Waldorf Hotel Cafe

Waldorf Hotel Cafe
Waldorf Hotel Cafe--Designed by Scott Cohen--Built by Funhouse/PGC

Monday, October 14, 2013

Filling the Void

Solid and fir veneer with walnut inlays

Over the course of the summer I sold off the majority of my furniture. It just didn’t fit in my semi-new apartment. I knew that if I held onto it I wouldn’t be motivated to build pieces that worked in the space. Because of that my small home has been particularly barren and monastic. I’ve had this high desk half built in my shop for months. It’d been gathering dust (literally) in a corner feeling neglected calling out to me. Pleading with me to take the time to finish it and take it home. This weekend I acknowledged those pleas. 

In use after some redecoration

Saturday, July 20, 2013

If you keep it...you end up with a little bench!

“If you keep it. You will always have it.”

Words recently passed on to me by my mother. Passed through generations. Passed to my mother by her mother. It’s a simple thought easily discarded as elementary, superfluous, redundant. But I can’t stop thinking about the plain wisdom underneath it. How it is applicable to all facets of life.

A couple weeks ago I was at a family reunion, a gathering that happens every 22 years for our immediate family. We are spread literally across countries and continents. The fact that we are able to be in the same place at the same time is nothing short of miraculous. When I arrived my Mum asked me if I could build her a small bench for the front porch. In the back corner of the basement were some old pine boards from bookshelves my parents had been carrying around for over 40 years. I remembered the bookshelves vividly from my childhood. I remembered the books on English literature, Renaissance art, and Greek myths standing upright on the mahogany stained shelves. The shelves crossed state and country borders with our family. House to house they found a space against a wall. Until finally finding themselves stacked upright in the basement. Kept but presumably unnecessary. Their house is much smaller than the houses we used to live in and many of the books have been passed on to other bookshelves in other households.

Using my father’s and grandfather’s tools I went to work in the little driveway beside the house. Spending a couple hours each day on the project. Jointing edges with a Skil saw and block plane. I’ve grown reliant on table saws, planers, jointers, shapers, router tables, Japanese chisels, etc., so it may not be my prettiest work. The point wasn’t to make an exquisite piece of furniture. It was to create something simple and functional out of something that had always been simple and functional. Create it from something that had been kept by my family and now would continue to be kept. Because,

“If you keep it…”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Waldorf Diaries - Showing Love

Photographer Norman Fox took this photo of me on the back service stairs a couple days ago.

I’ve lived in many different kinds of alternative spaces. Many Vancouver warehouses. The back storeroom of a friend’s clothing store. A squat in New York City. A closet in the NYU dorms when I was posing as a student to get free rent in the city. The legendary Ca Chapel space in Tallahassee, Florida. I even tried living on a city building’s rooftop for a month (not my best idea). And most recently, Room 103 at the Waldorf Hotel here in Vancouver. The Waldorf Hotel stands on its own in this list. It was the first place I’ve ever moved into with absolute certainty of what I was doing. I had a plan and a focus that was lacking in most of previous domestic decisions. I had a project to finish and I knew I needed to be in the middle of an artistically charged atmosphere. I made the right choice.

The Waldorf differs from the previous warehouse and squat situations I’ve lived in because of its inclusivity. It was public. It had cross-generational appeal. On weekends I would witness young club kids intermingling with people old enough to be their grandparents. In the past week I have read countless articles describing the hotel as a “Hipster” enclave and I feel that is a tragic misnomer. The word “hipster” infers exclusivity, the antithesis of what the Waldorf has represented. It has been a vital public space and a gathering point for a cross section of Vancouver communities. Living in the middle of it was exciting and inspiring. It housed no irony. The Waldorf Hotel was a sincere and impassioned venture. It literally vibrated on weekends with the bass beats of the world’s best dj’s and the energy of crowds who moved from space to space, each room an entirely new world. New experience.

I was just downstairs in the empty restaurant playing the grand piano. Taking a moment alone with bamboo, oak, and shiny black laminate. I needed that time to reflect over what was accomplished here. This building came to life over the past three years with the love that was shown to it. It became the lady it was meant to be. I needed to say good bye. To say thank you.

Another Norman Fox image looking up the cabaret entrance stairway.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Waldorf Hotel Diaries...

The bar that will never be used

I was involved with the renovations of the Waldorf Hotel in 2010. I have also been a resident inhabiting room 103 for the past 18 months. This morning I was finishing the lamination on a new bar I built for the cabaret when I received the news that it had been sold and closing by January 20th. It made me very sad. Vancouver and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. I’ve moved away and returned literally more times than I can count. Each time I return I try again to establish a healthy relationship with this city. I try to find things I like about it. The Waldorf and the community around was one of those things. Tom, Ernesto, Scott, Danny and countless others created both a vibrant venue and creative compound in an otherwise culturally hindered city. I felt honored to be a part of that. Now with the news today I fear Vancouver and I might have irreconcilable differences. Our values are dramatically different and once again I find myself wondering if this is where I want to be. If this is where I belong.
I loved my little hotel room. I felt more at home there than anywhere I’ve lived. Thank you for that opportunity.