Design Dish: FunkeAuthor:Abigail Stone
At Funke—Chef Evan Funke’s latest paean to pasta—the eponymous 180-seat space sprawls across three stories and 10,000 square feet of an 1930s Art Moderne building on a prime corner in Beverly Hills, creating an elegant setting with major wow factor. Developer Kurt Rappaport and architect Dan Brunn, who also oversaw the building’s interior architecture and design, had always toyed with having a restaurant as the centerpiece of the building they reimagined on the corner of Canon Drive and Little Santa Monica Boulevard. “When we began designing his office, there was this part leftover,” Brunn remembers. “And we started brainstorming about what it could be, thinking it could be a restaurant.” As fate would have it, Rappaport brought Chef Evan Funke over to see the still unfinished triplex.
“The restaurant is reminiscent of a trip to an Italian village,” says Brunn, who drew inspiration from his time in the boot-shaped country. “You walk in to a big space, a piazza, and there are windows, which give the impression of buildings surrounding it, and then there are stairs, which are like their narrow streets, that leads you upwards where you encounter the next piazza.” Veering one way leads to the private dining room; continuing upwards leads to the roof. “You walk across a bridge and then there are stairs that lead down to the roof deck. So each visit is different depending on your ultimate destination.” That considered flow is in perfect synchronicity with Funke’s menu, which was conceived as a visit to Italy’s various regions through its cuisine.
Creating intimacy out of the symphonic first floor was key. “One way that we accomplished that was through the amplification of the horizontal,” Brunn says, pointing out the band of plantings that bisect the first floor and the channel tufting on the booth’s curved benches. The height at which the art was hung helps visually bring down the ceiling. So, too, does the custom lighting: 273 handblown Murano glass bulbs hanging from the ceiling at various heights. That they also conjure up the impression of being in a glass of champagne, which adds to the restaurant’s festive, special occasion feeling.
The solid wood booths and the restaurant’s plush upholstery also serve a purpose beyond beauty: they contribute to the restaurant’s well-orchestrated acoustics. “That C-shape, which puts the food front and center, means that your voice is carried to the people sitting next to you,” Brunn says. Felt underneath the marble table tops, acoustic panels wrapped in Loro Piana linen, and solid wood floors also help to absorb and muffle sound. So, too, does Furbo, a material often used for flooring in hotels. “It looks like leather and it holds up to basically everything,” says Brunn, who used it for the expo line. “We inlaid it into the stone so that when the plates are dropped off, they don’t make a sound.”
Collaboration is key to success of the design. “Typically we would design independently,” Brunn notes. “But this was a collaborative effort.” Rappaport, Funke, interior designer Clint Nicholas and Funke’s operations team all contributed their expertise, with Brunn at the helm, keeping everyone on track. “It was a group effort,” Brunn says. “There was a lot of listening and a lot of learning.” And, of course, there were the city’s requirements to consider as well. “Oh, you better believe it,” Brunn laughs.
Layout was crucial. “We conferred over choreography of the restaurant, from collision points and clearance,” Brunn notes. “I learned about the importance of having a variety of seating options and what makes a great private dining room.” Hiding the ducting was key. “Some of the design elements you see stemmed from the mechanical, electrical and plumbing requirements,” Brunn says.
In fact, it was a contributing factor in creating one of the restaurant’s most arresting features—it’s two story glass-enclosed pasta lab. “There was a truss and a column and a structural beam right there at the front so in my mind I already had the idea of how could we work around that and create a punctuation to the space,” Brunn shares. “We already had created some renderings and then Chef was brought in. He saw those and was bowled over because he had a version of it at Felix. It’s like this space was always meant to be Funke.”
Funke is located at 9388 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA. Visit their site to make a reservation or call: (424) 279-9796.