Bars & Leisure Focus: Q&A – Greg Bleier, Studio UNLTD

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with Greg Bleier from Studio UNLTD


Words by Toby Maxwell

What were some of the most significant challenges of this particular brief?

The most challenging aspect was the location itself. It had a few significant issues working against it, most notably the space was located in a high-rise building which was being converted from a law school to an office building for science industry. Our space had its own separate entrance, but it was also required to have a direct entrance and offer amenities to the public lobby. Creating a space of character in this mundane contemporary space was the first course of action.

Material choices have clearly been integral to the success of the project – which specification choices within the scheme are your own favourites?

Greg Bleier
Greg Bleier

There were a lot of fun textures used throughout this project, however one that stands out was the use of the curved glulam beams to create the barrel arch above the bar. The fact that we elected to make this a structural design element as opposed to faking it, makes this material quite special to me. It was challenging to detail and execute, but the choice arguably makes this the most impactful material in the project as a whole.

How have consumers’ and clients’ requirements and expectations of dining spaces changed in the past couple of years, and what does this ultimately mean for the creative process?

Given that we have been in the midst of a global pandemic over the past few years, the expectation of diners is to have more access to exterior dining patios or spaces which are open to fresh air. We feel that there is also a desire to have more greenery than ever within space to provide the calming effects of nature to the space. This had been a trend prior to 2022, but it seems that it will have longer legs than expected.

Regarding the fresh air aspect, quality exterior spaces are hard to come by and open restaurants are not always the easiest to get approved from the health department. Controlling the effects of the design in exterior patios becomes a challenge due to the forces around you, from street noise, panhandlers, wind, rain […] So we are having to dig deep to provide unique options for these conditions so that it doesn’t get the same predictable treatment over and over.
www.studiounltd.com


Callie

San Diego, USA

THE CALLIE RESTAURANT design project, by Los Angeles-based Studio UNLTD, includes the replacement of the interiors of a 638 sq m space on the ground floor of a corporate high-rise in San Diego, California. The restaurant is chef Travis Swikard’s first solo venture and its design tells the story of an intrepid explorer who has returned home after travelling abroad to gather knowledge and inspiration for new endeavours.

The chef’s show kitchen brings the restaurant’s experience together, with an exhaust hood made of corten steel that conjures up images of a rusted ship’s hull. Image Credit: LUCIANNA MCINTOSH
The chef’s show kitchen brings the restaurant’s experience together, with an exhaust hood made of corten steel that conjures up images of a rusted ship’s hull. Image Credit: LUCIANNA MCINTOSH

A collection of materials and fabrics inspired by a Mediterranean-meets-California palette are on show. Skate and surf references throughout the space disrupt the old-world aesthetic and bring moments of rebellion and energy inspired by Swikard.

The dining area’s tone is set by a relaxed coastal feel, and the bar lounge features a stone-clad cocktail bar. Image Credit: LUCIANNA MCINTOSH
The dining area’s tone is set by a relaxed coastal feel, and the bar lounge features a stone-clad cocktail bar. Image Credit: LUCIANNA MCINTOSH

‘We love getting to work with a client that has the passion to do what they do like Travis Swikard,’ said Greg Bleier, Studio UNLTD’s founding principal. ‘When we partner with chefs that bring a lot to the table, it makes our job even more enjoyable and because we are meeting their intensity with similar energy, the results can be really special. Finding that connection and being able to deliver a design that is, at once, very personal and in strict alignment with the client’s values and goals is a great feeling. This was very much the case with our design for Callie and I just know this will translate into great success for the restaurant.’

On entering the space, guests are invited to unwind in the eclectic bar lounge which is anchored by a dramatic ‘breaking wave’ made from massive, raw glulam beams, suspended over the corten steel and stone-clad cocktail bar.

The dining area’s tone is set by a relaxed coastal feel, and the bar lounge features a stone-clad cocktail bar. Image Credit: LUCIANNA MCINTOSH
The dining area’s tone is set by a relaxed coastal feel, and the bar lounge features a stone-clad cocktail bar. Image Credit: LUCIANNA MCINTOSH

The dramatic arched bar design aims to mimic the barrel of a wave, with architectural lighting, colour scheme and material finishes at the bar all intended to bring the effect of the ‘golden hour’ as day transitions to the evening.

In the dining area, seating sets the tone with a relaxed, coastal feel, including plant life, marine blue chairs and rust-coloured booths. The large scooped two-way banquette – which acts as a buffer to the bar area – is upholstered in concrete grey and features a yellow rail backrest, offering a reference to the southern California image of a skate park.

Surrounding the dining room on three-sides is a floor-to- ceiling wine room, a private dining room and the chef’s show kitchen, the focal point of the proceedings. Hanging above the kitchen’s stone-clad pass counter, its exhaust hood is clad in a v-shape of corten steel conjuring a rusted ship’s hull. The private dining room is surrounded by partitions of steel and glass-faced with shelving.
www.calliesd.com



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