- The spirit of the place, Dehesa Fields by Binom Architects
You know that unsettled feeling you sometimes get when you step into a restaurant classified by its cuisine? Where the owners try to outdo each other as to who can put together the most stereotypes of the source of the culinary traditions they serve? Things like the ubiquitous views of Mt. Vesuvius in Neapolitan pizzerias and the red paper lanterns in Chinese restaurants, just to give a couple of examples from the long, long list. Which is exactly why the interior design of Dehesa Fields is a particularly tough challenge. This restaurant in Islington serves southern Spanish cuisine and was designed by London-based Binom Architects, founded in 2010 by Marta Granda Nistal and Gonzalo Coello de Portugal, who are both Spanish.
On the one hand, they had the client brief, and on the other, they were confronted with a rather dark long, narrow building flanked by an alleyway, where the only daylight came from a single, large window at the front. The owners are a Spanish, family-run business who have been raising livestock - including acorn-fed pigs - for generations in the south of Extremadura and in north-west Andalusia. The designers needed to convey the sense of authenticity of this characteristic landscape, fields where the animals graze freely, called "dehesa" in Spanish. At the same time, they had to consider the actual location of the venue - vibrant, young Islington - in order to balance the rural feel of the place of origin against the city vibe of London.
So the Spanish architects from London-based Binom Architects referenced Spanish traditions like the earthy colour palette but still managed to steer clear of falling into the trap of a theme-based interior. At the same time, they maximised the functionality of the space, which is divided into two main areas: the tapas bar at the front with a bespoke glazed ceramic lighting feature hanging over the long concrete bar and the dining room at the back. Fabric partitions and back-lit panels define the dining room. The designers used these panels to assist with the lighting and to create images of the dehesa fields subtly referring to a sense of untouched wilderness and the warmth of Spanish sunshine.
As a result, their design for “Dehesa Fields” balances a casual, unpretentious feel with a desire to make it somewhere special to go out in the evening in response to the need for transformation because the restaurant is open from breakfast through to lunch, dinner and late-night cocktails. The combination of rough textures on surfaces like painted brick and woven steel mesh with the glossiness of the glazed ceramics above the bar eases this sense of transformation, as does the lighting scheme that can be changed from a gentle one relying more on natural daylight to a more glamorous one at night-time, with the full use of the back-lit panels.
“Dehesa Fields” by Binom Architects seats up to 40 people; all the dishes are based on the owners’ meat products imported from their estate in South Western Spain, and they're served on Spanish pottery from the same region. The end result is an authentic and contemporary ambience, which really brings a piece of Spain to London.
Project: Binom Architects - https://www.binom.co.uk/
Lighting Design: SEAM Design
Location: London, UK
Images: Ioana Marinesc