Ride the Wave pix
With its sculpted dining room for Fix restaurant, Graft makes the scene at the Bellagio
Donna Paul -- Interior Design, 3/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
In Las Vegas, risk-taking is part of the job description. That explains how a relatively unknown design firm, Graft, got its chance to design a restaurant for an extremely well known venue, the Bellagio Hotel & Casino.
The backstory begins with Light Group's two earlier Bellagio hotspots, Caramel bar-lounge and Light nightclub— the latter, a spinoff of the New York original, which is noted for attracting the likes of Paris Hilton and Ashton Kutcher. When Light Group president Andrew Sasson decided to round out the star-studded properties by adding a restaurant, he envisioned a dining room as hip as his clubs. But no duplicating the grand dining that already existed at Bellagio's Le Cirque and Prime Steakhouse. "The food had to be right on. The design had to be right on," he says.
After eliminating the big-name firms, the usual suspects of high-profile restaurant interiors, Sasson heard that Graft had renovated an artist's studio in Hollywood for Brad Pitt. Sasson tracked down the firm, boarded a plane, and met principals Lars Krückeberg, Wolfram Putz, and Thomas Willemeit literally at Pitt's front door. Immediately, Sasson knew he'd found his team. "It was so creative. I didn't think twice," he says. Bathroom walls were glass, specially treated so their appearance shifts from etched to clear as you walk past. The effect allows a peek inside—but only from certain angles. Stainless steel appointments included a prison-issue toilet; many of the fixtures are operated by floor pedals for a hands-free experience.
At the new Bellagio restaurant, called Fix, the designers focused their creativity on one chief design element and one material to make a powerful visual statement: They turned the ceiling plane into a massive undulating surface made of padauk wood planks. Imagine a banner gently billowing over the entire 4,000-square-foot, 228-seat dining room.
The installation comprises 113 uniquely contoured padauk strips, mostly 8 feet long by 8 inches wide. Strips are hung from steel wire of varying lengths and arranged end -to- end to form continuous bands running from front to back. The sculptural waves make the highest point 13 feet 4 inches over the bar; the lowest is 7 feet 8 inches over a portion of the dining area. "The ceiling continually responds to the floor plan," Krückeberg explains. The surface also conceals a sound system, sprinklers, air-conditioning units, and orange-gelled incandescents that cast their light through apertures between the slats, contributing to the delicious amber glow.
With lighting and interiors this dramatic, Graft pared down furnishings in deference. The dining room's squared-off chairs are simply shorter versions of the stools at the bar. Padauk tabletops and booths and chairs upholstered in ivory-colored faux leather are rectilinear and low-slung, so they don't interfere with sight lines from any angle.
Almost every seat offers an unobstructed view of guests parading up and down a 75-foot-long Brazilian-slate catwalk. It essentially divides the restaurant, running from the entrance, past the bar, to terminate near the restrooms. "The overt voyeurism draws people in," Krückeberg says. In Las Vegas, you can bet on that.