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Shining in the dark

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This compact wine and tapas bar adds a touch of drama to Sydney's Walsh Bay redevelopment, thanks to the clever use of light and reflection

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For more than five years Sydney's once-forgotten Walsh Bay harbour precinct has been undergoing a major redevelopment. The 17-hectare site now incorporates retail, residential, commercial, public and cultural facilities.

Among its many bars and restaurants is the distinctive-looking Firefly Espresso and Wine Bar. Designed by Kathy Arnold of Arnold Lane Design, Firefly sits in the heart of the theatre zone, with views out over Sydney Harbour.

"The location was the main driving force behind the choice of materials and colours," says Arnold. "We wanted the design to sit seamlessly and harmoniously within the context of the heritage precinct."

A key design objective was to remain sympathetic to the fabric of the surrounding building and wharf precinct.

Coupled with this was the desire to create a theatrical experience for patrons, who drink and dine on an elevated viewing platform that extends out into the promenade like a stage. A second tier of seating in front of the bar provides another vantage point for observing the harbour activity.

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Most of the bar is located outside, sheltered by a suspended glass canopy. After hours, all of the furnishings and accessories pack away behind glass bifold doors.

Highly reflective finishes enhance the sense of theatre and glamour provided by the nearby Sydney Dance and Theatre companies.

A prominent design feature is the polished screen that conceals the kitchen area. Made of individual vertical tubes of polished stainless steel and copper, it adds a sense of drama and interest to the space.

Shiny glass mosaic tiles on the bar-front and the uplit steel bollards provide further reflective elements.

"We wanted to create a moody, intimate and theatrical atmosphere within a very limited space," says Arnold.

"With the 22.5m2 back-of-house largely on display, it was a major challenge to combine the operation requirements in a functional, well-resolved way."

The final ergonomic solution was the result of an extensive collaboration with the head chef and proprietor.

First published date: 23 August 2004

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Credit List

Location Firefly Wine and Espresso Bar (Walsh Bay, Sydney)
Designers Kathy Arnold, Christopher Lane, Arnold Lane Design
Main contractor Belconon Construction
Flooring Fontainbleau stone tiles with antique finish from Nefiko Marble
Countertop Fontainbleau stone slab with polished finish from Nefiko Marble
Bar-front tiles Bisazza glass mosaic tiles from Pazotti
Ceiling Glass canopy from Austress
Veneers NAV Bordo Fineline with semi-outdoor finish from New Age Veneers
Paints Dulux
Feature screen, lighting bollards, stainless steel glass rack, feature panel on glass stacking cupboard door Custom designed by Arnold Lane and fabricated by Bacsoon Sydney
Tables Custom designed with New Age Veneer Bordo Fineline tops, and stainless steel base and edges manufactured by Metafab
Chairs Linea from Thonet
Stools Caterpillar stools fromOrigin Didier
Fabric (stools and banquette seating) Majilite Destiny from Arkitex
Kitchen stainless steel work Metafab
Glass stacking doors Lotus
Lighting Modus Moonscape external floor lights within custom lighting bollards from JSB Lighting
Heating Heatray radiant panel heating from Celmec Heating
Signage Lettergraphics
Graphic designer Tim Green