Design: Sabotage

Made to look like an abandoned 60s penthouse which has been vandalized, the 21st outpost of Social — Sarjapur Social in Bengaluru — conceptualized and created by Restore Design is evocative, beauteous and has a hint of magic running through its veins.

Text: Deepa Nair; Photographs: Shamanth Patil J, courtesy Restore Design

Interior Designer Federico Fraternale

With 20 outlets in various cities all across the country, the successful coalition of a co-working space and cafe offering from Impresario Entertainment Hospitality — Social — has made quite a benchmark, and is in the true sense a urban hangout. Therefore, when Bengaluru-based Restore Design was approached by the famous Riyaaz Amlani to design their 21st and the largest of all Social outlets at Sarjapur, Bengaluru, they knew that this project would be unlike any other. “We studied the brand. We met with Riyaaz and understood his vision for Social. We then took a look at the site. And that set us off. Knowing that Social is a “responsible” brand, connects with the youth and always takes the location as the starting point led to design ideas,” explains Federico Fraternale, the Head of Design at Restore Design when I quizzed him about the brief from the client. “Social is demanding when it comes to making a space profitable. This means that the planning had to be precise. They gave us their requirements, we worked through several iterations ourselves till we felt that we had an option that would deliver equally well on customer experience and bar operations,” he adds.

After passing through the lobby, the verandah and an outdoor area which features a garden and pool, one enters the main hall of the Social Sarjapur which boasts of an 18-foot high ceiling. Here patrons can sit on quintessential Indian metal folding chairs painted in striking hues with comfortable matching cushioning. The tables have powder-coated gold metal bases and an artwork — developed by Federico — placed under glass.

But before we dwell into the intricate design details, let me introduce you to the whopping 18,000-square-foot space on the top floor of a commercial building which houses the Sarjapur Social. When the design team visited the site for the first time, it was a partly constructed space which had two levels connected through a construction ladder. Being on the top floor, it had beautiful views of the green top of the city… and an emptiness which was “inspiring” to Federico. Most definitely a shell that opened up possibilities. As every Social takes inspiration from the location itself, Federico and team came up with an interesting story about this expansive space. “We enjoyed imagining that it was an old ’60s penthouse of a rich man which the Social gang took over. An abandoned penthouse vandalized and left to decay, which is now a place for multiple activities fitted perfectly with Social’s philosophy of recycle and upcycle,” asserts Federico.

To achieve the desired look and feel, there were some structural changes which were imperative. Firstly, a functioning mezzanine was created. Originally, a tiny section that was an acting mezzanine was cantilevered out — making a connection with the main hall area — to make a nice circular space with an enviable view of the entire bar and DJ and a top view of the dance floor. Further, the design team created different zones to cater to varied moods of those who visited. Like a verandah with 18-foot high French windows.

A circular bar is a rare sight, and therefore it holds a place of prominence in the main hall. It has been “engineered for efficiency” and was custom-made for the project after close meetings with the client. Made from metal pipes, and then Duco painted, the bar is effectively lit and has a brass bottle holder.

An outdoor area on the first level of the bar — with a garden and a portion of a swimming pool from the “old penthouse”. The main hall of the “old penthouse” was revived — keeping the old chandeliers and small portions of the marble flooring and adding the impressive Social bar centrally to this space. A grand marble staircase which flaunts fresco work connecting the ground level to the mezzanine. A library/lounge area was introduced too in keeping with the theme. “But what we do need to note is that all structural changes were minimal. They were planned with the least possible intervention. We clearly wanted to keep the existing structure, and added on small sections — cleverly — to bring in the zones required,” explains Federico.

You’ll see all these carefully planned design ideas right from the outset as you land on the 8th floor of this building. First, you’ll come face-to-face with an old piano and vandalized walls and doors that still have the wooden bars across them to keep squatters away. One enters the verandah space next which features an old fresco on one wall which was done by a local artist in keeping with Social’s connect with the local community. It has rattan furniture — movable and free to configure. Again, true to Social permitting you to make of the space what you would like to. But the most striking feature are the huge French windows which open with sections, and are draped with white sheers. Close to this area is the garden with remnants of statues from the old house, and a small section of the swimming pool that was.

