Deep red and luxuriantly marbled, meat is central to the experience of Gwen, a new restaurant in Hollywood, California. As patrons enter the grand, high-ceilinged dining room, they pass through the venue’s small butcher shop, its retail vitrine brimming with aged Wagyu beef, plump fowl, savory sausages, and terrines of grouse or fois gras. Here, just over the restaurant’s threshold, an inset of seemingly timeworn marble mosaic—that could easily pass as being original to this ornate 1920s building—punctuates the polished yet age-scarred concrete floor, spelling out “Gwen” with a lyrical flourish. Deceptively recent, this inlay (honoring the owners’ grandmother, who was raised on a farm) simultaneously evokes old-time Hollywood glamour and the utilitarian floor tiles of a vintage butcher shop. And that play between the elegant and the raw runs through Gwen—underscored by aromas from a great copper- clad hearth. If this soaring rectangular dining room is a temple to meat, then the altar at the end of its “nave” is the wood-burning grill.
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“We started out with the concept of roasting whole animals over an open pit,” says Australian-born Luke Stone, who founded Gwen with his brother, chef Curtis Stone. “But with that rustic approach, we also wanted to create an authentic sense of luxury, nothing Disney or kitsch.”
To design interiors worthy of the prime cuts and location—right on Sunset Boulevard—the owners turned to Brooklyn-based Home Studios (HS), which typically custom- fabricates everything from light fixtures to furniture, as it did here. The site was a two-story corner building from 1926, its creamy white, high-relief facade an exuberant cross of California Spanish, Baroque, and Art Deco styles. Yet very little original detail remained in the 6,000-square-foot interior (of which 4,500 square feet would be front-of-house space). So the designers paid homage to that stylistic provenance, but with a modern twist. Now a stepped series of concentric arches, like a proscenium, frames the spectacle at the hearth. Over the main dining area, big crystal chandeliers spiral down, at once reminiscent of 1930s cinematic opulence and ’70s styling. And wrapping structural columns along the nave, HS created steel-and-glass light fixtures that pair a Deco-like articulation of parallel lines with kinetic, industrial traits. Their modern milk-glass shades, inspired by classic period fixtures, filter incandescent light, softening the room’s harder edges and giving the marble-smooth plaster walls a golden cast.
“Gwen’s approach to food is elemental in its meatiness and very focused on displaying the high quality of the ingredients,” says HS principal Oliver Haslegrave. “In a similar way, we wanted to expose and celebrate the fundamental character of the materials we used.” The richness of that palette includes brass-edged tabletops of pink marble.
But the real drama happens amid the flames, near the fire pit (where meat is both cooked and smoked) and, beside it, in the open kitchen. There, a Carrara-marble counter with high stools caters to customers who prefer “ringside” dining to more relaxed tables or booths. Other options range from the intimate mezzanine level to banquettes tucked beside the glass-paneled cold room, which serves both the butcher shop and the restaurant. Glowing lanternlike from within, that meat locker showcases carcasses, prosciutto slabs, and sausages curing on hooks.
Though seasonal vegetables are integral to Gwen’s farm-and-hunt menu—the tab can easily run to hundreds of dollars per person—a key ritual here involves inviting diners to pick their weapon from an eclectic collection of antique steak knives. Equally varied is the display of vintage cocktail glasses, many gold-rimmed, at the bar along one edge of the 80-seat dining area.
On a recent evening, men in sport coats without ties and women in stylish little dresses tucked into succulent-looking game as the chefs tossed more flesh onto the grill. By design, the place has a slightly rough-edged quality, but the glisten of sizzling fat and the overhead glitter of crystals season it with the essence of what restaurant critic Jonathan Gold has called “abattoir chic.”
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Principals Oliver and Evan Haslegrave
Wood doors: Custom wood and marble bathroom doors by Home Studios
Pulls: Custom bathroom door pulls and stall door knobs by Home Studios
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Custom shelving throughout by Home Studios
Paints and stains: Farrow & Ball paint in White Tie, James White, Pointing, Studio Green, Dead Salmon, Railings and Setting Plaster, custom decorative plaster wall finish
Paneling: Stained oak wood half rounds
Floor and wall tile: Butcher shop East wall: Ann Sacks Stoneware Elements in Black Pearl and New Fog, reclaimed subway tile, reclaimed green 6"x6" tile, Open kitchen walls: Ann Sacks Foundation brick in Moss, Mezzanine ceiling: Ann Sacks Foundation brick in Desert, Custom 'Gwen' floor mosaic at entry door, Bathroom walls: Ann Sacks Savoy in New Bronze Luster
Special interior finishes unique to this project: Asador hood: copper cladding, Asador hearth: cast in place concrete, Chef's counter top: honed White Carrara marble, Dining and Mezzanine bar tops: honed Rosa Aurora marble
Fixed seating: Custom made banquettes with painted tambour, brass, patina'd mirror and rattan details. Upholstered with a velvet back and leather seat.
Chairs: Custom dining chairs with metal and wood frames and a velvet seat made by Maderas Collective.
Tables: Custom made by Home Studios - stained wood with a honed Rosa Aurora marble and brass edge band.
Upholstery: Nettle green and Cadet blue velvet, Aspen brown and Chinchilla brown leathers.
Other furniture: Custom made metal, reclaimed wood and marble waiter stations throughout and custom back bar bottle risers by Home Studios. Custom honed marble patio tables.
Interior ambient lighting: Custom column pendant, custom wall sconce, custom back bar lamp, custom marble and glass candle votive holders, custom bathroom vanity sconces, custom mezzanine fixture, custom chef's counter fixture.
Recessed kitchen lighting: Environmental Lights
sinks, faucet, toilet, hand rail: Kohler