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Dream It

Lifting the bar: Dream It makes the imagination of Christchurch’s hospitality industry a reality

It may be a commercial art and theming company based on the northern edge of the city, but Dream It Ltd has been helping to raise the bar for nightlife throughout the city, both in the figurative and literal sense.

Dream It

When hospitality owner and developer Max Bremner wanted to renovate Yellow Cross in Sol Square, he approached owner of Dream It, Dean Johnstone. With the ability to conceptualise and create themes, the company has completed about 23 bars. And, although the earthquakes put paid to the Yellow Cross renovations, they opened up the opportunity for another job, three years later.
When Max rebuilt popular Irish bar The Bog on Victoria Street, he tasked Dean with the radical new ‘steampunk’ themed décor, before the contract extended to include the signage and overall interior theme, including the back bar whisky displays etc.
“Dean did an absolutely magnificent job,” Max says.
“He’s an extremely talented man I wouldn’t use anyone else. The success of our bars has very much come down to his artistic talent.”
When Max went on to purchase and develop the building alongside the Strip with Richard Peebles last year, Dean was tasked with the theming of the three hospitality venues which made their commercial homes here – Fat Eddies, Kong and Original Sin, working alongside Architectural Designer John Ayers.
“It was a great opportunity, with its challenges, creating three completely unique environments,” Dean says.
The latest fitout for Max has been the new Bealey Ave Steak and Alehouse earlier this year. Previously part of the Speights Alehouse brand with its Dunedin specific branding, Max has created a Christchurch focused theme, with Dean responsible for bringing his plans to life.

Dream It “The Bealey was particularly challenging because it was a live bar,” Dean says.
“While the work was being carried out, people would be drinking at the bar and you know we’re all experts when we’re having a few,” he laughs about the unsolicited advice from patrons.
“On a more serious note, we did what it took to work around a functional bar, building throughout the night, early in the morning and doing what we could off site. That’s the range of capabilities we have.
“We’ve had a seven-year long relationship with Max and it’s still going strong.”

Dream It

Creating places with punch: meet the imaginationologists at Dream It who are designing clever new spaces in our city

As our new city starts to develop and people slowly make their way back into the central city, it will be interesting to see where the winners and the losers of the social scene will be. A bar that just pours beer will simply not make it any more. There need to be other reasons to go to that bar and stay there.

For graphic design and theming company Dream It Ltd, listening to its hospitality clients, consulting fully on ideas and actually delivering the product are the keys to both its success and to the success of the bars it designs and builds.
“I view myself as an imaginologist – but my team and I at Dream It also make what I imagine,” owner Dean Johnstone says.
“We build what we design. We don’t hand it over to someone else to implement and risk compromising the original concept.”
Dean’s imagination is seemingly limitless and not always conventional. “I once designed an in-home movie theatre in the form of a submarine wreckage ‘submerged’ in three-dimensional faux rocks with dramatic effects that can be pre-programmed and controlled.”
It’s this calibre of ability that has made Dean sought after in New Zealand, Australia and even the United States. Experienced Christchurch hospitality owner Max Bremner made sure he secured Dean and his team for the fit-outs of his three bars in The Terrace complex.

“Each bar has its own unique personality. That’s what we do. We took architectural designer John Ayers’ floor plans and added the character and identity. Fat Eddies is a ‘blues’ bar reflecting America in the 1930s and 40s; Kong is an art-deco styled cocktail bar reminiscent of a 1930s movie set where you wouldn’t be surprised to see Humphrey Bogart; Original Sin on the other hand takes those two words and plays on them with ecclesiastical architecture – a serpent, an apple and an Adam and Eve themed mural painted on carved concrete to resemble an old cracked oil painting.

Dream It
These bars were the first on the new ‘strip’ and have set a high standard. If you are wondering how they are doing, all you have to do is go there any night of the week and see places full of people having a great time.