Sheffield has a thriving, young urban art and music scene, but, until recently, ‘There were a lot of branded chain bars. But nowhere for cool people to go,’ says Sola owner Tim Hubbard. Hubbard, a former engineer and Sheffield Hallam University first-year design student, designed the bar interior and lighting with third-year product design student Duncan Lamb. Their solution was Sola, ‘a hip, yet comfortable place to be – the loft apartment you’ve always wanted, except it’s your local’, says Hubbard.
The building was a printworks before being taken over by a Methodist church. Having stood empty for a decade, the building was ‘in a sorry state’, says Hubbard. While the original cast-iron columns and glass roof remain, the basement void was hollowed out to create a large, open-plan area. White walls and the glass roof bring brightness to the space, which is subtly divided into three functional zones.
Concrete flooring gives a hard-edged industrial feel around the bar, which fades to wooden flooring in the Scandinavian-styled lounge area at the back of the space. Low-slung fixed seating, low timber tables with a central, fixed cube lamp and chocolate leather daybeds are a restrained counterpoint to the geometric block, relief sculpture in burnt orange and brown on the wall above. At night this is lit with a line of tungsten lights running the length of the bench seating, creating intimate shadows. The tungsten lighting is mirrored on the bar opposite, casting a diffused light down the bar front on to the concrete floor.
A light-filled cafÃ©/ bar under the atrium-style glass roof aims to bring in the business-lunch trade. Square pedestal tables and classic Charles & Ray Eames and Verner Panton chairs make the space stylish, but unintimidating. Classic leather sofas offer a comfort zone away from the busy bar area. A 4.5m projection behind the bar is a focal point and forum for displaying new digital media and video art and colour-change lighting in the main space sets a different tone for evening.