In the world of hospitality, finishes make the venue. They distinguish the casual upscale restaurant from the more democratic cafeteria, or the formal dining room from the foodie laboratory. Yet for the new Manhattan restaurant Villanelle, local firm Wid Chapman Architects sent mixed messages. Refined quarter-sawn straight-grain oak floors offset an eggshell-finish gray brick wall and complement the knotty pine that clads a central bar and dropped ceiling above it; drywall is also painted gray with an eggshell sheen. Meanwhile, the bar’s honed Carrara marble counter and satin-brass wall shelves provide a glamorous contrast to the rustic cladding. This material palette’s hybrid quality reflects the approach of chef Nick Licata, who relies on ingredients from regional purveyors. One of Licata’s desserts combines seasonal parsnips with white chocolate and sea salt.

Besides setting the appropriate tone, Chapman advocates using materials to define space. “Materials can clarify the dimensional and programmatic parts of a restaurant,” he says. Here, the long and narrow storefront demanded modulation. By placing the bar in the center and employing pine planks in that zone, Chapman created a cozy nook for 10 cocktail sippers that divides the 44-seat dining room into two comfortable areas. “Some small spaces beg to feel unified and expansive,” Chapman explains. “A long thin space can afford to be broken into parts.”