When something is new and shiny we are afraid to touch it. Afraid that we will make some mark of damage. Ultimately this creates a sense of unease, where we tiptoe rather than stretch out into the world around us. When you are designing a venue – in the public and for the public – the space should feel comfortable and inviting for one to come and stay.
Bang Bang is a recent restaurant and bar in Melbourne’s Elsternwick that reimagines the colonial clubs throughout South-East Asia. And despite the overt exoticism of the jungle-infused décor, there is also a well-worn, nostalgic impression that exudes a sense of familiarity and comfort.
It was important to the owners for Bang Bang to integrate into the local community. The inciting colonial club idea for the venue was not only a means to draw from the owner’s heritage, but also to thematically reinforce that the restaurant is a place for the local people. And with Bang Bang open from morning through to late night, the space is designed to act as a verdant escape for any time of day.
Bang Bang is the cumulative result from Six Degrees Architects, Chamberlain Architects and branding by Pom Kimber as well as input from the owners themselves. The lived-in feel is created from the heavy use of rough-look materials – exposed concrete and stripped back red brick walls, for example – as well as the inclusion of vintage furniture. The owner’s personal collection of vintage pieces add to the assembly of mix-matched furniture used throughout.
The owner’s Laos heritage pervades the interior styling. Their engagement with the designers and the creation of the space, allowed for authentic and custom artistic features, such as the stencil pattern that flows throughout.
“We even created a custom tile print referencing traditional Laos patterns that were turned into a stencil pattern,” says Ella Leoncio, interior designer with Chamberlain Architects. “This stencil was hand painted onto the floor and bar to create a sense of embellishment and opulence.”
Bang Bang combines three diverse dining areas, the Sanctuary, a temple-inspired, intimate wine bar; the Jungle, the main dining room and adjacent outdoor dining space; and the Night Market, the festive, multi-coloured rear alfresco dining area. Each section offers a unique experience to suit the needs of the patron. Yet, within each, the styling seamlessly adheres to the character of South-East Asia. Local textiles and imagery from Laos culture helped to imagine the vibrant jungle wallpaper panels within the dining room. And further, a standout custom pendant light, draped in billowing cloth, exudes a relaxed and natural appeal.
It is a feat for a space that is so visually different to the surrounding Melbourne suburbs to evoke a sense of homeliness. A club of any sort is constructed to be a space to serve its members. Bang Bang’s attempts to veer away from a look that is decidedly new and untouched helps to make it instantly familiar. And when paired with rich textures and foliage, make for this restaurant to become an ideal oasis for one to wind down the hours.
Photography by Shannyn Higgins