Homes & Design Photo Credit: Brandon Barre

Design Crush: The Empress Hotel’s Revamped Q Bar Balances Dark and Light

Victoria’s crown jewel gets a chic makeover.

Tasked with giving Victoria’s storied Fairmont Empress Hotel its first renovation in over a quarter century, Rob Polacek and his team at the Puccini Group found themselves walking a tightrope, balancing Edwardian architecture with modern design; darkness with light. The new Q Bar, formerly an underutilized bar at the adjacent restaurant, masters the mix.

Original millwork was restored and kept in a rich walnut stain, while custom-made chandeliers were added, referencing the clouds that roll into the city’s Inner Harbour outside. At the centre of it all, a waterfall-edged quartzite bar accented with warm brass lighting and ringed with traditional bar stools upholstered in olive-green leather. Massive pop art-style portraits of Queen Victoria from Julie Coyle Art Associates keep the atmosphere convivial and supply a metaphor for the redesign itself.

“We didn’t want to change the old lady,” says Polacek. “We just lifted the hem of her dress a bit and made her beautiful again, all the while making sure that her personality was still there.”

Q Bar at the Empress Hotel, Victoria, B.C.

Get the Look:

Rock It

Striation wallpaper ($88 per roll) subtly weaves metallic tones into a geode-meets-damask pattern.

Carrying a Torch

Cedar and Moss’s Vista Tall sconce ($158) is made of solid brass components in a waxed finish—a fitting companion to dark millwork. Made in Portland.

Cloud Cover

Artemide’s Logico lamp (from $435) is made of hand-blown glass and is available in multiple sizes and configurations.

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