When James Mallios, the co-owner of Persephone, wanted to rebrand and re-envision his staid and white table-clothed Greek restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, he turned to Mapos LLC for our track record of seamlessly merging the world of design, sustainability, and innovative brand-thinking.
We were immediately faced with the following challenges on this project:
Deal with an awkward and difficult site which is both below grade and on a small cross street chocked with traffic.
Make the design sustainable in a way supports the local farm-to-table philosophy of the new restaurant.
Create a completely new restaurant concept that would attract the younger, downtowners while not alienating their existing UES customer base.
As with any restaurant project, merge the new (and evolving) menu concept with the architecture of the interiors.
Design on an extremely tight budget (get it done for less than half the cost of a typical Manhattan restaurant).
Make it happen on an aggressive schedule. Although it was not Mallios’ initial intent to create a sustainable restaurant design (rather, simply a restaurant using sustainable food practices), it was apparent after the first meetings with us that this could be achieved.
We first set to work analyzing the hidden resources of the existing space, knowing that our ethos of REUSE would not only play well with the new and existing clientele of Amali, but could save the client money in material costs while adding to the authenticity of the space. We conceived the restaurant to be an eclectic Mediterranean home, incorporating elements and materials that recalled the past but in decidedly modern proportions and details.
We intentionally employed a simple and honest economy of materials used in the design to directly reflect the recipes devised in the humble (but elevated) farm-to-table menu. Rather than losing his valued staff during the renovation, we created simple designs and when necessary, and brought in artisans to train the staff so that they could actually help build certain aspects of the restaurant during construction, from creating specialized finishes to basic furniture rehab.
The obsolete beams of the previous space were repurposed into the tabletops, chairs and banquette were repainted and re-upholstered, and floors refinished. The custom light fixture and plaster finishes were crafted by artisans within Mapos’ local network.
In the back dining area, the operable shutters conceal LED lighting which acts as a subtle evening lighting element for the back room which is meant to recall the effect of the many shuttered facades of classic Mediterranean homes. The shutters can also be opened to completely transform the back room. The skylight above is slated to receive a custom canvas shading device designed by Mapos.
In the front of the restaurant, we created a custom steel and marble communal table which integrates with the informal bar experience. The locally fabricated custom steel doors adjacent to the table were patterned to recall the simple tile patterns seen throughout the Mediterranean.
Some of the reuse and otherwise green practices that were executed: The existing walls were kept and refinished wherever possible, the old pine ceilings beams were made into the table tops, the existing cheap chairs and banquet reupholstered and repainted by staffers of the former restaurant, the old oak floors were simply refinished rather than torn up, bathrooms, kitchen, and all MEP systems were kept as is, non-feature lighting was reused wherever possible, reclaimed white oak used throughout the space.
We intentionally selected materials that do not require a finish, resulting in no VOC off-gassing and an honesty of material that reflects the humble (but elevated) farm-to-table food: unfinished white oak, tile floors, custom plaster walls, metal fixtures and details, and marble.