Montreal wine bar Stem finds beauty in what’s left behind

Discarded materials are put to new use

Scrap metal, reclaimed wood and weathered concrete walls lend Montréal wine bar Stem the feeling of lived-in glam.

The Little Burgundy space was originally earmarked for a major pizza chain but uproar from the locals kiboshed the conversion. Instead, architect Ravi Handa was handed the task of turning it into a mature counterpart to beloved neighbourhood spot September Cafe.

Handa has created a warm and inviting atmosphere inside the Montreal bar by using slatted timber to divide up the space and create the bar front, which runs the length of the space and is underlit by concealed lighting. This juxtaposes exposed brick, floorboards and blue-green walls – inspired by a scrap of wallpaper found during the refurb.

Exposed brick walls heighten the industrial feel inside the wine bar
Photography: Olivier Blouin

Achieving a balance between old and new was important to the architect, who repurposed other materials found while overhauling the bar. Hand-painted floral wallpaper from the building’s previous life was, uncovered during demolition work and has been restored in the entranceway. Handa also saved bits of wood and metal for artist friend Jeremy Le Chatelier, to transform into artworks for the bar interiors.

In the bathroom, an original – and decidedly worn – concrete wall also speaks to the history of the bar, as well as the industrial past of the surrounding neighbourhood which runs along the Lachine Canal.

Artworks were created for the space by a local designer, using reclaimed materials discarded during the refurbishment
Photography: Olivier Blouin

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