Husband and wife team Pedro and Sarah Resendiz were ready to trade in their popular food truck Tamarindo—which they had been driving around Orange County, California, since 2013—for a brick-and-mortar version of the business in San Clemente. They didn’t want to lose the casual, sunlit vibe of roadside dining in the transition, however, so reproduction of that outdoor experience and light were key factors in their brief when the couple hired Los Angeles–based Stayner Architects to transform a dilapidated 1940s building into a full-service restaurant for their well-regarded Mexican cuisine.

Led by principal Christian Stayner, the firm managed all aspects of the project: the architecture, the business plan, entitlements and approvals, construction, interiors, graphics—and lighting design. After gutting and stabilizing the single-story wood and masonry structure to comply with seismic codes, the architects focused on introducing daylight into the dining room. They installed full-height glazing on the building’s east-facing front facade, opening the interior to a patio, then inserted six skylights into the roof to carry sunlight into the space. In the rear, western light from the kitchen filters through a ribbed-glass lattice screen.


The Ketra S30 PAR lamps can be adjusted to amplify colorful accents, such as a bold mural in the mescal bar. Photo © Liz Kuball, Courtesy Ketra

Inside, Stayner nodded to the Mesoamerican colors, textures, and forms found in mid 20th-century works by Luis Barragán and Juan O’Gorman. A brick wall features a bold mural; the wood ceiling and joists are painted bright yellow; furniture, floors, and walls are made of ash wood, treated with tongue oil or blackened. With a similar sense of craft, the firm developed a cementitious terrazzo for the table- and bar tops. For electric illumination, says Stayner, “We wanted lights that, during the day, were compatible with the natural light, not overly yellow and orange. At the same time, we didn’t want the light at night to be so blue it would be unpleasant.”


Ketra D3 downlights showcase the rear bar in a color temperature consistent with the dining area (1); in the evening, the system dims down to a gentle glow, with ample light above the tables (2). Photos © Liz Kuball, Courtesy Ketra

To capture the range of color temperatures and output flexibility necessary to mimic nature’s spectrum—a span from 1,400 to 10,000 Kelvin—Stayner chose a series of tunable RGBW LED lamps that offer more hue variations than tunable-white options. These are controlled by a wireless system (from the same manufacturer to avoid potential protocol conflicts) that responds to an astronomical clock. This maintains a light consistent with the sun streaming in from the street and skylights throughout the day, all year. In the evening, the lights dim to a warm glow for a more intimate ambience. At the same time, strategically placed lamps are tuned to amplify colorful design accents within the space and complement the food. All the lamps are individually addressable for on-the-fly adjustments via wall keypads or an app on the owners’ phones. “We can also remotely push new programming to their lighting,” says Stayner.

While the number of variables and controls at Tamarindo may seem intimidating, he notes that the wireless, individually addressable system also presented surprising opportunities after installation. “For us as architects, not lighting designers, this really opens up possibilities,” Stayner adds. “It’s great to have this level of control, especially for a hospitality setting.”


Stayner Architects — Christian Stayner, principal; Jonathan Anthony, Robert Michel, project designers; John Guinn, terrazzo development and fabrication

Rory O. Zack

General Contractor:
Stayner Properties

Sarah and Pedro Resendiz

3,000 square feet


Completion Date:
May 2019



Ketra (D3 downlights, S30 PAR lamps, G2 linear accent luminaire, A20 lamps, N4 Hub, N3 Satellite Control)

Structural System:
Simpson Strong-Tie, Rosboro

Windows & Doors:
Western Window Systems