Design

A Visual Feast — SOCIAL, timeless elegance with a bistro feel

This is the first of three restaurants featured in the design series, A Visual Feast

Social

537 Sussex Dr.

Launched with much fanfare in 2000, Social boasted dramatic deep red velvet curtains and a sophisticated vibe that was new to the city. It quickly became a ByWard Market hot spot. But after 15 years, it was ready for an overhaul. Designer Henrietta Southam got the nod.

Social. Photo: Photoluxstudio.com — Christian Lalonde
Social. Photo: Photoluxstudio.com — Christian Lalonde

The new Social offers a sparkling, cozy, contemporary atmosphere that is centred on the unusual hues of plum and aquamarine. Southam layered patterns, textures, and fabrics to create a visually rich space with a polished feel. Slide into any seat, and you’ll be surrounded by velvet, linen, oak, brass, copper, and extra-tall cream-coloured wainscoting, as well as glittering highlights of gold and tiny diamonds in the background of the wallpaper, the tiles behind the bar, and the Turkish leather upholstery of the booths. The coordinating brass stair rods and coat hooks reveal the attention to detail that Southam and her team brought to the project.

“I really wanted to create a timeless elegance with a bistro feel,” says Peter Boole, co-owner of Social. “I really like the new, larger bar area and a more intimate and comfortable open back dining room. I love the lighting too and the upper and lower lounges.”

The new open bar area allows light to flood in from the front windows. Bold wallpaper and sparkly vinyl booths bring chic drama to the space, while blackboards and open shelving add a bistro feel.
The new open bar area allows light to flood in from the front windows. Bold wallpaper and sparkly vinyl booths bring chic drama to the space, while blackboards and open shelving add a bistro feel. Photo: Photoluxstudio.com — Christian Lalonde

For Southam, the focus of the project was to present a polished space with a cohesive language throughout, “to make the place flow,” she says.  She started with marble-topped tables — a nod to the classic Parisian bistro — and added harvest tables and bold wallpaper from Fornasetti. Dramatic lighting comes by way of oversized light fixtures with wallpaper-lined linen shades and statement lighting from internationally renowned Montreal designers Lambert et fils. Floors are hard-wearing ceramic, but unless you bend to touch them, you would swear they’re classic French parquet. “The interior follows the food,” says Southam. “Fresh and colourful ingredients, inventive and playful combinations, and a taste of home cooking make it abundantly real.”

In short, this is the opulent dining room you wish you had at home.

Photo: Photoluxstudio.com — Christian Lalonde
Photo: Photoluxstudio.com — Christian Lalonde