The stories (and photos) behind six of the Golden State’s most double-tap worthy designs
Leo’s Oyster Bar, Ken Fulk
“We all want interesting, beautiful, engaging experiences,” says Ken Fulk. And yet, leave it to the event-planning and interior-design whiz to also give people what they didn’t know they wanted. His collaboration with Anna Weinberg of Big Night Restaurant Group, Leo’s Oyster Bar, instantly became a hot spot in San Francisco’s Financial District when it opened in January 2016, garnering accolades from all corners. With an Instagram-ready wall of bold tropical floral wallpaper, a bar enveloped in onyx, brass and rich wood paneling, and other sumptuous dining-room details—plus the adjoining Tiki Lounge and The Hideaway lounge spaces—Leo’s offers “an intoxicating mix,” says Fulk. It’s the work of an optimistic storyteller who might love the drama of the past, but continues to look ahead. “We are forward thinking. I never think the best times were behind us.” Cheers to that. leossf.com; kenfulk.com.
Cafe Birdie, Sally Breer and Jake Rodehuth-Harrison, ETC.etera
A visual concept—based around the life of a fictional bon vivant character dreamed up by interior designer Sally Breer—got people talking about the charming Hotel Covell in Los Feliz. For Cafe Birdie, Breer and business partner Jake Rodehuth-Harrison again embraced a narrative-based process. “Birdie was a woman who was born in Cuba, emigrated to Miami and moved to New Orleans with her French husband,” Breer explains. The designer’s loose, Old World aesthetic incorporates a custom seafoam green from Portola Paints & Glazes, Simon LeComte of NewMade LA’s streamlined copper and acrylic lighting, and other details created by jack-of-all-trades ace Carlos Anthony Lopez. Up next: Oriel restaurant in Chinatown and Hotel Covell’s expansion, both with Covell owner and hospitality entrepreneur Dustin Lancaster. cafebirdiela.com; etcforshort.com.
Loquita, Doug Washington
Sherry Villanueva’s vision has helped transform buzzy neighborhood the Funk Zone from a scrappy warehouse district to a must-visit destination in Santa Barbara, thanks to the stellar food and wine offerings she’s developed through Acme Hospitality. Given this community’s unorthodox history, it’s not surprising that the designer behind its most popular venues, Doug Washington, isn’t technically a trained restaurant architect or interior designer, but instead a successful restaurateur who hails from S.F. (Town Hall, Salt House, Anchor & Hope). The latest in Acme’s portfolio (The Lark, Les Marchands, Lucky Penny, Helena Avenue Bakery) is Loquita, a laid-back Spanish restaurant located on State Street, in a position that serves as a gateway of sorts to the buzzy Funk Zone neighborhood. Of his stylistic approach, Washington says, “You really feel Spain when you’re in Santa Barbara,” so he endeavored “to be light-handed with references.” Wall-mounted antique copper paella pans inside and the patio fireplace clad with 3,000 sardine tins keep the centuries-old dialogue between California and Spain going. loquitasb.com; Doug Washington, 415-533-5583.
Tartine Manufactory, Charles Hemminger, Hemminger Architects
“Many chefs and restaurateurs have a keen sense of design,” Charles Hemminger says. “It’s a misconception that interior designers and architects are in a vacuum. It’s a dialogue that goes on.” Through his work at places that land at the top of any S.F. food pilgrimage itinerary, such as State Bird Provisions, Outerlands and Cala, the architect knows how to translate culinary creatives’ visions into three dimensions. “The initial idea with Chad [Robertson] and Liz [Prueitt] was to create a workshop that’s an extension of the whole Heath project,” he says of Tartine Manufactory, a restaurant, bakery and cafe from the couple behind Tartine Bakery, set inside the Heath Ceramics complex—a project for which Hemminger’s firm collaborated with Commune Design. The challenge and opportunity was to “let people come in and see the production. They want to feel a part of the vibe of people working, the smells, the visuals.” To wit, at the center is the literal and figurative heart of the Manufactory operation: a giant oven. tartinemanufactory.com; Hemminger Architects, 415-378-7046.
Gratitude, Wendy Haworth
Arguably no restaurant group better reflects the grain bowl-dominated times we’re living in than Love Serve Remember. CEO Lisa Bonbright brought Wendy Haworth on board to design the group’s Venice location of renowned vegan eatery Cafe Gratitude in 2012, and they’ve been together ever since, creating a sophisticated visual sense to go hand in hand with the restaurants’ plant-based menus. There’s “a vocabulary” that Haworth has established in approaching the interiors of sister restaurants (including the West Hollywood hot spot Gracias Madre): natural upholsteries, one-of-a-kind goods (macrame wall hangings, pottery) and earthy elements. Gratitude, a more upscale concept in Newport Beach, showcases Haworth’s preferred bright palette and the handmade components she sources (origami lighting fixtures by The California Workshop, Matthew Ward ceramic planters). Haworth’s other recent projects include neighborhood restaurant Winsome in Echo Park and the highly anticipated Felix on Abbot Kinney from chef Evan Funke, plus a forthcoming Gratitude in Beverly Hills. cafegratitude.com; wendyhaworthdesign.com.
Delilah, John Sofio, Built, Inc.
John Sofio is keenly aware of his weakness for Jazz Age fantasy, and the cliches that could come with it. “I wanted to avoid your typical Gatsbyesque room, and create a modern version of Art Deco today,” says Sofio about envisioning and constructing the deluxe Delilah supper club in West Hollywood. The founder of design-build firm Built, Inc. took an intensive field trip to a landmark that’s loaded with treasures and steeped in romantic lure: the Queen Mary in Long Beach. In addition to the famed ocean liner, Sofio drew inspiration from the compact bar swathed in green-hued stone at the Parker Palm Springs, and from as far away as Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed columns in the Johnson Wax Headquarters building in Wisconsin. To achieve Delilah’s contemporary polish, “every corner, every detail is pulled together,” he explains. It helps that Built, Inc. fabricated almost all the components in-house for Delilah—not to mention The Nice Guy, the new Peppermint Club and the other evocative rooms he’s shaped. delilahla.com; builtinc.com.
Written by JESSICA RITZ.