Aquavit Restaurant

Spacesmith‘s redesign of Aquavit Restaurant incorporates Nordic design and opens up the kitchen for younger fine-dining clientele.

  • area / size 12,000 sqft
  • Year 2020
  • Type Restaurant,
  • Over these past three decades, Spacesmith has worked with Aquavit – an NYC institution that received two Michelin stars this year – several times to adapt its design to reflect the restaurant’s evolution and shifts in the hospitality industry. For this most recent redesign, the goal was to create a welcoming destination to engage a fine-dining clientele that skews younger than it has in the past. Drawing upon Nordic sensibilities of light, space, texture and materiality, Spacesmith identified opportunities to create a warmer, more activated, dining experience.

    The intervention with the largest impact was opening the kitchen to the main dining room. Spacesmith replaces a solid wall with a gridded metal and glass window that enables patrons to witness the chef and her crew in action. Waitstaff now emerge straight from the kitchen through automated glass doors in full sight of diners. Guests enjoy seeing the stages of preparation and the buzz of activity around creating Aquavit’s finely crafted Swedish cuisine. Now visible from the street and seen through the dining room window wall, pedestrians glimpse the movement within, piquing interest and curiosity. In addition, our team increased seating capacity by specifying a greater variety of two- and four-tops, arranged to open views of the restaurant’s impressive, rotating art program.

    The heart of Aquavit, its world class kitchen, was reorganized to enhance this theatrical viewing experience, while supporting a more efficient workflow. Our team worked closely with Aquavit’s chef and kitchen consultant to create a layout that puts food preparation at the front, placing the pastry chef and plating stations in full view. Pops of white and blue tile enliven the kitchen walls. Close attention was paid to ensure that the soft light of the main dining room blended well with the brighter light needed by kitchen staff.

    Spacesmith added wood panels to the double-height bar area, which are offset with cove lighting to create a warm glow. New banquette seating and tables support a bar menu designed to accommodate diners interested in a more informal experience. Multi-faceted lighting pendants of hand-blown glass hang gently, glimmering above the bar from an undulating, wood-slatted ceiling.

    Spacesmith created a new entrance to further increase street presence and control airflow into the space upon entering. The negative pressure created by the restaurant hoods created drafts in the dining room made it nearly impossible to open the door at times. Exterior space was captured to install a revolving door and ADA entry to alleviate this design flaw. Now flush with the building and less burdened by the elements, the entrance is visibly clearer to the public and helps keep cool air in during the summer and cold air out during the winter.

    The earthy design palette throughout is sourced with products and materials from Scandinavia and Scandinavian craftsmen here in the US. A new, wide-planked, oak wood floor runs throughout the restaurant. A classic Scandinavian blue is used for banquettes, complementing the warm tones of the walls and wood paneling in the bar and dining room.

    Design: Spacesmith
    Photography: Bjorg Magnea