Design Crush: Calgary’s Cheery, Barcelona-Inspired Ox Bar de Tapas
The city’s 17th-avenue stretch gets a modern Spanish touch thanks to the team at Frank Architecture.
Tapas bars are usually known for being ornate and intimate spaces, but when the team at Frank Architecture was brought on to renovate Calgary’s Ox and Angela restaurant (now known as Ox Bar de Tapas), they turned the concept on its head: “Our clients, Jayme and Kelly, had a really strong vision,” recalls Kate Allen, one of the design firm’s three founders. “We were completely on board with the direction to de-formalize the interior, and encourage socialization and casual interactions.”
But that doesn’t mean they completely eschewed tradition. Rather, the restaurant takes classic Spanish elements and gives them a modern twist—both the designers and restaurant owners were inspired by previous trips to Barcelona. “Travel is the best way to refuel your creativity and create spaces that are rooted in authentic references,” says Allen. “Spanish detailing is very ornate, colourful and often quite feminine. Although not overtly, these characteristics helped to inform some of the palette selections.”
The team at Frank Architecture (led by designer Jodi Schumacher) chose colours and materials that combine traditional charm with contemporary, hip vibes. “Some of the patterns (like the floor tile) reference old-world Spain, while the banquette sports a fabric that’s current,” says Allen. “We love this juxtaposition and feel that it creates a space of interest, nostalgia and fun.”
“The previous design of the restaurant had two distinct spaces (dining and lounge),” says Allen. “This renovation aimed to blur the boundaries between the two, by removing a wall and introducing seating that would promote a social atmosphere.”
Of course, the menu also came into play: “Tapas are small plates that are meant for sharing,” explains Allen. “This laid-back approach to dining is reflected in the interior.” To wit: shared tables encourage socialization, barrel high-tops were chosen with perching and mingling in mind, and raised platforms on the bar create more space for snacks. (“The croquettes are incredible—and, of course, the patatas bravas.”)
“Our clients brought in so many great treasures, which we helped to curate and place within the project,” says Allen of the artwork, plant pots, rotary telephone and other fun accessories found throughout the space.