“Architecturally, I think every restaurant should be transporting,” says Erlang Wu-Bower, chef and co-owner of Pacific Standard Time, a restaurant that promises to bring “the warmth and bounty of California to downtown Chicago.” That comes through in PST’s lofty white and wood-beam ceiling, light-wood chairs and soft gray banquettes, lights hidden in gentle ceramic fixtures or accented with warm brass, textured plaster walls, massive windows, low dividing walls and unobtrusive see-through bar, and tumbling plants strategically enlivening concrete elements. California wine bar Coast and Valley in Brooklyn, achingly chic deli Californian Echo (named for LA’s Echo Park) in Paris, Café No SE in Austin’s South Congress Hotel, Montreal’s health food-focused restaurant called Venice, and daytime counter-service spot Mustache in Atlanta all have the same vibe; the same clean, textured white walls; the same light-blond woods; the same leafy green plants.
These restaurants don’t serve the same food or clientele, and they range in size and opening hours, but they all conjure the same place through common aesthetic elements. Jeremy Levitt, co-founder of NYC-based design firm Parts and Labor, rhapsodizes about California’s beautiful landscapes, architecture, seafood, and vegetation.
And people who live out east all feel connected to that.” At Pacific Standard Time, the team channeled that bounty through natural light and plants. Design director Dan Kennedy points out subtler touches, like beamed ceilings and plaster walls to evoke a 1970s Malibu ranch home, as well as breeze blocks that recall Palm Springs hotels of the same era.
These elements divide the cavernous space without interrupting the airy, open vibe, but Kennedy also says they contribute to a residential theme, helping diners feel especially welcome in homey little pockets throughout the restaurant. (While this isn’t a direct reference to California cuisine progenitor Chen Panics in Berkeley, domesticity is key to both restaurant concepts.
Waters has said she opened the restaurant in a former house in 1971 to offer refuge from the era’s political turbulence, creating comfort with furniture and tableware from flea markets.) From the ’40s through the ’60s, American and European architects like Ray and Charles Games, Richard Neutral, and Rudolph Schindler constructed houses from Venice to Malibu that incorporated California’s vibrant ecosystem and natural light.
In Inside the California Food Revolution, chef Joyce Goldstein further argues LA designers were more creative than their peers in San Francisco because they didn’t feel beholden to legacy restaurants. The interior appeared simple, but as the Times picked up, Murder’s deliberate minimalism created an unhurried atmosphere where artists and patrons could idly graze and chat from morning till night.
The upgraded interior at the Rose. Rose Café opened nearby the following year with art and natural light to rival West Beach, as well as lots of plants (both on tables and painted on walls). Perelman argues West Beach’s all-white, art gallery aesthetic, combined with Rose Café’s laid-back Bohemia, formed the “genetic code” of today’s minimalist, feel-good style.
Goldstein credits LA’s obsession with glitz and glamour for sparking the ensuing trend across the city, as owners sought to capture buzz by elevating diner experience. In 1982 Puck introduced Beverly Hills to Sago, which recalled airy mid century Case Study Houses by the Eases and Neutral.
Puck seated guests inside in Hero Saarinen-like patio chairs and covered the outdoor space in AstroTurf, merging interior and exterior. Schweitzer’s City Restaurant followed in 1985 in a converted carpet warehouse on La Area where servers dotted tables with brightly colored tableware, not unlike the pastel plates seen everywhere now.
Diners can still experience the original aesthetic firsthand at Santa Monica mainstay Michael’s, which Jonathan Gold recognized in 2017 as a time capsule from 1979. Michael McCarty famously decorated with artists like Ed Russia and Charles Arabian, hanging works in the open dining room and even on the patio, where the art still rambles down right into the foliage.
“Tired of receiving condescending and pompous treatment in the bastions of haute cuisine, diners wanted a more relaxed environment with friendly service,” Goldstein writes. Today’s California restaurants emerged from another overly serious chapter in American eating, characterized in pop culture (accurately or not) by Brooklyn hipsters, dark wood taverns, gluttonous meat temples, and hushed speakeasies.
Watanabe sees it all the time on design blogs, on Remodeling, and in Architectural Digest, but she doesn’t believe it’s necessarily representative of California; online, it looks more like a fashionable any-place. Exposed rafters evoke Malibu ranch homes but could just as easily reference other trendy getaways, like a Tuscan villa or South African winery.
“You’ve got wipeable surfaces, sturdy ceramic dinner plates, succulents on the table that don’t require a lot,” says design historian Male Pinged. At the same time, they can obfuscate the sticker shock of $25 grain bowls with an aura of escapism and refined minimalism, arguably more essential than ever to avoid the ire of today’s news cycle.
In the Midwest, Gaga explains, light turns cold and blue in winter, so owners should use warmer wood like cherry to counter the depressing effect. Restaurateurs have successfully channeled California ideals into unique, thoughtful restaurants in and out of the state, but it requires serious effort not to fall back on stereotypes.
Los Angeles is influential in a way it hasn’t been since the 1980s, with Japanese, Mexican, French, Middle Eastern, and Italian restaurants all gaining due recognition for their impact on dining trends there and across the country. They had great breakfast, and they're waitresses were cute and sassy.
