If residential interiors are self-portraits, restaurants might be considered landscapes. The owners of Tacofino were wise to this, creating a series of wildly atmospheric spaces on Vancouver Island and throughout Vancouver that mine the West Coast imagination. As the eatery, known for its locally inspired fare, continued its march across the region, co-founders Kaeli Robinsong and Jason Sussman enlisted Shiloh Sukkau, principal of Vancouver studio September, to broaden their coastal iconography.
“It’s been a research project,” says Sukkau. “It’s allowed me to develop a language around materials and use them in a combination that’s really particular to the West Coast.” For their latest outpost in the city’s Kitsilano district, the direction shifted to Tofino, the town where it all began in the back of a surf shop parking lot. “There was a feeling that this neighbourhood had a long connection to Tofino,” she says of her fifth location for the chain. “We wanted to reference that without being too overt.”
Sukkau stripped the compact 186-square-metre space down to its shell, leaving the ceiling open and the concrete walls and floors exposed. As you descend from the street, the low roof and narrow floor plate create a sense of decompression, followed by a kind of surf-town chill.
Natural materials — such as the black beach stones embedded in the polished concrete tabletops and service bar panelling — are incorporated throughout. These elements contrast the chalky-white pockmarked walls strewn with exposed conduits and porcelain lamp fixtures that trace the shape of rolling waves.
A curving threshold leading to the washrooms and a trailing ribbon-like mural by artist Iman Virji release the space from its hard lines while recalling seaside forms. The scheme is further accented by a run of slatted cedar two-by-fours painted mint green, a stand-in for the Douglas firs and cedars that line Tofino’s shores.
As with their previous collaborations, the overall effect is transportive and multi-layered yet accessible. “We wanted to create something that is subtle and interesting but not fussy,” Sukkau concludes. “It’s the kind of place where you can wander in off the street in jean shorts.”
With subtle nods to the West Coast vernacular, local studio September captures the essence of the taco chain’s beginnings in its new Kitsilano location.