In 1795, Napoleon Bonaparte offered up a cash prize of 12,000 francs to whoever could invent a way to preserve food for his army — and, more than two centuries later, this historic event has provided the inspiration for Emma Maxwell Design’s first foray into the area of hospitality design in Hong Kong.
Set among a cluster of Hong Kong's trendiest restaurants and bars on Elgin Street in SoHo, 12,000 Francs boasts an elegant exterior decorated with geometric tiles. As guests walk through the threshold, the dazzling, stylish interiors exude a seductive and evocative other world atmosphere distinctive from the chaotic and bustling neon lit streets steps away.
The dining destination was designed by Emma Maxwell, founder of Emma Maxwell Design and winner of the Best of the Best award in product design at Perspective's A&D Trophy Awards 2016. Inside 12,000 Francs, Napoleonic elements and inspirations weave their way throughout her design, including the iconic Napoleonic bee.
Chosen by the French emperor himself, the bee's virtues of collective organisation and industry were values that he hoped would be adopted by people throughout the empire. The insect went on to become one of the most prominent icons of the French Revolution, and it is strongly associated with the inspiration for the design of the the pre-eminent fleur de lis.
Extending from the entrance into the restaurant is a long communal sommelier table with high stools custom-designed by Maxwell, which accommodates a dozen diners. Taking pride of place in the centre of the table is a large, bronze cast bespoke pig holding six bottles of chilled 'wine in swine'. It's a playful nod to the character Napoleon — that is, the pig from George Orwell's book Animal Farm, not the French military and political leader.
As the guests venture through the space, dense clusters of hand-blown, honey-coloured glass beehive pendant lamps float evocatively above them. The ceiling, treated with hand-pressed brass metal in a bee's wing pattern, ensures the space is blanketed in a soft, comforting amber-toned glow.
The rich narrative of the space is further articulated with Broken Green wallpaper designed by Kerrie Brown, evoking the memory of ancient French chateaus going back to a time when the Napoleonic Empire dominated Europe's psyche. The wallpaper appears to sit like delicate layers on the wall, creating the illusion of being inside a long-abandoned mansion.
This is an excerpt from the “A Napoleonic Narrative" article from the March 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.
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