The Larder at Tavern in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood serves contemporary rustic cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s also the place to pick up prepared foods, artisanal cheeses and a bottle of wine to take home.
The elephant in the room at Larder was a bulky refrigerator case emitting a cold neon haze and interrupting the cozy dining-in experience. Cold, neon light doesn’t make for an especially sensual vibe.
“The room didn’t flow the way it needed to from a customer or staff perspective,” says Los Angeles designer Ross Cassidy. “The space was not being used to maximum potential.”
So Cassidy, who designed The Larder’s interior almost a decade ago, came back with some bold solutions for a cozier, more seductive and more functional space.
A better fit for the market
“There was a physical disconnect between the servers and the customers created by that massive bank of tall display cases,” Cassidy explains. “I found the room was not as warm or inviting as I would have liked it to be.”
He moved the central display cases with grab-and-go areas near the door so guests can easily select what they need for an elegant dinner party at home or the perfect hostess gift, then be on their way. Moving the big refrigerated cases from the center of the room immediately opened everything up.
Room to browse
Now, the flow of the space allows for both comfortable dining and luxurious shopping.
More dining than shopping
“The space was originally intended to be more like a market area, but ultimately, it’s the consumer who dictates how a space gets used, and more customers wanted more dining space,” Cassidy says.
An intoxicating color
That dark green color on the walls? It’s meant to evoke a full bottle of red wine. Can’t get much more seductive than that.
“I feel like it has an appetizing quality,” Cassidy says. “I wanted something sensual and moody, a color that spoke the language of food as well as wine. Suzanne and Caroline didn’t want to play it safe; they were ready to redefine the space.”
Cassidy loves bold colors. “If a room is not all white, you should commit to a big color and really embrace it. A weak color choice will end up with a weak looking room.”
Night and day
“We wanted The Larder to have more appeal in the evenings and love the idea of cozying up to that wood bar for a glass of wine and a bite,” Styne says.
When the walls were light neutrals, and the display case was making things feel cold with a white light, the Larder didn’t seem so inviting once the sun went down. Now, the dark green color and these lights, which mimic candlelight, make it it a much more welcoming place.
“Sunlight floods the room during the day,” Cassidy says. “The original color scheme was mostly white and neutrals, but when the sun set the white stone and muted tones became anemic.”
Minimalist and fabulous
New barstools, designed by a Danish architecture firm, are minimalist, a style Cassidy says can work in just about any environment because “they’re not designed to stand out.”
The new countertop is constructed from end-grain unvarnished walnut in deep chocolate tones. The surface has a tactile quality that makes people want to settle in and get comfortable, a subconscious cue related to the way it feels.
“The surface is dry, not shiny,” Cassidy says. “Too much stone and shine makes a space feel too glamorous.”
The new display area is stocked with specially curated merchandise, including cookbooks that are favorites of Goin and Styne.
Communal dining more than a trend
“In Europe and Asia communal tables are ubiquitous and no one bats an eyelid sharing tables. I think it is because they are comfortable with intimacy,” Cassidy observes. “Americans have a harder time with communal tables but as our cities get increasingly dense and space is harder to find, people will become more accustomed to the idea of sharing.”
And since the restaurant actually is a tavern, Cassidy adds, “you imagine a small dark room with a lot of people sharing a tight space, convivial conversation and good food.”
Solving the puzzle
To Cassidy, it’s much easier to redesign than to start from scratch.
“It’s like starting a puzzle when the border has already been completed,” he says. “You just have to fill in the blank space. I originally designed the space eight years ago so I know it like the back of my hand. After eight years in a space you know what needs to change and what already works.”