Sarah Ward’s Storied Speakeasy
Interior designer Sarah Ward reveals why the Off Cut Bar is her favourite room in Calgary.
Photography by Jared Sych
When chef Michael Noble asked his friend and interior designer, Sarah Ward, to design his second restaurant space, one of the key concepts they discussed was legacy.
The Nash restaurant, inspired by classic Edwardian design and turn-of-the-century hotels, and Off Cut Bar, modelled after a prohibition-era speakeasy, opened last November in the historic former National Hotel. The attached, but very distinct, spaces not only speak to Noble’s legacy as a chef but also honour the colourful history of the building and the community of Inglewood. Ward loved the rich historical nature of the project and found the opportunity to work within the confines of the building’s unusual architecture thrilling.
“Planning the space was absolutely one of the biggest challenges,” Ward says. “It’s weird and angled with existing columns everywhere. It forced me to be much more creative.”
Ward discusses three distinct features in the room that she loves.
The mug shots
“A curator at the British Library did a project in 2013 on historical Canadian ephemera and he had this old mugshot book from the Calgary police from the 1930s. I contacted him and he was thrilled to give the images to me. The concept for Off Cut was to represent the more seedy part of Calgary at that time. It’s darker, more rugged and rough, and you’re going to have fun here.”
“The bar is cast pewter and a big showpiece. As a designer, this is my pice de rsistance. It’s an item we splurged on, but the inherent historical quality was so worth it. It was made for us in Savannah, Ga., and shipped here in three pieces and welded on site. It weighs a ton. Pewter is a softer metal and will patina over time. In five years, it will be a little greyer, it will probably have marks on it, but that adds to the quality of the space.”
“The cast-iron radiators in the high-top tables are the originals from the National Hotel. When we walked into the space, there was a flat of them on the floor and, as we moved through the process, I thought we should use those radiators for a furniture piece. We had exactly enough to make three tables. This space is so special to me because every single thing in it has a touch point and a story.”