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LA’s restaurant design took major strides in 2017, with a decided blend of colorful contemporary approaches with a grounding in mid century modern furniture and aesthetics. Some of the unique new restaurant interiors took wild shifts away from trends, with places like The Exchange in Downtown Los Angeles leaning on heavy 70s-style wood paneling.
Wallpapers were a big deal in 2017, with places like Long, Felix, and Tintoretto adding colors and patterns to otherwise minimalist spaces. Lushness was another key part of restaurant design in Los Angeles, with Wadi, Rosaline, and The Exchange using either hanging or indoor plants to create a bright, natural look.
Early photos reminded industry pundits of Copenhagen’s Relate, though the colorful mural along the far wall looked better than its European inspiration. The grand high ceilings and that ultra-reflective wall rounds out the space while the golden bar area feels like the ideal place for a chic pre-dinner drink.
Perhaps the unique design in Los Angeles at the moment, The Exchange’s blend of wood paneling, leather banquettes, and turquoise walls gives it a special kind of warmth. And with large windows that look out into the Downtown landscape, it feels enmeshed with all the development happening in this part of the central business district.
The airy, bright back room feels incredible lush and natural, though with white-tiled walls, neon accents, and modern furniture it has an almost throwback vibe. Easily the most arresting design of 2017, this previously empty architectural wonder stood for years in Culver City’s Hayden Tract as a signature work of star architect Erin Owen Moss.
Evan Funk’s pasta restaurant gives it new life, with modest appointments and comfortable mid century furniture. The place looks a lot better when lit with daylight, though it retains a suave, understated appeal when the evening descends.
This modern Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake boasts a wide outdoor dining patio and a fantastic bar area. This modern Wiki lounge in Hollywood eschews the kitsch and knick-knacks of classic Polynesian cocktail spots, with opts for a pattern-laden interior.
This glorious remodel has one of the brightest and nicest new restaurant interiors in Los Angeles, thanks to a hipster-Tulum vibe meshed with a beachy-cool color palette. Magenta neon greets diners as they walk in, and unfinished rafters enclose a sweeping wine bar that does a lot with very little in the way of embellishment.
There’s something really nice about sitting out on the small patio, with the Gold Line train rumbling above, and the deserted Chinatown streets just beyond. Wadi Venice had a pretty clear transformation in 2017 and everything from its easy-going Nobu-style menu to its striking interior drew scores of diners once it reopened.
Perhaps the hanging plants and the incredible wallpaper were a little too on the nose, but most design mavens would give this Venice restaurant’s remodel a big thumbs up. Molina TruongLifestyle As college students, all of us are either secretly or not-so-secretly caffeine addicts.
Here's my guide to discover your next favorite latte, along with envy-inducing visuals sure to spice up your Instagram feed. This European-style café is located in Melrose, so you already know that it will make both your taste and artistic buds tingle.
Ask for a photo of your favorite actor, a quote you love, or choose one of their signature designs such as the one seen below! In addition to the richly flavored coffee, this café also offers a variety of snacks.
As another coffee shop located in Melrose, the plants surrounding the building draw you in immediately along with the welcoming neon signs and printed floors. Bonus: the small artistic details of the mugs are sure to land on your Instagram.
If you are hungry, try the freshly baked ginger scones ; the perfect compliment to your coffee! More in Lifestyle Which Protein Bar to Eat, Based on Your Favorite Chocolate Bar by Emily Dino at Spoon HQ11.30.16 5 Snacks All Serious Gamers Know to Have on Deck by Han OSI at Erasmus University Rotterdam01.16.17 The 10 Weirdest Food Combinations as Told by UMD Students by Mikayla Bronchi at University of Maryland02.26.15 Loading...
This one’s historic (built in 1914 to house an Asian antiquities' collection), exotic (it’s in the shape of a pagoda) and singular (it’s got a 180-degree view of Hollywood’s lights). The novella diner known as Winsome is in the running for 2016’s most beloved selfie background, since the owners recreated a rare 1938 watercolor of Echo Park Lake as an interior mural.
That’s the vibe at Tavern, the Brentwood brasserie where soaring olive trees under a skylight and velvet banquettes make you feel like the star of your own movie. Redbird is the former rectory building of a cathedral in DLA that’s been converted to a glass-ceilinged, colorful dinner spot showcasing acclaimed local chef Neal Fraser’s eclectic fare.
A curved pool, cushy club chairs and palms and bamboo stalks swaying in the breeze: Vivian restaurant is your relaxed Hotel California vibe set in the middle of a residential Beverly Hills name. This hotel restaurant is oak-paneled, low-lit and filled with the murmur of a live jazz duo and the sweet nothing's of Dmitri, the elegant master d’.
Let’s just be real--when you’re looking for that iconic Beverly Hills experience, you want to roll into the Beverly Hills Hotel porte cochère, toss your keys to the valet and say, “I’ll be downstairs at the Fountain.” You’re talking about the Fountain Coffee Room, the 19-seat lunch counter from 1949, where you’re meeting your gal pals for an Arnold Palmer and the latest gossip. But Perch restaurant’s archways, tile work and potted greenery add a film noir vibe that’s soon L.A.
So many times seaside eateries ruin the view with tacky decor such as walls hung with fishnets and (shudder) plastic trophy fish. Consider Nob Malibu the antidote to all that: Just simple redwood decking, minimal upholstery and an expansive view of Carbon Beach’s crashing waves.