The staircase made from marble (with treads displaying brass inlay) would connect one to the mezzanine level. The railing has been designed with a 60s touch and has a wooden handrail. A closer look at the staircase sides would reveal a moulding which has been artistically distressed. Resting next to the staircase is the old lift shaft from the penthouse which now houses an enchanting greenhouse of sorts with abundance of greenery and hanging lights.

You enter the main hall next which has a ceiling height of 18 feet. This is where all the action is with a DJ and a dance floor buzzing like no other. Also, the main bar takes place of pride here. There are multiple sections in this hall, and every corner can be used making it a space that guests would want to be in. Seating here ranges from the quintessential steel folding Indian chair with cushions and paint to match, to bar stools and brass base tables. There are also semi-circular sofas with soft lighting for more private seating that are hidden behind a zone marked by lovely arches. The grand marble staircase would take you to the mezzanine which is a typical co-working space (Social Works) by day. Come night, it is transformed to the cosy library from the old house — just by imaginative lighting. The area adjacent to the mezzanine bar here overlooks the whole of Social. Away from all the loud music and chatter is the outdoor space which has comfortable rattan furniture, vandalized rough ceilings, greenery and soft lighting at night… a place to unwind after a hard day’s work.

Undoubtedly, that Federico and his team has every small little detail covered is reflective in the entire project. For instance, every zone has a different flooring treatment but almost all of it is recycled or upcyled. Apparently, they have retained large sections of the original flooring — a small section of old wood was re-polished and skillfully laid to make the flooring of the cosy library section. And then there are cobblestones in the verandah flooring. “A huge percentage of the furniture has been recycled and refurbished. This meant scouring through furniture given to us as junk. We searched all over the country and then brought it into Bengaluru from locations closest to the city.

The bright and happy verandah features lovely cobblestone flooring, rattan furniture and rattan lights, and a bare original ceiling. Colour is infused through the fresco on the wall, created by a local artist. An interesting addition to this setting is the sofa which was crafted as separate units — it can come together seamlessly and can be taken apart and re-configured to change the seating of this entire zone. The console and cabinet you see on the right is actually a combination of antique pieces put together to form a bar.

This route was way more challenging than just ordering new pieces because selection, refurbishment with the right skill, etc., is a lot of work,” explains the designer. Lighting was given a lot of attention, both in planning and design. The focal lights over select tables were created by Federico to ensure the right mood, angle and lux level. The rattan lights in the verandah are really low cost but hugely effective. Furnishings on the other hand were locally sourced. The aesthetic has been carefully chosen to be contemporary and in line with the theme of the penthouse. The colour palette is largely natural, in green tones with highlights of burgundy, orange. The wallpapers have been personally designed by Federico.

On a parting note Federico tells me that with the back story of the abandoned penthouse, there were many specifics that needed to be achieved. Like the texture of the concrete, the finish of the paint, the collaboration of the old and new flooring, all had to be done perfectly. “Working with the right artisans who could refurbish the old furniture pieces was challenging, yet exciting. The lighting was a lot of trial and error – managing the different moods in different zones,” he explains. All these mini experiences that are part of the larger story is what makes a project unique… leaving its mark not just on its creators but on everyone who seeks and comes into its embrace. Sarjapur Social does that, rather beautifully!

Designing a space inspired by what was received as a site. A backstory was built — of an abandoned penthouse from the 60s, which was then taken over by squatters who vandalized the space. Social enters and takes over the space to create Sarjapur Social.

Floor: Cobblestone, marble, wood
Walls: Fresco work, paint
Staircase: Marble
Windows: Glass, wood board
Furniture: Metal, rattan, wood

Project name: Sarjapur Social
Client: Impresario Entertainment Hospitality
Location: Sarjapur, Bengaluru
Area: 18,000 sq ft
Principal designer: Federico Fraternale
Design team: Daksh Sharma, Sudeesh S, Nandini K, Santosh Kumar, Vinod Kumar
Structural engineer: BL Manjunath