.
JW: We were like, paint the room black. Done.
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Almost ready for Nuit Blanche! Come by Nonsuch Brewery tomorrow for a beer and warm up in the most glamourous and cozy tap room. Our lighting installation was inspired by the elegant bottle design of the Saison beer with its matte black champagne bottle shape and gold accents. Come to 125 Pacific between 3pm and 2am — there will be seven house-made beer options on tap #nbwpg2018 #nbwpg #craftbeer #taproom #nonsuch #winnipeg #wpgeats #gowpg #manitoba #canada #beer #brewery #brewerylife
AB: I personally don’t like minimalist spaces. Everything one colour, or one tone, or one material. We talk about this a lot in the office: what sort of spaces do people genuinely feel comfortable in? Where do you want to spend a lot of time?
JW: What time of day is it being used? Who are the clientele?
AB: Sitting in a bright white sterile space that’s very minimal, I don’t feel comfortable going there. But spaces like this… it’s not trendy, or it’s not current, and it’s not really what’s taught in school either.
[Note: Nonsuch Brewing Co will close briefly in early 2019 for a full renovation; the current space is temporary].
JW: We have a really unique scenario where we have chefs, artists, and people that are not independently wealthy who can own a business. Whether it’s a clothing boutique or a cocktail bar, there’s so many amazing business owners of all ages and backgrounds, and there’s opportunity here for that.
AB: There’s a niche here for the kind of spaces that we’re wanting to create. A lot of the firms here are either really trendy or really lively and bright, and I like the idea that we can make a name for ourselves by creating spaces that are a little more textured, layered, and old world feeling, because it’s what we like to visit and be in.
We didn’t plan it that way, it just kind of worked out. Not to say that that’s all were going to do, but I like that we can bring something to the design scene in Winnipeg that hasn’t been done in a while. Here, you can contribute to the experiences, not just that you want to see but that the greater community wants to see, which is kind of cool because I don’t think that exists in a lot of other cities.
JW: It’s inspiring to be a part of the larger, creative community here. There’s this sense of, “Just do it. And people will support you”.
*This interview has been edited for clarity and formatting purposes.