The Age of Decadence pix
At Gilt restaurant in New York, Patrick Jouin translates robber-baron opulence for the hedge-fund era
John Newton -- Interior Design, 3/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
In the bar of Gilt restaurant at the New York Palace Hotel, Patrick Jouin built an LED-illuminated fiberglass shell surfaced in stretched polyester. The structure is visible from the 52-seat dining room.
Cast-bronze signage in the courtyard.
The Corian-topped fiberglass bar, dominating a space that was once a music room.
Shin and Tomoko Azumi's LEM stools in steel and leather.
The dining room's pocket doors from 1884.
Unable to make changes to the landmarked dining room, Patrick Jouin inserted a fiberglass platform that curves up to form banquettes, which are covered in leather. A sommelier station of black walnut, stainless steel, and rubber stands in the center of the rubber floor.
Gilt's entry, off the hotel courtyard.
Original carved paneling in the dining room.
The custom dining tables' acrylic bases.
Jouin's mirrored-glass pebbles on the marble stairs of the entry.
In the bar, a custom banquette is upholstered in leather, custom chairs in leather and faux suede. They gather round custom fiberglass tables with glass tops and integral candleholders.
|The Villard Houses, five McKim, Mead &White brownstones built around a gated courtyard, were famous first as the New York home of railroad baron Henry Villard. The next time they made headlines was when developer Harry Helmsley brokered a deal and Emery Roth & Sons built the 55-story Helmsley Palace behind the houses' 1884 Italian Renaissance revival facade. By 1993, the Queen of Mean had moved out, and Prince Jeffrey of Brunei moved in. Restaurateur Sirio Maccioni and Tihany Design arrived four years later with Le Cirque 2000, bringing a Technicolor circus to the property's stately south wing.
Asked to reimagine the restaurant space on the south wing's 4,300-square-foot ground floor, Patrick Jouin was aware of the Villard Houses' legacy. "Coming from France, where many projects involve historic structures, I have a special respect for the past," he says. As for the space's more recent incarnation, he adds, "Le Cirque 2000 was one of the projects that made Adam Tihany famous. While it wasn't my style, I think that both our designs had a similar goal, to create something new and strong in a historic shell."
If Tihany owes his U.S. reputation in a large part to the exuberant Le Cirque 2000, Jouin may owe the same to Gilt, as the new restaurant is called. Jouin's approach, however, is the epitome of restraint. Take his attitude toward color. "I always go quietly," he says. "I worry first about the shape of the design. Then the color comes with the light." (Gray and diffused in Paris versus skyscraper-sharp in New York and wide-open desert-bright in Las Vegas—three places where Jouin's namesake firm has designed restaurants.)
In a double-height vaulted music room, now Gilt's bar, the color comes from Jouin's most dramatic intervention, a geodesic fiberglass shell covered in stretched polyester and up-lit by an LED box that shifts from red to purple over the course of an evening. Furnishings, meanwhile, are neutral: club chairs covered in coffee-colored or bronze leather and round deep-brown fiberglass tables, each topped with a small candleholder. A freestanding oval bar in white Corian and fiberglass creates a focal point in the center of the rectangular space. "One of my favorite places in New York is the pool room at the Four Seasons restaurant," Jouin says, "I like how the pool draws diners' gazes across it." Look across the bar at Gilt, and your gaze is likely to fall on an opulent mélange of 19th-century wood paneling, plaster friezes, and leaded-glass windows.
In the adjacent dining room, similar embellishments prevented Jouin from altering walls, ceiling, or floor. So he inserted a fiberglass platform, which curves up to form banquettes along opposing walls; he then upholstered the banquettes in leather and laid rubber sheets over the new floor. "The historic-preservation authorities were open-minded," he says. "They allowed me to build this 'ship' within the 'bottle' of the dining room." The caramel color of the banquettes, chairs, and floor defers to the existing interior. Between the two rows of tables, the black walnut of the sommelier station picks up the tones of the room's original wood paneling.
The dining room, the bar, and Gilt's third space, a private banquet room, are all off a central marble foyer. Unhappy with its oversize proportions but unable, of course, to make structural changes, Jouin had the inspiration to install an 8-foot-square wine-storage unit along one long wall. The unit's front of dark gray glass "gives a sense of mystery," he says. "Also, since it's not attached to the walls or floor, it can be removed as soon as it's out of fashion." Jouin can be disarmingly modest, but perhaps that attitude is appropriate for a designer who has taken the most glittering of gilded-age interiors and refused to gild the lily.