This Restaurant Was Designed to Fit Around a Tree

·3-min read
Photo credit: Sam Frost
Photo credit: Sam Frost

“I wanted it to feel like a beautiful space that is really high quality design, but then welcomes everyone and feels exclusive,” says designer Sean Leffers of his new Los Angeles restaurant, Soulmate. “It's a place that's chic and fun but also a place of nourishment that feels comfortable and welcoming.”

Leffers also sought to incorporate an “organic living element that gave soul to the space”—and he did that quite literally by placing an ancient olive tree in the center of the restaurant’s courtyard. The designer calls this area “the soul of the space,” and he reveals that there were originally plans to remove the tree during the design process—but Leffers held his ground, because he values natural elements and wanted Soulmate to be “all about hanging out underneath a tree.”

The courtyard also features floors made of white concrete and black beach pebbles from Mexico, which was done as an homage to the Enoura Observatory in Odawara, Japan, designed by contemporary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto.

Photo credit: Sam Frost
Photo credit: Sam Frost

When creating Soulmate, Leffers looked to inspiration from a bevy of places, including California, Japan, Latin America, Madrid, and Barcelona—so it's little wonder why the interiors feature an eclectic mix of furnishings and decor. Some notable pieces include: a chandelier by Davide Groppi in the entryway, bar stools by Martell Woodworks with upholstery by Mokum, a custom DJ booth by Bayly Art, decorative pillows by Clay McLaurin Studio and Kravet, woven chairs by Palecek with upholstery from Maharam and Bastideaux Artisan Textiles, and a wallcovering by Kufri.

The restaurant's outdoor space is covered by a translucent retractable roof takes center stage, which can be opened “to let the sunshine and fresh air in.”

Photo credit: Sam Frost
Photo credit: Sam Frost

Additionally, the artwork at Soulmate is an impressive feat in its own right, boasting a collection years in the making. “There is a thirty-foot-long, seven-foot-tall oil-on-canvas painting by Santiago Quesnel, which is the first work that I commissioned as soon as we started on this project,” Leffers tells House Beautiful. He invited the artist to travel from Buenos Aires, Argentina to California, providing him with a map of his favorite places in California, and enlisting the artist to go on a road trip and make sketches of each one of the spots. “After this journey, he came back to Los Angeles and started working on the piece over the course of the summer and created this abstracted landscape of California,” says Leffers.

Photo credit: Sam Frost
Photo credit: Sam Frost

Other standout pieces of art at the restaurant include a piece by Yann Gerstenberger—which Leffers found at Art Basel a few years ago—as well as a sizable yin and yang landscape of Los Angeles by Greg Ito, a neon work by Bogota-based contemporary artist Andriana Martinez—which reads “todo lo que brilla es información,” meaning “everything that shines is information”—and lastly, a black and white photo series of LA residents, done by Martin Salgo. “I love them because Martin has this way of getting the real intimate moments with people that show the true part of their being,” explains Leffers.

Best of all, Soulmate will install new artworks throughout the year, with Leffers adding that he is “especially looking forward to showing work by emerging artists from Los Angeles.”

Interested in making a reservation at Soulmate? You can do so through the restaurant’s website here.

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