September 1, 2011

Mood Indigo: Federico Delrosso Designs a Tiny Trattoria in Chelsea

Bice Ristorante opened in 1926 in Milan, and satellite locations now dish up trattoria classics around the world. When a restaurant space became available at the Hotel Indigo in Chelsea, the Bice team swooped in with a spin-off, the Italian-inflected CafeB. And Federico Delrosso Architects, which had already designed Bice outposts in Istanbul and San Diego, agreed to take on the vest-pocket dining room, at 1,400 square feet.

To define a path from the street, through the hotel lobby, Federico Delrosso laid a swath of the same woven vinyl “tatami” matting that softens the existing floor in the restaurant. A photomural along the way reproduces a Milanese street scene in black-and-white. Another photomural, showing library bookshelves, wraps a corner outfitted with a painted wooden table and what he calls “traditional trattoria lighting.” Suspended above the host station, white plastic tubes descend en masse to create an ornamental canopy.

On the hotel roof, Delrosso re­designed an L-shape terrace, 2,000 square feet, as the SkyB lounge. To hide the elevator tower and parapet’s “ugly bricks,” he says, he sheathed them in pine planks intentionally dinged before a weather-resistant brown finish was applied. There are beanbag chaise longues for slouching. But most of the chairs and tables are simple forms in folded powder-coated aluminum, based on prototypes he developed for a 2009 ex­hibition in Milan. Everything is surrounded by windbreaks of fritted glass, the bottom of each panel artfully fogged for a feeling he describes as “floating on a cloud.” Or in a sea of iconic wooden water towers.

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