DUBAI—Picture it: Taxidermy antlers hung as plaques on the walls, flooring with a Spanish flair, found objects and a rock n’ roll vibe. It’s a place where none of these things go with the other, and that’s precisely the point at Weslodge Saloon, a restaurant and bar on the 68th floor atop the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai here in Business Bay. It’s a design fantasy come to life at the hands of Navigate Design’s cofounder Ken Lam and his team that is equal parts bold branding and creative design.
“It’s a brand-originated concept designed for a downtown location. With the huge success of the business in Toronto, they wanted to bring the brand global and brought the brand to Dubai. It’s a different market and clientele,” said Lam. “We had to do a lot of research on how to tackle that market. Are they open to an American-Canadian fusion? What don’t they eat? We did lots of research and collaborated with Icon Legacy as the food partner, and we’re the design partner.”
Designing for this concept was much different from the sister venue in Toronto, which is also where Navigate Design is based. “Downtown Toronto has a moody feel to it. The design had to be tweaked to fit this new market. Westlodge’s tagline is when Ralph Lauren meets rock n’ roll. We have a rugged cuisine and atmosphere,” said Lam. “You’re hanging out in an extended living room in a rock star’s home. There’s a 33-ft.-long bar and curated objects that cater to the lifestyle. Everything is designed around a strong aesthetic.”
Accessories take the stage to reveal an upscale, yet lived-in and cohesive look. Found objects and vintage art pieces along with custom-designed furniture help infuse the space with an elevated level of comfort. The Toronto location has a similar element in that it’s heavy on the Victorian Revival with the paneling, and there’s more taxidermy. In Dubai, Lam hung horns on the wood-paneled walls for a curated-and-collected style. Both properties share a similar vintage feel.
Weslodge Saloon is the first third-party-operated venue to establish itself inside the hotel, noted Lam. He sees the Dubai F&B concept as a destination and experience for locals and guests alike. With that in mind, there was a lot of preparation and emphasis put on the branding elements for a synergistic effect.
“The brand has to continue when the designer leaves. Weslodge in Dubai engaged Insignia to give them attitude and core values. That was a big part of the planning and then how to translate it into design,” he said. “For example, it’s an odd floor plan. How do you plan around it? The location of the bar and the dining room dictates the flow. They wanted to put an emphasis on the bar scenes for this Weslodge. When we designed the interiors, we put the bar right up front when you enter. When you come into the restaurant, everything is happening behind the bar and the bartenders are on-brand. We helped them hire talent with a very hipster kind of style. Everybody is individualized and they all have their own following on Instagram.”
According to Lam, the bar and restaurant provided a canvas for them to showcase a rock n’ roll-style residential living room, and gives bartenders a stage for bespoke cocktails. Every aspect of the execution was a collaboration and Navigate Design’s services go beyond the norms of selecting color palettes and furnishings.
“When we tell people we do the interior design part, it’s so much more. We’re a restaurant hospitality design firm. We do menu design, branding for clients, ose purchasing and project management,” he said. “We’re a good partnership with a restaurant group that knows what they want and we’re bigger than interior design.”