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The Drake Commissary Revamps a West End Factory

John Tong, a seasoned factory hand, uses shades of green to create layers and harmony in a repurposed factory on Sterling Road, the Drake Hotel’s newest outpost

By Alexandra Caufin
Photography by Colin Faulkner

Repurposing defunct factories is something that comes naturally to John Tong. The design pro behind the Drake Hotel lived in industrial buildings throughout his twenties – spaces ripe for re-interpretation by the then-burgeoning creative. Maybe that’s why when it came to the Drake’s newest venue, the Commissary on Sterling Road, he knew exactly where to begin.

Tong had long been collecting factory lamps (you know the ones: industrial green on the outside, white on the inside), but after digging them up from his basement and seeing them side by side, he noticed that each shade was a little different – he had a palette on his hands. As such, you’ll see variations of the colour throughout the sprawling space: deep teal on the leather and white oak banquettes, emerald on the walls and malachite-hued glass for the retro light fixtures.

The Drake Commissary - John Tong design

The designer opted for a curated more-is-more approach in the dining room and lounge, filling it with vintage furniture, rich textiles and, plenty of wood. The mid-century modern pieces capture a moment in time when manufacturing strongly balanced production with craftsmanship – apt, since the Commissary’s 425-square-metre kitchen is where all small-batch bread and charcuterie are made and shipped out to the Drake’s properties.

The Drake Commissary - John Tong design

Injecting even more modern into the ambiance are white marble displays and powder-coated metal cladding bent accordion-style around the bars. The textured treatment creates a pop-art, polka dot aesthetic, not to mention a fantastic backdrop for the striking silhouette of the vintage-looking stools.

Tong explains that one of the key approaches for a space that’s rich but not overwhelming is making revisions as you go. “With the Drake projects, it has always been a process of tasting,” he says, “adding things and taking things away.”

The Drake Commissary - John Tong design

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