Bar Franca

Client / Rachel Thomas

Area / Historic Core, Downtown Los Angeles

Status / Complete

Type / Restaurant/Bar

We worked with restaurateur and interior designer Rachel Thomas to create this 2,600 sf cocktail bar in downtown LA.

Located on an increasingly busy section of Main Street, the unreinforced masonry building was built in 1909 by Parkinson and Bergstrom Architects. The building originally served as the Canadian consulate and the space where the bar is now located once served as a vaudeville theater.

As architects, we executed Thomas' vision for this work, creating the space plan, designing the storefront and managing the permitting process, while Thomas directed the overall vibe, designed the interiors, and selected all of the finishes and furniture.

Bar Franca

We worked with restaurateur and interior designer Rachel Thomas to create this 2,600 sf cocktail bar in downtown LA. 

Located on an increasingly busy section of Main Street, the unreinforced masonry building was built in 1909 by Parkinson and Bergstrom Architects. The building originally served as the Canadian consulate and the space where the bar is now located once served as a vaudeville theater.

As architects, we executed Thomas' vision for this work, creating the space plan, designing the storefront and managing the permitting process, while Thomas directed the overall vibe, designed the interiors, and selected all of the finishes and furniture.

Owner / Rachel Thomas

Location / Historic Core, Downtown Los Angeles

Status / Complete

Type / Restaurant/Bar

We worked with restaurateur and interior designer Rachel Thomas to create this 2,600 sf cocktail bar in downtown LA.

Located on an increasingly busy section of Main Street, the unreinforced masonry building was built in 1909 by Parkinson and Bergstrom Architects. The building originally served as the Canadian consulate and the space where the bar is now located once served as a vaudeville theater.

As architects, we executed Thomas' vision for this work, creating the space plan, designing the storefront and managing the permitting process, while Thomas directed the overall vibe, designed the interiors, and selected all of the finishes and furniture.

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Design

One of Thomas’ design goals was to create a place with the quirky charm of small venues in places like Morocco, Paris or Mexico City. For a little mystery, Thomas knocked down the existing entry and replaced it with a breeze-block wall that obscures the bar beyond while still inviting a closer look. Once visitors pass through the wall’s narrow opening, a small forecourt with lounge seating leads to our custom designed painted decorative steel storefront entry with wall-to-wall glazing and evocative signage. A wide door then opens onto the bar interior.

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Inspiration

Faced with a high ceiling and a long, narrow plan, we looked for ways to make the space cozy. Morgan, one of our directors, recalled a trip to Berlin and seeing a segmented storefront entry door. So to bring the ceiling lower, we fulfilled Thomas’s request for a tunnelled ceiling and called for new drywall to form a delicately segmented arch. Then toward the back of the space, we brightened things up with a new skylight that opens to the lightwell above. For better acoustics, Thomas selected fabric panels, running along one wall, to reduce echoes and allow for closer conversation.

Bar Franca is now a fixture on the area’s scene, with weekly dance parties and other events.

Project photography by Emi Kiwataki.