Canadian practice Ivy Studio has recently wrapped up the design of Clarke Café, a fresh addition to Montreal‘s coffee and sandwich scene. Drawing inspiration from classic Italian cafés, the space exudes a charmingly nostalgic vibe that makes it feel like it’s been around for ages.
Clarke Café first opened its doors on Centre Street in 2018. Since then, it has become an institution in the up-and-coming borough of Pointe Sainte-Charles in Montreal. When a larger space opened up down the street, the owners saw an opportunity to take their Italian sandwich shop to the next level.
With a footprint of 1400 square feet on the ground floor and the same amount in the basement, the new location presents a much higher capacity of production for the restaurant that wishes to offer its clients better takeout and catering options. While the entire basement is dedicated to the prep kitchen and staff rooms, the ground floor holds a 400sf open kitchen, a 950sf dining room and two 25sf mixed washrooms for the public.
While the dining area is visually very open, it is subdivided into 3 distinct functions: the service counter, the seating area and the grocery. Given the abundance of customers that crowd the space for pickups during lunchtime, the layout had to be optimized for a quick and efficient trajectory. This is why the seating area is placed by the large glazed façade and is separated from the service counter by the central banquette, used both for both seating and a service station.
With the same idea in mind, the grocery section is placed off the central path, near the counter, for clients to scout the locally made products and imported goods without blocking the circulation. The service counter is visible and accessible from the main entrance by a wider path and offers two bar height counters for regulars or clients that don’t mind the heavy crowds of peak hours.
With the reputation the café already had, it was crucial that the design be very warm and welcoming. Although it has become a destination over time, Clarke Café has always been known as an unpretentious eatery serving mostly locals in the area. With that in mind, the new space was designed to feel like an establishment that had always been there rather than the new kid on the block.
The overall esthetic was strongly inspired by a nostalgic image of traditional Italian cafés. All peripheral walls are covered in a classic light cream painted v-board cladding. The floor brings out the brand’s signature green in its checkered 6×6 inch matte ceramic. It also mimics the shops signature wax paper used to wrap its sandwiches. What stands out most when entering the space is the abundance of millwork.
All banquettes, counters, presentation displays and even chairs are made of a dark caramel stained oak. Classic details like the banquette backrests, wall shelving and standing counter structure help create the desired nostalgic atmosphere. A dark green marble is introduced atop the service counter as well as all dining tables, tying in the brand’s colours with the traditional Italian material palette.
The green stained leather on the banquette and chair seats was chosen for the same reasons. Lighting is meant to be as simple as the rest of the design, with traditional ornamental globes used to create bespoke pendants above the banquette and flushmounts on the central ceiling grid.
Ultimately, multiple layers of family photos, local art and abundant products take over the space to give it that extra familiar feel that makes Clarke Café the welcoming local establishment it has always been.