All images by Tom Blachford.
It’s dark and moody, it has soul and memory, and offers respite from the bright lights of Melbourne’s bustling Chapel Street below. The Wolf Upstairs is more than a new private event space; it is a destination that is both sophisticated and comforting and a place to enjoy the trappings of the past in the present.
Tucked away above The Wolf and I Hotel in Melbourne’s trendy Windsor is the latest private event space on the block that has been carefully curated to offer an ambience of eclectic style coupled with old world comfort. The Wolf Upstairs is situated above The Wolf and I, a hotel that occupies a Victorian corner building constructed in 1871 complete with Heritage façade and contemporary interior. Upstairs, however, is the antithesis of all that lies below. The hotel attracts the smart young things drinking and eating in modern surrounds; but the design brief from client Steve Powell for his upstairs space was something completely different – redesign the stark white interior, pay tribute to the architecture and create a modern day ‘club’ or meeting place.
Meme took the brief to heart and designed a concept that moves between then and now seamlessly. It was to be all about the furnishings, and the designers set out to source the perfect pieces for the project. It was a labour of love and it shows, with an eclectic curation of furniture and lighting that looks and feels as if it has always been there, even though the timeline for the project was just four weeks from start to finish.
Meme is Megan Hounslow and Melanie Beynon, who between them have a wealth of experience both at home and overseas, designing hospitality, retail, commercial and residential projects. They established their practice in 2009 and haven’t looked back since, specialising in ‘bespoke’ design. For them, every project is different, every interpretation of a brief is individual and with The Wolf Upstairs they were free to create something very special.
All that is old is new again… or is it? Not every aged table or period chair is worthy of resurrection, and this is where the eye of the designer comes to the fore. The concept for The Wolf Upstairs began with a pair of 1970s blue/green Italian Murano glass chandeliers (Geoffrey Hatty) that set the scene. These beautiful and eccentric vintage lights sit well in a grand space that features original ceiling, cornice, architrave and moulding decoration, as well as large arched windows that allow filtered light to enhance the dark turquoise/teal walls (Reserved and Bistro Grid, Dulux) and black Japanased original floorboards. The seven-metre long, custom bevilled-edge silver mirror enhances the natural light during the day and reflects the glow from the pendants in the evening.
Four weeks is no time at all to pull together a 130-square metre space that can accommodate 100 people. Building on the client’s own furniture and art collections, however, Hounslow and Beynon began scouring some of Melbourne’s finest antiques stores for the perfect pieces, and the variety is astounding. A George III mahogany carver (circa 1760) and George II oak carver (circa 1740) sit alongside an English oak barley twist chair (circa 1890) and heavily carved Anglo-Indian pair of Hall chairs (circa 1880, all from Wally Johnson).
To complement these, a pair of Bernt Petersen sitting chairs are right at home with 1960s three and four seater Morgan Hansen black leather sofas (Angelucci). The list continues with a bespoke steelframed timber top communal table and bench (Guy Mathews) in the main lounge and in the bar and the modern day additions of Smed stools (Great Dane) and Meme’s own customised solid brass marble tables balance the whole beautifully.
The lighting is just as varied, with 1960s French standard lamps and a simple 1940s Swedish pendant light (Angelucci), diamond glass wall sconces (Euroluce) and modern downlights (Pure 1, Flos). There is something for everyone, but it all works. The ambience is relaxing; the styles and eras retain their individuality, but somehow just work together so that no one piece looks or feels out of place. As Beynon comments, “The interior was a process of exploring beyond normal solutions, seeking and salvaging distinctive pieces to be appropriated in a new light.”
The Wolf Upstairs is a special place that has taken the best from the past and the present to create something for the future. The talent of the designers shines through in every acquisition and subsequent placement. Hounslow echoes the sentiment, “Special interiors do not always come from creating the new and extraordinary, but through collecting and curating stories and splendours from the past.” One of the enchanting things about The Wolf Upstairs is that it is somewhere to make new memories while being surrounded by them. This eclectic interior presents beauty and style from the past in a modern day setting and together they make a perfect partnership.