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Two For One

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Photos by Skott Snider

Pairing the rustic romance of an Italian villa alongside the dreamlike vibrancy of urban Hong Kong is no easy feat. We talked with the three principals of LA's Studio Collective—Adam Goldstein, Leslie Kale, and Christian Schulz—about the process of splitting one big restaurant into separate eateries Chi Lin and Rivabella. 

DB: How did you come up with the concept?

CS: The idea actually came from the client. The existing space was a well known restaurant in L.A. out on Sunset Boulevard and the client [Innovative Dining Group] wanted to break it into two concepts because it was a really big space. Because of the nature of the lease and various technical reasons, they had to maintain one kitchen, so they came to us and said hey, we’ll give you two projects at once. 

IDG came to us with the idea of creating one Italian concept and one Chinese concept. Both restaurants had different chef partners and offered different types of services and IDG was very clear that they wanted each concept to have its own distinct look and feel, almost as if they actually had different owners. 

DB: How would you describe each of the aesthetics? 

AG: Rivabella is a modern spin on a traditional Tuscan villa with more contemporary furnishings—light, bright, airy, and a little bit warmer. It takes advantage of a large outdoor patio with a retractable awning that allows for true al fresco dining. It has a great Southern Californian indoor/outdoor feel to it.

Chi Lin is more inward focused; it’s nighttime only, dark and sexy. It’s meant to take you to another place and time. We took a lot of our design cues from Hong Kong, which was the chef’s hometown; once you’re in the space it’s meant to evoke more of a dream world.

LK: All of the furniture for both projects is custom and was manufactured using local vendors with the exception of the 300 authentic lanterns that were fabricated especially for Chi Lin in China. 

AG: For Chi Lin, [the clients] came to us with an image of the opening scene of the movie Inception which is this dream sequence of a very traditional Chinese dining hall featuring a lot of reflective surfaces. You’re not sure if you’re awake or in a dream, and that was sort of their jumping-off point, so we took that and ran with it. 

DB: What are your favorite details?

CS: We all have our own favorites. For Rivabella, Leslie found a travel diary at a local thrift store. It was written by an American who traveled through Italy in the ’20s and [wrote in] beautiful cursive penmanship about their travels. We thought it was really romantic. 

We like the hand being eminent in all our work whether it’s artwork or the craftsmanship. So we took various pages that had interesting passages and had them blown up by a bookmaker and framed on the wall and then Leslie made these really beautiful leather straps that hang the pictures on the wall. It’s a nice little moment that you discover.

At Chi Lin, we knew we wanted to do these 3-D boxes but we didn’t know the coloring or idea, so Leslie and [local artist] Jocelyn Marsh did a series of mock-ups and created these 3-D infinity boxes. At first we weren’t sure how they would turn out but once we developed the storyline behind them and simplified the direction inside, they became these really ethereal beautiful 3-D mirrorscapes. As you’re sitting in the booth and you have a moment between conversation, you turn your head and you notice that they’re con- stantly moving. They’re really dynamic. 

 

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