ODAMI creates sleek and minimalist interior for cell-free restaurant in Toronto
Sara is a Toronto-based restaurant which boosts undisturbed dining experience by clean modern design an serene atmosphere in a converted Victorian townhouse from the early 1900’s. The interior design was completed by studio ODAMI.
“We all experience the relentless pull of our cell phones and other devices that connect us to everywhere but where we are. Never is this more evident than when we’re dining. Perched on the table beside our plates and cutlery, our phones continue to distract us from our food and our company, during a time meant for nourishment and socializing. The concept for Sara Restaurant envisioned a more intimate approach, where guests could ditch their devices to more deeply connect with one another, and be truly present in the ritual of dining. For our emerging design studio, this meant providing a profound sense of place on one hand, and a sense of calm on the other, achieved through a heavy focus on texture, materiality, and atmosphere – the antithesis to the material-less and place-less realm of the Web. The 50+ seat, 2,400 square foot restaurant, converted from a residential building, was an architectural exercise in striking the right balance between preserving the building’s domestic character, and maximizing its potential as a restaurant. On the exterior, several layers of paint were removed to reveal the original character and material presence of the building, exposing the red and yellow brickwork which had been hidden for decades. To play with the proportions of the interior spaces, the structure was opened up entirely by removing and re-framing all of the floors, resulting in an intimate, vaulted main floor dining space contrasted by the expansive double-height dining room on the second floor. For the interior detailing and furniture design, we sought to channel the sensation of being at the edge of a body of water — their preferred place of calm and escape. A strict horizon line expands across the two main dining rooms, established by oak wainscoting and banquette seating which wrap the walls. Anchored by the mineral quality of the porcelain flooring, these highly-textured elements of wood, velvet, and leather combine to provide a sense of weightiness, grounding guests in the space. Above this, the walls in the two dining spaces are treated completely differently to amplify their individual characters. On the ground floor, to increase the sense of shelter and intimacy, we applied by hand a texture they created specifically for this project, a mixture of plaster and recycled materials acquired from a local fabricator. Upstairs, on the other hand, the walls and ceilings disappear into an expanse of pure white to provide a feeling of breezy lightness; no wall-mounted fixtures, and no unnecessary decor or objects to disturb the eye or mind. But where do you put your phone? To signal the beginning of the meal, guests are encouraged to stow away their phones inside the tables, custom-designed for the restaurant by Odami. Each table features a hidden compartment carved out of the solid ash bases, accessed through a removable inlay in the tabletop, which also features a curved profile for gentle interlocking and reconfiguration. As a whole, from the space to the furnishings, the restaurant is a careful blend of the haptic qualities of the land and sea with the calmness of minimalism, exuding a character which we describe as “earthly minimal”,” says ODAMI