Architect / Firm: Signum Architecture
Project Location: 1124 First Street, Napa, CA 94559
Owner: Michael Gyetvan
Completion Date: 01/01/2015
“A singular beauty can emerge from a courageous mix of diverse and well-curated ingredients” is what our client/restauranteur said as he challenged us to create an architectural context to match his perspective on the food to be offered at Atlas Social. He envisioned this restaurant as a crossroads for both food and people – a place where locals and tourists would converge as strangers, be caught up in the camaraderie that communal dining promotes, and leave as friends.
The site consisted of two adjacent and nondescript commercial spaces comprising 3500 drywall-encased square feet in downtown Napa, California. Our mission was to transform it into a contemporary bar and restaurant venue with an urban vibe where convivial dialogue could be enjoyed over small plates of Tapas-like offerings of varied ethnic origin. Bistro table, barstool, window and bar-height communal seating for 70 plus room for 30 more on an outside dining terrace was required. Because back-of-house facilities often take up 50% of a restaurant’s total floor space, accommodating the required public areas while also fitting a state of the art kitchen, sufficient storage and office facilities into the modest space inspired creative thinking.
The first strategy was to open up the space. Stripping out ceilings to expose construction grade Douglas fir beams and then sandblasting and sealing them introduced the urban/industrial vibe. A similar treatment on the existing concrete floors reinforced the effect.
The second strategy was to invent new space and add architectural drama. A simple black, 18’ by 18’ cube, encased in black stucco, was erected as a mezzanine over the kitchen, behind the bar. This bold architectural stroke both anchors the bar and houses freezers, dry storage and office space.
With a unifying backdrop in place we were free to take the well-curated “Tapas” approach to materials, finishes and furniture, a job made more fun because Signum was entrusted to act as architect, interior designer and furniture designer.
- The wall behind the bar is lined with custom wood tiles made from end cuts of reclaimed barn wood in different sizes, ages and colors. When lit, the texture of the tile pattern and the wood grain transforms the back-bar into art.
- The bar countertop and the bar-height, communal table for 20 that fronts it refine industrial materials into striking furniture. The bar top is a 3 ½” thick PSL beam. The top of the communal table is a multilayered sandwich of plywood, glued together and sealed to showcase the rusticity of the layers.
- Custom steel, gooseneck light fixtures, suggest lighting found in vintage barns. They illuminate the bar, making reference to the barn wood tile without interrupting the visual continuity of it. Elsewhere, walnut topped dining tables are topped with small, custom lamps.
The most popular feature of all turned out to be the enlarged aerial photo-mural of Napa Valley that lines the hallway between the kitchen and the dining areas. Encompassing an area that includes the restaurant and the greater Napa Valley, including Atlas Peak hillside where our client’s family makes his home, the mural quickly became a favorite feature for Napa Valley locals and global tourists alike as they pointed out their homes or traced their Napa Valley adventures on the wall for their new-found friends.
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