Mood Enhancers

Allora. Photo by Debbie Cunningham

Three takes on the art of restaurant ambience.

The most memorable restaurants and bars don’t just excel at serving great food and drinks. They craft a particular ambience—through furnishings, lighting, music, table settings—to immerse customers in a complete sensory experience. We looked at three recent additions to the city’s dining scene where the design details elevate the experience of going out.

The impressive wine tower at East Sacramento’s Allora is a sight to behold, but the real attention getter is the restaurant’s chairs, which are covered in a deep-green, velvetlike commercial fabric. “The chairs are by far the thing we hear customers comment on the most,” says co-owner Elizabeth-Rose Mandalou, who worked with interior designer Emily McCuiston to bring a sense of luxury to the space. “We thought of the wine tower almost like a treasure collection, and the fabric was chosen to evoke the feeling of being inside a jewelry box,” explains McCuiston. “I had to search the entire country to find the right shade of green,” she adds, finally settling on a hue called Como Emerald. “Those chairs were not inexpensive, but they make a really big statement.” Mandalou, for her part, appreciates that “they’re beautiful, but they’re also comfortable.”

Camden Spit & Larder
Camden Spit & Larder. Photo by Kevin Fiscus.

At Camden Spit & Larder, interior designer Brendan Koon of Vitae Architecture says chef-owner Oliver Ridgeway tasked him with creating a “tailored environment” to match his upscale British-inspired menu. Drawing inspiration from the fact that Ridgeway’s father was a tailor before becoming a restaurateur, Koon selected fabrics and patterns based upon men’s and women’s suiting. The backs of the dining chairs show off a handsome gray pinstripe fabric. At the bar’s community table, stools are upholstered in a tufted black vinyl and edged in a bold houndstooth fabric, in Koon’s take on a pincushion. The inset panels along the bar are embellished with 9,214 buttons—Koon knows because he glued every one of them on by hand—set in a protective resin. The base color scheme—red, white, blue and black—was inspired by the London Underground, but Koon “gave it some glam by introducing beige and gold, so it’s colorful but understated during the day, while it’s a very inviting, sort of sultry space at night.”

The Snug. Photo by Kevin Fiscus.

At The Snug, the quaint midtown bar from the folks behind de Vere’s Irish Pub, co-owner Simon de Vere White says they were intent on creating a “comfortable and cozy” spot for patrons. “Being that there’s a lot of wood and leather, we wanted to be sure to also add some color and softness.” The solution? A lilac-colored tufted velvet sofa and matching chairs, custom-made in Ireland. “It gives the place a bit of a feminine touch” and is a counterpoint to the oxblood leather banquettes, bistro chairs and church pews in other areas of the bar. “We spent a lot of time with our designer in Dublin looking at sketches and swatches to make sure we got it right.”