Project Team

design: TomMarkHenry

Despite the name, Dead Ringer is not your typical cocktail bar. Designed with no theme, pretension or ostentation, it’s interior is understated and unassuming, yet ultimately award winning.

Australian interior design practice TomMarkHenry has added yet another accolade to its name, taking out the World Interiors News Award for Best Bar. Dead Ringer is an unassuming and relaxed venue for customers to enjoy good cocktails, good food and good company, and unlike most bars it was specifically and purposefully designed without a theme. While this direction – or anti-direction – may present a design challenge to many, the end result allows the high-calibre design of the interior to speak for itself.

The annual World Interiors News Awards were held in February at the new Design Museum in London with recipients being those whose designs have made the biggest impact on the cultural  landscape in the last year. Cushla McFadden, one of the directors of TomMarkHenry, attended the ceremony to receive the Best Bar award for Dead Ringer.

Dead Ringer is located in a Victorian terrace in the leafy neighbourhood of Surry Hills in Sydney and it has been designed to blur the line between restaurant and bar: there are quiet nooks for quiet drinks, sociable booths for sociable cocktails, and long benches for long lunches. The inventive food is created by a renowned chef and the cocktails are mixed by globally recognised bartenders. But despite the hype and the awards, Dead Ringer has a laid-back aesthetic and atmosphere rarely seen in cocktail bars today. This is somewhat ironic given its name. But like the name it also reflects the clients’ tongue-in-cheek attitude, which TomMarkHenry adopted for Dead Ringer’s design.

With a courtyard in the front, casual cocktail seating inside and an intimate dining experience in the back, there is a seamless transition of space and ambience throughout Dead Ringer. This aesthetic and atmosphere is created with a refined palette of timber and tiles, which is accented with striking, surprising and sometimes amusing fixtures, fittings and decorative details. Working to a minimal budget, TomMarkHenry reused and repurposed heritage items, such as mirrors, doorknobs, coat hooks and faucets, sourced from local hardware restorers, which contribute to a
lived-in atmosphere and suit Dead Ringer’s location in a former Victorian-era home.

Hanging and cascading plants likewise create a comfortable feel, while contemporary pendants, chandeliers and wall sconces add striking and ambient light.

While Dead Ringer is a venue offering world-class food and cocktails, TomMarkHenry’s modest yet meticulous design is without any pretension or ostentation. Instead Dead Ringer has an understated neighbourhood vibe, intended to encourage passers-by to become customers, and customers to become regulars.