Design Force

All that the army stands for… and a little more! From the rawness of the site to its material palette and even the decor, the newest The Bar Stock Exchange, a first in Bengaluru, is a tribute to our armed forces. All credit goes to the super talented interior designer Shabnam Gupta and her troops at The Orange Lane.

Text: Deepa Nair
Photographs: Ashish Sahi courtesy The Orange Lane

The impressive facade of The Bar Stock Exchange is in glass and is further enhanced with layers of green using troughs and scaffolding with planters. The entry door in metal stands out in the huge mass of glass thanks to its red hue.

Bengaluru has its share of stock exchange-themed pubs that opened after its big daddy, The Bar Stock Exchange (TBSE), opened its first outlet in Mumbai. While some were hits, some faded away. For the uninitiated, here’s why the TBSE became a blockbuster — it’s the concept that draws inspiration from the stock exchange. The bar is lined with television screens that display the prices of drinks which go up and down according to real time demand, similar to the stock market. Prices can go as low as Rs.19 for a shot, and in many cases are below the MRP too. This idea was such a hit that TBSE now has 10 outlets in Mumbai, one each in Thane and Navi Mumbai and two in Pune. When the team at TBSE, headed by Mihir Desai, decided to test unchartered waters, cosmopolitan Bengaluru was first in mind. A new city, a different outlook and a totally different experience… hence Mihir decided to bank on a known and able name. Enter the effervescent and popular interior designer Shabnam Gupta, who heads Mumbai-based design practice, The Orange Lane, and is the creator of TBSE’s Kamala Mills and Juhu outlets in Mumbai.

Shabnam recalls that they came upon a big surprise the first time they visited the site. Apparently, the space was earlier a car showroom that featured plywood packing and a false ceiling, and was finished in neutral paint shades. “The first natural step for us was to open up the entire space and explore what lay beneath. Following this, we were greeted with an exposed raw area that was unlike any other — it was complemented with enormous heights and sunlit roofs with the structure in old world timber joineries. This was where we began our first step of exploring and toying with the idea of using the rawness to our advantage and devising a concept to create synergy,” explains Shabnam. That the client had complete faith in his designer comes from the fact that the brief was pretty straight-cut. He wanted the design team to create a space which would do justice to the naturally available site conditions. The location was prime, being in the centre of one of the most crowded areas of the city, and the owner’s intent was to draw people, engage them in a conversation and leave a bit of an impression while they have a good time.

As mentioned earlier, the design approach for this outlet of TBSE primarily arose from its structure and grandness — to which got added a strong emotion — the city’s close bond with the armed forces. “The idea is to pay tribute to our armed forces and express our gratitude and unwavering support. The space enforced our thoughts to be bold and larger than life,” Shabnam explains.

The first visual of the restaurant is that of the magnificent double height glass facade housing greens through which you get a sneak peak of the space inside with the “red rope” installation revving the curiosity. Upon entry, the larger-than-life creation, featuring planes, bombs and grenades, is accentuated due to the height of the structure, and one can only gasp in the effect and meaning of it. The neon “Karma” signage blinking boldly through the ropes is a subtle acknowledgement of the natural law of life that is often spoken about. What completes the look for this engaging space is the life-size army jeep — which the creator insist is not just an accessory but a well thought out plan to create a natural connection giving life to the idea.

Shabnam and team had to strip off the plaster from the original structure to expose this lovely brick work wall against which a comfortable chesterfield sofa in leather rests. The coloured laminate table top is accompanied by dining chairs upholstered to mimic that of an army uniform. If you look closely, you’ll spot the mud trough with plants beyond the sofa, which adds to the ruggedness and greenery mostly associated with an army base camp.

In the centre of the space is the bar, which connects two sides. It is designed thus as the structure offers the vastness to explore the entire space and therefore it is easier for the flow of movement. “The bar gave us an opportunity to narrate a story. The broken and bruised masks embedded in the wall here depict the everlasting effects of war and attempt to voice its ills in the hope to recognize that as the world grows it must grow peacefully and with love. The bar area became the life of the space, and our design concept continues here in the bar fascia,” Shabnam points out.

