Mutuus Studio recently completed a new restaurant in Seattle called Samara. The name is derived from the helicopter-like seed pods of trees such as the maple.
"The design brief was to create a small, sophisticated, and intimate neighborhood corner bistro," commented Saul Becker, a Principal with Mutuus Studio. "The menu is focused on locally-sourced and environmentally-friendly heritage breed animals and produce. Central to the restaurant is the multi-level, wood-fueled grill and oven."
The dining area opens directly to the wood-fired grill, ensuring that guests have a front-and-center seat to the preparation of their food and serving as a not-so-subtle reminder of the comfort we feel in gathering together around a fire. "The design team sought to integrate the restaurant into the fabric of the neighborhood by creating a place that evokes a rich sense of timelessness and comfort," explained Kristen Becker, a Principal with Mutuus Studio. "We wanted it to feel comfortable to go to in all seasons, a fire in the winter and a fire in the summer. We also wanted to welcome the neighborhood including families."
Dark-stained oak paneling and wainscoting wrap a portion of the space and the bar front, while the balance of the space features a section of the building's original firewall that was revealed during construction. "The darker tones of the restaurant enhance the experience of the firelight from the hearth and the custom lighting made by Mutuus," Fellow Principal Jim Friesz added. "Keeping the light low also helps create the sense of intimacy with the space and the food." The firewall is composed of framing timber turned on its side and now provides a subtle homage to the cooking method of choice.
Seating for 38 is handled through a mix of seating groups featuring anti-tip tables topped with wood recycled from old piers, and a leather banquette. A chef's counter, finished in soapstone, seats an additional six guests. Copper cladding wraps the area above the grill features a rich patina, and hand-made Danish brick, embedded with fused glass, surrounds the grill to create a delicate dance of firelight. "I liken the atmosphere to a Dutch still life painting. It's rich and moody with an elemental simplicity," Becker noted. "The simple, ubiquitous copper pot was an inspiration to us. It's something utilitarian that only gets better with age. We carried this theme throughout the restaurant with custom patinated copper panels and pendants, handmade Danish bricks, a soapstone chef's counter and bar, and richly stained wood... simple materials that will get better over time and through use."
Throughout the interior, custom-designed-and-fabricated lighting fixtures serve as important touchpoints, bringing the spirit of fire into the lighting scheme. The chef's counter and food prep areas feature a combination of 4-inch diameter Cinder lights and 2-inch diameter Ember lights, both made from knurled copper pipe and a custom patina. Banquette lighting is provided by a custom-designed rotating arm fixture dubbed Mallet (also featuring a knurled and patinated finish), that enables lighting to swing and adapt to table groupings. Translucent micarta sconces, made of linen and resin, line the wall. The washroom features a light fixture made from a spent artillery shell, the body perforated and coated with reflective glass beads to create a subtle, twinkling light effect. Existing concrete floors were given a subtle stain and then sealed. New windows and an exterior awning round out the improvements.
Photography: Kevin Scott