Le Coucou Restaurant in New York by Roman and Williams | Yellowtrace

Le Coucou Restaurant in New York by Roman and Williams | Yellowtrace

Le Coucou Restaurant in New York by Roman and Williams | Yellowtrace

 

If Marie Antoinette sashayed into this French restaurant you wouldn’t be at all surprised. Regal doesn’t even begin to adequately describe Le Coucou, designed by Roman and Williams, in SoHo, New York. The husband-and-wife duo Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer are the architects behind this masterpiece located within 11 Howard – New York’s hottest hotel opening in 2016.

One has to wonder whether you can even pair the words opulent with austerity? But this is how the space reads. The grandeur of the dinning room is exceptional. It could have come straight out of a French court. But then as you break down the elements, you see the walls are whitewashed brick, the floors are bare pale oak and the ceilings, not exquisitely detailed plaster, but exposed, raw concrete. Surely such grandeur cannot be conveyed by these unadorned materials? But it can. And that is the work of a true artist.

Taking elements that we register as opulent, such as the fit out’s crowning glory, the pewtered-steel chandeliers lighting the room with a glow from the hand-blown glass shades or the antique, olive velvet covered, Thonet armchairs. The rich, blue grey mohair banquettes and the oak tables covered in linen table cloths all allude to luxury and extravagance. But then the architects have deliberately balanced this with elements of contemporary design lending the space not just a decadent atmosphere but an of-the-moment one too.

 

Related Post: Search 11 Howard 11 Howard Hotel Opens in New York.

 

Le Coucou Restaurant in New York by Roman & Williams | Yellowtrace

Le Coucou Restaurant in New York by Roman & Williams | Yellowtrace

 

“You don’t have to gild something to make it feel exquisite,” says Standefer. But it’s not just the choice of finishes that sets this design apart. They started by ripping the original space down to its bare bones to find which parts of the building to keep. “See what emerges when everything superficial falls away; then when you’re adding things back, if you’re really listening, you’ll see if it feels true,” said Alesch.

And add back they did. With aplomb. Take the magnificent triple-hung glass windows. This was done to form a secondary façade within the space, an experience of permeable boundaries that unfolds layer-by-layer. A box within a box was their intention, but to the untrained eye it reads more like a old French mansion lovingly restored to life.

 

Le Coucou Restaurant in New York by Roman and Williams | Yellowtrace

Le Coucou Restaurant in New York by Roman & Williams | Yellowtrace

Le Coucou Restaurant in New York by Roman & Williams | Yellowtrace

Le Coucou Restaurant in New York by Roman & Williams | Yellowtrace

 

When it came to the bar they employed New York artist, Dean Barger to hand paint a mural. A heady, rich artwork based on the works of 18th Century French landscape painter, Hubert Robert.

“It was the tone and lyricism we felt the bar needed, a foliage-ensconced refuge with rich colours animated by shadows and movement from the street,” explains Standefer. “We believe in the ethos of being a bit lavish, especially with nature, where you can really never have too much.”

The bar itself is sumptuous; resplendent with it’s arched joinery displaying the myriad of coloured liquids, bottled in decanted crystal. A simple French marble counter atop a dark panelled, timber cabinet reads more like a beautiful piece of furniture. The entire bar harks back to the 1900’s, the Golden Era of French design. For a moment one feels transported back to the days of Hemingway, when he lived in Paris. You could almost wonder down to meet him for a nightcap but then, we’re not actually in Paris, we’re in New York. And therein lies the magic of what these architects have achieved. An authentic and convincing design, one capable of whisking you from one location to the other, in the grandest of style.

 

Related Post: Stories On Design // Illustrated Interiors.

 


[Images courtesy of Roman and Williams. Photography by Ditte Isager.]

 

About The Author

Susanna McArdle
Contributor

Susanna has a background in Interior Architecture and a passion for writing. Based in Sydney, she has worked both in Asia and Australia designing. An avid writer, it’s hard to know what she prefers more, stringing words together or creating spaces. But one thing she does know, is that she loves doing the both together.

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