Usually when a venue tells you they have a seat available at the bar, it’s with an apology. A seat at the bar is a concession, a second choice or somewhere to stay until something better comes along. That’s not the case at Eileen’s Bar.
Part of Four Pillars Laboratory in Surry Hills, the bar is a literal centrepiece. And if the glittering canopy of Four Pillars gin bottles isn’t enough to draw the eye, the fact that it’s stained a vibrant blue will.
Matt Jones is the co-founder of Four Pillars. He says the design for Eileen’s literally began with the placement of the bar. Led by designer Yasmine Saleh Ghoniem (whose previous work includes Edition Coffee Roasters and The Garden at The Lord Dudley) the team locked in the look and placement of the bar early on, then “started to shape the space around it”.
Ode to gin
The Four Pillars complex is essentially a two-storey celebration of gin. There’s a store offering an ever-changing menu of bespoke gins, and there’s also a small distillery making exclusive, experimental batches from a still named after Jones’ mother – Eileen. Blues feature heavily, from the upholstery of the chairs to the staircase leading up to the bar from the street. The colouring is dark but not oppressive, almost minimalist and industrial but still inviting. There are also four distinctive lamps, designed to evoke the shape of gin stills. Each is named for a person involved in the design of the bar.
Though the team made bold choices in the colouring and décor, they also wanted to respect the 1930s heritage-listed Bussel Bros Building that hosts them. “We wanted to leave the periphery of that space actually quite raw and lean into the fact it’s a beautiful old warehouse building,” says Jones.
The interplay between the different areas of The Laboratory is one of his favourite aspects of the design. “I love the relationship between the bar and gin lab,” he says. “And the fact we can be sitting having a truly world class gin drink, and on the other side of the room, we've got a group of people distilling a small experimental batch of gin. I love that sense of authenticity and life it gives to the space.”
Guided by voices
Creating a venue linked to a brand often means the interior designer is tied to a very specific brief and visual constraints. At Eileen’s Bar however, Jones says they were happy to be led by Ghoniem’s vision.
“We really asked her to go nuts and create something visually striking,” says Jones. “In that same way we feel the brand creates different spaces and different experiences, the spaces can all very much have their own sense of integrity and their own sense of personality.”
There are two ways to get into Eileen’s. One is making your way through the Four Pillars Laboratory. The other is via a discreet downstairs entrance. At night, Jones says four dots are projected onto the blue doorstep. Next to the door is a lightbox filled with oranges – the key ingredient of Four Pillars’ original rare dry gin. For those familiar with the brand it’s a subtle nod. For newcomers it’s a talking point.
“At the heart of Eileen’s was a conceptual brief about what we were trying to achieve,” says Jones. “Which which was this incredible celebration of making and enjoying great gin drinks.”
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