LA Restaurant Bavel is a Master Class in 2018 Restaurant Design Trends

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The first thing anyone who walks into the white-heated restaurant in Bavel will notice are the plants. Potho vines cascade from a suspended steel structure, an explosion of greenery that fills the large ceiling space and creeps, spin by spin, over guests and staff moving through the room. As a lover of houseplants and a connoisseur of dead plants, I was struck – and totally won over – by its beauty, vitality and scale.

Design Bavel, a collaboration between pastry chef and co-owner of restaurant Geneviève Gergis and design firm Studio UNLTD, is a master class in trends 2018. There are the aforementioned plants (the work of landscaper Steve Siegrist), a palette in color hits a particularly current shade of blue and chic burnt yellow, and a seating mix includes a rose gold version of the Bend Goods back bar stool that’s a classic in the making. The restaurant might be perfect now, but Gergis and Greg Bleier, who led Studio UNLTD’s team on the project, began working together on the design in 2016 – a few years after their successful design collaboration on the perennial LA Bestia hotspot, also owned by Gergis and her husband, Chef Ori Menashe.

“My team is more directive about the vibe and the feeling we wanted. And Greg passes it on to his team and makes it happen, ”Gergis explains.

As a designer, Bleier finds these restrictions creatively liberating. “I find it more refreshing than someone giving you a blank canvas. I like having problems to solve, and Geneviève and Ori are good at creating problems, ”he says.

The goal of everyone from the start was to create a space that evokes the restaurants of the Middle East coast, without even looking towards the cliché. On the food side, that meant a menu featuring deeply layered flavors in dishes like slow roasted lamb neck shawarma and insanely good duck nduja hummus that ended up placing the restaurant on several lists of best new restaurants, including including Eater’s. On the design side, that meant transforming a former clothing warehouse into an airy and opulent centerpiece.

To create a more open and airy feel, Bleier and architectural designer Osvaldo Maiozzi added a skylight. Leaving the concrete patio floors unglazed helped to retain a sense of history and age. Kitchen designer Alec Bauer has kept the fully modern open kitchen. Bleier and Ania Bown, Studio UNTLD’s senior interior designer, drew the blue in the photos Gergis would send from his trips to Morocco and Israel – the water in particular – while the yellows were a necessary counterbalance. Bleier also wanted to be smart in incorporating the region’s visual touchstones: the curves of the rear bar nod to the iconic arches of Islamic architecture; instead of recreating the details of the Moroccan marquetry floor, Bleier resized it, creating a colorful, asymmetrical, oversized fish scale pattern with custom tiles made in California; instead of leaning on chandeliers to project familiar geometric patterns onto walls, plants (“our own Babylonian Hanging Garden,” Beier jokes) achieve the same effect.

Other features are even more subtle. The different white tiles that make up the bar area express different textures. A mix of brass and rose gold throughout the space gives things a feel that is both luxurious and lived in. The brick walls inside the restaurant were treated by a scenic painter who added layers of texture after whitewashing to evoke a sense of history. And the whole project encompasses where the restaurant actually sits – not on a Mediterranean coast, but in the heart of Los Angeles’ booming arts district, where materials like brick, steel, and floors concrete are the norm and, in Bavel, celebrated.

In a year of Instagram trend hunting, a design as expansive and well executed as Bavel’s is worth celebrating. It’s an icy stun.


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