This project was the confluence of Dutch East Design’s continuing work in The Casco in Panama City, and the long relationship with the collective of bartenders from Macao Trading Company and Employees Only. A strong synergy resulted in an interior design and brand identity which was highly contextual, blending the tropical and historical vibes of Central America with the client’s New York roots.
The bar is named after the club of the same name which operated from the 1920s to 1970s in Colon, on the Caribbean side of Panama. Named for its role as a refuge for customers from all corners of the world, it served as the perfect inspiration for the new Strangers Club, in The Casco. Edward Tomlinson makes the following observation of Colon in his 1939 book, New Roads To Riches In The Other Americas:
Therefore, the interior design follows the area’s vernacular very closely, embracing some of the repurposed and salvaged aspects to be found in The Casco, in its various stages of decay and rejuvenation. Walls are hand-troweled stucco, with a datum to transition from sage green to white – a common condition in this context. The natural stained beadboard ceiling with overhead fans further capture the breezy tropical vibe, as do the bentwood dining chairs and marble table tops.
Strangers Club has a total of 2,500 SF across two floors. The ground floor is where the day-to-day action is, and the top floor is set up as an event space for hire, and for special club nights. Typical of buildings of this scale throughout The Casco, the upper floor’s balcony, running the full perimeter, serves as an awning for the street below. The original wood architectural details of the building have been restored, and it was very important that the interior design honor this and the neighborhood.