City Bites

Inside the oh-so-Instagrammable retro-chic bar — Charlotte

Charlotte: She’s casual, fun, and everyone’s best friend.

Open since late last fall, the cool new addition to Elgin Street (find Charlotte above Pure Kitchen at 340 Elgin) has been popping up in Instagram streams since Day 1. It is so lovely — all retro-chic and comfy, with cozy jewel-toned couches rubbing elbows with mismatched mid-century chairs and an ultra-stylish quartz and walnut bar.

With weekday afternoon opening times (Tuesday and Wednesday, 1 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; Thursday and Friday, 1 p.m.-1:30 a.m.; and Saturday, 6 p.m.-1:30 a.m.), Charlotte morphs from coffee shop to light dinner stop to relaxed club. The menu, too, is chill (think light snacks and a long cocktail list).

City Bites sat down with Shannon Smithers-Gay, the owner and lead designer at One80 Design, to discover the inspiration (and companies) that have made Charlotte such an enjoyable place to hang.

Photo: Christian Lalonde
Photo: Christian Lalonde

The Vibe
When I came up here, I was blown away by the potential of the space. Elgin Street is dying for a space for the 30+ crowd. We wanted to create a place that makes you feel like you’re hanging out at home — but way better! I had creative freedom to do what I wanted, and once I got going Charlotte began to take on a very mid-century-modern vibe — but without being kitschy. It’s social but not clubby; more lounge-y and relaxed.

The Rooms
The space is open, but I used a series of beautiful screens from an Australian company to separate the spaces. They’re a subtle way to divide Charlotte into nine more intimate “rooms.” Those rooms are flexible because the panels are hung from hooks in the ceiling and can be easily moved if a larger group wants to rent the whole space for an evening. Each of the rooms has comfy couches, chairs, rugs, and coffee tables. There are lots of light chairs and stools so you can move them around as more friends show up.

Photo: Christian Lalonde
Photo: Christian Lalonde

Buying Local
I scoured vintage shops around town. Many of the chairs, couches, and accessories came from Wiseman + Cromwell and Vanier Moderns. The prints on the walls were from Canadian Etsy vendors and framed at Wall Space Gallery. The neon Aloha sign that everyone Instagrams is by Scott Adamson of Gaslight Electric.

In the Beginning
The start of the whole look was a couch upholstered in an amazing palm frond fabric. I found it at Wiseman + Cromwell and it became the jumping off point for all that came next.

Restroom Chic
Everyone takes restroom selfies when they visit Charlotte! I actually designed the bathrooms with that in mind. There are four separate bathrooms, each with a very different look and really great wallpaper. Each room has a mirror designed so you can take the perfect selfie. The most popular “background” so far is the pineapple motif. [Find them at #iknowcharlotte]. 

Photo: Christian Lalonde
Photo: Christian Lalonde

The Bar
It’s so beautiful and intricate — not your typical straight bar. I’m mixing walnut and quartz and brass. Anyone who has lived in Ottawa for a while will recognize that it’s a long way from the look they had going on when this was Maxwell’s!

Charlotte, 340b Elgin