The Grandel Theatre
& The Dark Room
3610 Grandel Square
St. Louis, MO 63103
The Kranzberg Arts Foundation acquired the Grandel Theatre in 2016, with aspirations to convert the church-turned-theatre into a welcoming, multi-disciplinary venue to provide spaces for community dance troupes, music groups, theatre ensembles to practice and perform, and to serve as the new home for The Dark Room, a restaurant, gallery, and live music space. KAF wanted everyone from the community to feel welcome, whether you are coming to view a photography exhibition, watch a dance performance in the second floor private event space, see a cutting-edge play in the Theatre, or have a meal with a side of jazz in the Dark Room.
The project was undertaken in two phases. Phase One brought The Dark Room into the former lobby of the theatre. A stone load-bearing wall was removed to accommodate the kitchen, and a small stage was installed, along with a large bar. The bar is open on four sides, and the east-facing side is oriented to serve guests who are heading to the main theatre. The deep coffers remained, but were outfitted with LED lights and steel to bring down the scale and add a modern aesthetic to the space. New carpet was installed throughout The Dark Room, the rest of the lobby, and down into the basement, where the bathrooms are located. Steel panels created the gallery for photography exhibitions. By using steel, artwork can be hung with magnets, so the maintenance team won’t have to worry about filling holes and repainting after each exhibition closes. The bathrooms received a cosmetic upgrade: new paint, new sinks and countertop. During this phase, a portion of exterior work was completed as well. Lighting, walkways, and stairs were repaired, railings were painted, and leaded glass windows were repaired. A new retaining wall was added, and landscaping gave the building more curb appeal.
Phase Two sought to renovate much of the rest of the building. KAF wanted to offer a variety of food and beverage options during shows, so two “coat rooms” were converted to dry bars so serve guests. Some booth seating was added on the main floor and in the balcony to provide another seating option for groups. The left and right balconies were left open to accommodate flexible seating options for special events and group seating. The fixed audience seating on the first floor was simply cleaned, and the design team color matched the terra cotta mohair to use in the modern custom carpet. The “sunray” pattern on the ends of the fixed seating rows inspired the new feature lighting on the second floor. The brown painted wood in the theatre was repainted to complement the rest of the interior. The second floor private event space was given a light touch: a fresh coat of paint and the floors were restained a more neutral warm wood color. The adjacent catering kitchen was given a light renovation: new flooring and paint. Outside, a new patio was installed on the east side of the building to take advantage of the beautiful atmosphere of the soon-to-be adjacent Arts Academy Plaza at Grand and Grandel Place. The patio will provide a space for outdoor activities and performances, as well as outdoor seating for The Dark Room.
“The Kranzberg Arts Foundation hired SPACE to help breathe new life into the Grandel Theatre. They provided design solutions which helped repurpose a neglected historic building to our new art-infused community-oriented use for the building. Their fresh take and ability to work within an historic space dovetails with our mission. They are successful because they know how to listen, process, and execute quality design solutions.”