Neat On The Rocks: The 2015 California Home + Design Award Winner For Restaurant Design

Check out the full story in the Spring issue! 

NEAT ON THE ROCKS

When is a nice guy also a wise guy? At the new LA restaurant The Nice Guy, the h.wood group envisioned a clubby eatery that channeled the glamour of an old-fashioned mob hangout. They enlisted the help of long-time collaborator John Sofio, Founder and President of Built Inc., to implement a goodfellas-inspired design.

To this end, Built Inc. looked to the mid-20th century for inspiration without zeroing in on a specific decade. The Nice Guy interiors are an elegant mishmash of Midcentury lines, modern sofas and chairs, glimmering metallic accents, vintage lighting, and wide-board black American walnut floors. The designers sifted through warehouses of vintage fabrics to find 1960s floral patterns for the cozy banquette seating. Additional retro details include an awning at the restaurant’s entry that was inspired by the classic 1920s Coconut Grove nightclub at LA’s famed Ambassador Hotel.

The party scene combined with the 1800-sq ft public area required Built Inc. to pay careful attention to space planning. Dining areas needed to be functional as they transition in the evening to a lounge with bottle service. Another challenge was to retain a sense of comfort and camaraderie, even when packed. To address these issues, Built Inc. developed a remarkable Calcutta black marble-and-hammered brass bar. Instead of flanking one wall, the bar takes up most of the room, with several 90-degree corners that offer moments for eye contact and casual conversation.

Another signature design feature is the stunning wood panel ceiling and wall treatment, which is faced in 1,200 linear square feet of cedar. Flowing from the skylights across the ceiling, down the wall and behind the bar, the cedar was carefully calculated, cut into nine different size panels, and given a dark stain. “These details create a sense of warmth and visual impact without being obvious,” says Sormeh Azad, Built Inc.’s creative director. “We want people to feel at home.” 

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