Homes & Design Photo Credit: Eva McMillan

Design Crush: Livia, a Homey Bakery That Invites Guests to Stay Awhile

An entrepreneur-and-baker-extraordinaire adds interior designer to her resume with this warm Euro-influenced space.

Vancouver-based baker Claire Lassam has dreamed of owning a bakery since she was eight. So when, earlier this year, that vision became a reality—Commercial Drive’s Livia, the moniker a reference to Lassam’s middle name, which is also her nonna’s given name—she wanted to ensure a cozy, inviting shop where customers wouldn’t be afraid to indulge and linger.

“I feel like there are so many cafes and bakeries that kind of veer on the side of minimalism to the point that they feel cold,” she says. “You don’t want to curl up inside of them. So I really wanted a space that just felt really warm.”

A series of “flower-bomb” floral arrangements by the local Rogue Florist impart a sense of whimsy in Livia’s dine-in area. (Photo: Eva McMillan)

Taking the lead in Livia’s interior design with the help of Birmingham and Wood, Lassam first had the 1,400-square-foot room stripped of its drop ceiling and Technicolour tiles—remnants from its past life as a shawarma restaurant.

A fresh coat of paint later and the space was already feeling a little homier, recounts Lassam, though it’s the details that lend Livia its decidedly Euro charm: the brass-and-milk-glass pendants that illuminate the patio and engineered-marble-top bar; the “flower-bomb” floral arrangements by Rogue Florist that hang above the eat-in area, their frazzled appearance reminiscent of “hedgehogs shaking themselves out of hibernation;” and a collection of lovingly sourced cast-iron-pedestal tables and vintage Thonet bentwood chairs, which Lassam and her partner began hunting for on Craigslist—and hoarding—more than a year prior to Livia’s opening.

Brass-and-milk-glass pendants sourced from lights.com—”the most obvious place,” laughs Lassam—add warmth to Livia’s interiors. (Photo: Eva McMillan)

“We had about 50 chairs in our living room at one point,” laughs Lassam. “We couldn’t really find a place to sit anymore, which was ironic.”

And then there’s the striking black-and-white flooring, made up of hundreds of tiny hexagonal tiles from HL Tile Depot—their delicate pattern coming to fruition with the help of Lassam’s family and friends, whom she cleverly lured to the space with beer and pizza during construction. The tiles’ high-contrast colour scheme complements the striped convex awning outside, though they remind Lassam of home, too. “They’re the same tiles we had in the bathroom of the house I grew up in,” she says.

Lassam chose a striped black-and-white awning to help draw the eye down to the bakery. “It’s so striking,” she says. “You can see it from three blocks away.” (Photo: Eva McMillan)

Swaths of navy throughout will help Livia eventually transition from a bustling breakfast-and-lunch joint to an intimate dinner destination come evenings. Meanwhile, a custom wood shelving unit constructed by Chris Lloyd Contracting that spans the length and height of an entire window behind the bar makes clear the bakery’s bread and butter—pun intended. There, customers and passersby alike will find rows of Lassam’s freshly baked sourdough loaves, baguettes, focaccia and challah, all presented rustically sans paper or plastic bags.

“I really wanted people to see from the outside that we’re a bakery,” notes Lassam. “So having that giant bread wall in the window was really, really important.”

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