By Barbara Rourke
Excellent chef runner-up Brian Malarkey is known not only for his creative cuisine but also for his destination restaurants. When tasked with launching a new restaurant in San Diego called Animae, he contacted Los Angeles design firm Bells + Whistles to create a concept that would not only set it apart from other restaurants in the city, but also from his own. .
Malarkey’s restaurants share some common characteristics: cozy, contemporary, elegant, sophisticated. For Animae, a Michelin-rated Wagyu steak and seafood restaurant, he opted for keywords like Art Deco, opulent and Asian.
The result is a theatrical wonderland, inspired, in part, by a remote ancient forest on the Japanese island of Yakushima. The design team wanted to create an enchanting environment that mimicked the forest told through an Art Deco lens, with opulent touches like lush serpentine velvet-backed banquettes and floor-to-ceiling curtains with sumptuous pleats that frame different parts of the dining room. Meanwhile, the forest floor carpet and terrazzo “river” that meanders through the space combine with elements such as pendant lights that mimic the feel of sunlight filtering through trees to create a design immersive that diners can unravel for themselves.
Drawing inspiration from mossy inspirational imagery and a regal color palette of emerald, gold and salmon, the Bells + Whistles team turned to an expansive bespoke rug that is hugged by an installation sinuous terrazzo floor as the basis of the design.
Flooring is essential to the design of any space, but restaurant flooring is especially important because of the wear and tear it has to endure. Restaurants are machines that require constant maintenance and cleaning, so when it comes to flooring, appearance is only part of the equation. The choice of material must withstand hammering day after day for more than ten years.
The design team knew they wanted carpet in the dining room for its functionality and were surprised to learn that wool is exceptionally well suited to soft surface restaurant flooring. As such, they have introduced a custom 11-color patterned wool rug from Brintons that runs along the dining side of the restaurant.
Uniqueness is key to retail design – restaurants must compete to attract customers, and their experience isn’t based solely on the food served. Brintons’ Craigend collection by Timourous Beasties offered the perfect solution. Inspired by soil textures in the natural world, like lichen on a rock, it provided a way to incorporate the design theme through custom adjustments. Its blend of 80% wool and 20% nylon is perfect for high traffic, maintenance and longevity, while offering sumptuously designed sound attenuation, another important factor for restaurants that must be taken into account for a successful design. .
Animae has 20ft ceilings and a wall of windows, which would normally create a noise problem, but the carpet allows diners to carry on conversations without having to shout. It also helps the space feel cozy and intimate and, combined with the terrazzo in other parts of the dining room, creates alternative environments to keep things fresh as people return again and again to celebrate the big ones. life opportunities.
In an interview with San Diego Magazine, Malarkey admits he must have talked about the carpet, but was ultimately swayed by the acoustic benefits, as well as its eye-catching design. “It’s the funkiest rug ever,” he says. “[My business partner and I] were the ones who cleaned out warehouses and made super noisy restaurants. Now I think we’re at the forefront of restaurateurs coming back to places where you can talk to people.
The bespoke carpeting, which echoes a sun-dappled forest floor, is also a favorite aspect of the design team. Its bespoke quality elevates the space, yet it was surprisingly affordable. Flooring is always a big part of Bells + Whistles designs, but budget ultimately determines the material and the attention given to it. The team’s construction budget of $5 million could have supported the projected price of $100,000 for the 4,500 square feet of custom Axminster carpet used, but the fractional cost of $25,000 meant the designers had no not to compromise on other aspects of their original vision. to accommodate the carpet.
Using multiple textures in a space creates a sense of wonder and luxury. With that and durability in mind, Bells + Whistles used a custom terrazzo mix for the high-traffic walking areas. The design firm often turns to terrazzo for its longevity and versatility; not only is the material suitable for a variety of environments even at high performance, but by its very nature it can be designed with a number of personalities in mind – a colourful, chunky mix for high-impact modernity or an elegant array of tiny glitter aggregate particles, for example. Working with Over The Top Terrazzo & Tile, the design team opted for a mix reminiscent of a starry night sky. The black base is generously speckled with gray and green marble shards, creating a subtle contrast between the two dining room floor coverings while still feeling right at home in the Art Deco environment. The terrazzo flows like a river of ink, connecting the main dining room to the bar and ultimately to Animae’s sister restaurant, Nima Cafe, next door.
Nima is Animae’s minimalist daytime partner, so the connection floor had to fulfill a double function. In the bright and airy cafe, the terrazzo adds a touch of style without overdoing it, playing on the warmth of the juxtaposed oak wood that shares the space. The selection of “fossil stones” from Provenza’s Old World Engineered Hardwood Collection are hand-aged and smoked, giving it an ancient, rustic cast that fits in with the “Japanese” aesthetic of the popular spot for lunch. While Nima generally feels more in tune with the laid-back San Diego vibe, the inverted moss plantings that seep from the ceiling are reminiscent of Animae’s Enchanted Forest theme.
On par with destination restaurants in the world’s ‘must see’ centers like London and Hong Kong, Animae has been shortlisted for the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards, which recognize the world’s most creative and influential restaurants and bars. , and it has racked up numerous local accolades, the most telling of which is that the San Diegans relished the excuse of dressing up for an extra-special night amid its unparalleled vibe.
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