At one end of the bar, the design team decided to utilize the 24-foot high space and create a blackboard-inspired wall with lines in white stating “All Lives Matter”, reflecting the “thought for the day” we used to write on our classroom boards in school — the intent was to cause a similar form of embedded effect that all lives hold value. Interestingly, the blackboard feature also has ties to the Juhu outlet in Mumbai — which has a “back to school” design theme. This wall acts as a backdrop for the dining seating. On the other end of the bar, in a 12-foot height space, where a combination of high top and sofa seating with suitcases and replicas of war objects hanging from the ceiling were introduced.

The mezzanine sits over beautiful existing circular columns upon which a metal jaali railing was designed. The exposed brick and structural members are the charm of this spot with a combination of seatings overlooking the space below. The existing staircase was touched upon by the use of concrete and enhanced by artwork to create a visual and emotional connection while moving through the two spaces. “The staircase is more of an experience than just a function, where the grey palette forms a canvas for our artwork. The artwork is handpainted by our artists — the red stripes over the grey is an ode to the black lines soldiers often draw on their face before going into war. The artwork evolves to showcase rifles that shoot red roses, illustrating our idealistic hope for peace,” says Shabnam.

If you scan the space from the mezzanine, it will further dawn on you that the designer has highlighted the structure so that it can be enjoyed from every corner of TBSE. A conscious effort to create a free moving space — by letting the design speak for itself without being lost in the props — that was not overcrowded was also followed. Precisely why this a little over 7,500-square-foot space can only accommodate 114 guests at one time. Talking about seating, all the bespoke furniture continues the theme of the outlet in its design — the dining chairs are upholstered with army shirts and complemented by the black leather sofas and the table tops house prints of war tools. The three styles of furniture used here follow the black, beige and green palette.

At the stairway, the grey palette forms a canvas for the handpainted artwork — red stripes over the grey, an ode to the black lines soldiers often mark on their face before going into war. The artwork showcases rifles that shoot red roses and depicts hope for peace.

The lighting of the restaurant plays a key role in the design, translating the mood of the space. It was designed to achieve the desired effect and utilize the existing inflow of natural light through the glass facade. The entrance installation houses lights at three levels to create a play of light adding drama to the installation and accentuating the impact. This is intensified with the neon red light of “Karma”, bringing in the bold factor. The internal lighting was designed to be mood centric to create the atmosphere via indirect lights and hanging lights above tables. The columns and artwork walls are highlighted via direct lighting along with the bar fascia to enhance drama.

On a parting note Shabnam tells me… “The biggest challenge was to do justice to this naturally beautiful site — using and strengthening the existing structure, forming an amalgamation between old and new. Also, with our idea for the space being so strong, it was important to not go overboard and analyzing the need to draw the line when needed was crucial.” Yes, with a sentimental concept there is often a risk between striking the right chord and evoking the positive set of emotions for the space whilst keeping it non-gimmicky or preachy… and the team at The Orange Lane has truly passed the test with flying colours. Salute!

A bar that would do justice to the naturally available site conditions. And to draw people and engage them in a conversation leaving a bit of an impression while they have a good time.

Floor: IPS
Walls: Chipped the existing wall plaster to get exposed look
Furniture: Wood, metal, laminate table tops, upholstery
Structure: MS Structure
Facade: Glass, metal grids with planter troughs
Ceiling decor: Retaining existing ceiling in exposed form

Project: The Bar Stock Exchange
Client: Mihir Desai
Location: Ashok Nagar, Bengaluru
Area: 7, 599 sq ft
Principal designer: Shabnam Gupta
Design team: Namrata Rawlani, Arwa Dholkawala
Structural: Sagar Wali
Civil: The Makers

Carpentry: The Makers

Artist: Pranay Potale

Lighting design: The Orange Lane