Taberna is a 3500 square foot modern Spanish concept in Santa Monica, California. The restaurant is of two hearts, two experiences paired side by side through a central arch.
It is one part tapas. It’s a place to meet up. Fotbol matches can be watched from wine barrel tables under terra cotta walls. Leather barstools can be dragged around to get closer to friends. Pull up to the copper bar for a lager or if you can, grab the leather nooked chef’s table behind the bar. Timber beams hold up the liquor and meat hooks hold jamon.
It is one part paella. It is blue black and candlelight. It is deep denim seating for serious paella eating. Or maybe just a date and dinner. Tables are wrapped in steel to hold paella pans hot from the oven. Horse heads dipped in tar are framed in the space of windows there long before.
It’s a play of age. We do not choose to copy elements of great old spaces. Instead, we choose authenticity in material and texture and location. Old denim for Los Angeles. Scuffed leather. Wood that will wear with time. Copper to age. Taberna for us is something to live in. It is, in the truest sense, a cavern for food and wine and being.
Our location was a conversion from a former English tearoom and store. Our program included a full new kitchen and building services upgrade, new bar and a new design within a modest budget.
For Taberna, our client was working with a Spanish Chef, descendant of many generations of paella makers. He wanted a warm space, that wasn’t too precious. He wanted an activated space where people could gather and enjoy. He presented us with a successful New York project that worked by looking spectacularly dirty and aged, and which we felt just really wouldn’t make sense in the clean and sunny Santa Monica sea air community.
We wanted to give him a vibrant space that accurately referred to his concept. We stole and converted ideas of objects that faintly hint of being Spanish: antlers, leather, terra cotta and horses. We re-presented antlers hung by steel cuffs, and up lit with brass leds from the bar. We added butcher block counters and tile.
We did not want to make anything “look like it was old,” but to play with age in both an artificial and in a natural way. The dining room back wall we mocked up in between an old failing concrete and a modern abstract art piece, and offset it from the edge wall, so that it reads as a painting. The bar, we distressed, hand beat a logo into and it tarnished up like an old penny almost immediately. We allowed everything to be able to be roughly handled, so that in time, it just gets richer.
Ultimately, we designed it as a place for Californians to enjoy the simple aspects of what we see successful in Spanish culture: good food, good wine, good company, good design.