The Conga Room, Los Angeles by Belzberg Architects

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Sometimes the role of the interior designer or architect is merely to enhance a stunning base-build or let the original features of a listed building shine through. But this was not that sort of project. The reinvention of Los Angeles’s iconic Conga Room nightclub is a lesson not in making the best of an existing space but in completely, radically and perfectly transforming it.

When the original Conga Room, an LA institution for more than a decade, closed in 2006, the club’s owners – a group of LA glitterati including Jennifer Lopez and Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas – chose two floors of the Downtown LA Live complex as its new home.

The venue had plenty of space but, as Chris Arntzen of Belzberg Architects explains, it also presented a few challenges. ‘As if coordinating and blending the various programmes and styles together was not challenging enough, the space – originally planned for office use – had a very low ceiling, which was filled with equipment,’ he says. The club also needed to be acoustically isolated for the benefit of the restaurants, cinemas and offices that share the complex.

Visitors enter the club at ground level, ascending a large staircase to reach the 1,500 sq m of live music and dancing space, three bars and a restaurant on the second floor of the complex. The entrance could have been rather dull so principal architect Hagy Belzberg decided to give clubbers a glimpse of the upper floor’s stunning interior as soon as they walk through the door.

The solution was the ‘tornado’, an illuminated cylinder made from double sided acrylic, which is visible from the entrance through a cut-out in the ceiling. Like a tornado swirling up to the sky, the column merges with the irregular diamond pattern of the upper lobby ceiling that snakes its way through to the main dance floor, where it changes to a pattern of three dimensional flowers.

Amazingly, this dramatic feature is made of hundreds of panels of plywood, sandwiched between layers of MDF and painted with white, fire-retardant semi-gloss. The panels, supported by steel struts, beautifully catch the coloured light from a powerful LED system, which synchronises with the rhythm of the music.

Pretty as it is, this intricate system of panels is not merely decorative. It helps to soundproof the room, for the benefit of the neighbouring businesses, and also reduces echo inside the club. (It works on the same principle as panelling walls and ceilings with egg boxes although, you have to admit, it looks a lot better.) Once inside, clubbers head to one of three bars for an expertly mixed caipirinha or mojito. The Papaya Bar, designed byCuban artist Jorge Pardo, is a standalone structure composed of strips of resin-coated plywood, which have been sculpted into the shape of a huge papaya. The other two bars are made from red Corian, fronted with bespoke Bisazza tiles.

In the restaurant, called Boca, Mexican film-maker and artist Sergio Arau created a butterfly motif, inspired by tattoos. The design was lazer cut into composite wood panels to make a 30m-long backlit wall. The design also appears on the acoustic panels of restaurant’s ceiling. Walls are also ‘tattooed’ with bespoke wallpaper by Design Your Wall. The design was inspired by images of wrought iron and stained glass, which both figure strongly in Latin American culture. The theme continues with ornate chandeliers by Y Lighting.

Arau also brought his wit and creativity to the VIP area, where he painted a surreal cartoon mural of a winged angel in awrestler’s mask swooping past Raquel Welch’s character from One Million Years BC. Yes, it sounds crazy, but with its flamboyant owners, this club was bound to turn a few heads.


Urban Interiorites by Ali Rahim, Tiffany Dahlen & Virginia Melnyk

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Student project at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, with Professor Ali Rahim and partner Tiffany Dahlen. The urban night club responds to the vibrant and eclectic youth culture of Harajuku, Tokyo and balances the high end fashion of Omontesando. The urban club consists of a large meet and greet entry area, sushi restaurant, sake bar, music lounge and two VIP lounges;

Pockets of unique intensities are held within a white framework, creating zones of spatiality, framework and are embedded within it. They differ from a sweet salivating sushi restaurant to a soft pillowy lounge space.

Restaurant and Bar Design Awards: Galvin La Chapelle (London), designLSM

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Glamour and beautiful design of Galvin La Chapelle restaurant for your hospitality design ideas and inspirations.

Designed by Design LSM, UK based award winning interior designer, graphic designer and architectural excellence in restaurants, hotels and retail environments, the restaurant design of Galvin La Chapelle is designed to impress and crackles with excitement and discrete glamor.

According to DesignLSM, the overall restaurant interior design of Galvin La Chapelle ethos and challenge was to create a carefully balanced and understated interior that would enhance the beauty of the existing structure and compliment its details at every level. The site is a converted Grade II 19th Century Foundation School for Girls with a cathedral like interior.

The restaurant design of Galvin La Chapelle has won The 2010 Restaurant and Bar Design Awards in category Independent Restaurant and Best Restaurant design award.

Curved Restaurant Floor Plan

Adding Dazzle with Metallic Coatings

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The ability to achieve spectacular special effects with concrete floor coatings, stains, and dyes is nothing new. But now a whole new alchemy is available for adding razzle-dazzle to your floors — metallic coatings that allow you to “guild” your concrete to replicate the look of copper, silver, aged bronze, nickel, and other shimmery patinas. Some of these coatings contain real metallic powders, while others use special reflective pigments. They are especially popular for floors in retail, office, and restaurant settings, where a modern, upscale look is desired. To see some of the unique effects possible with metallic coatings, take a look at these stunning projects.

Metallic Coating Transforms a Restaurant Floor
The owners of a high-end steakhouse in downtown Calgary go after the “wow” factor for their concrete floor by applying a two-tone metallic finish. A variegated look was achieved by applying the material in two coats containing different concentrations of silver and gray pigments.

The Trend for Using Concrete in Interior Design:

The industrial look in interior design has been around for a while now and whilst we aren’t all lucky enough to live in an old converted warehouse that is brimming with authentic industrial elements, there are ways to give our homes a distinctly urban feel.

One of the easiest ways to achieve an industrial look at home is to use industrial materials. Concrete is an obvious choice and in recent months we have witnessed a huge rise in the use of concrete in interior design. Many designers are now using concrete in unexpected and unusual ways and it would seem that there is nothing that can’t be made using this versatile material.

Lighting made from concrete has really made its mark this year as numerous designers have taken advantage of the hard-wearing, utilitarian properties of the material to create minimalist lighting designs.

Italian lighting manufacturer Foscarini jumped on the bandwagon with the Aplomb suspension light designed by Paolo Lucidi and Luca Pevere.

Heavy is a collection of thin-walled, cast concrete lights by Benjamin Hubert available as a pendant, desk or wall light.

German designer Tim Mackerodt’s Falt.Serie features a suspension lamp that has been produced using fibre-reinforced concrete that has been rolled out and manually folded on flexible moulds.

An unlikely product to make from concrete is seating due to the hardness and density of the material, which makes it pretty unforgiving where comfort is concerned. This has not deterred designers though who have forged ahead, creating some interesting unusual furniture.

Stitching Concrete is a project by industrial designer Florian Schmid who uses the revolutionary concrete canvas to create a set of durable stools ideal for indoor and outdoor use.

Dutch designer Dik Scheepers used papercrete – an experimental, low cost, versatile, light-weight material – which is more often used in the construction industry, to create a collection of furniture named UnPølished.

Other concrete furniture came in the form of WahidFlorian Kallus’ storage cubes, which have a wood veneer on the inside that slightly softens the overall impact of the concrete.

Johan Forsberg is a Swedish designer who experiments with concrete for a number of applications. From wall art, clocks, and tables, Forsberg’s concrete creations have a minimalist and modern design language and are certainly made to last.

Wallcoverings have not avoided the concrete craze either. Daniel Ogassian’s tile designs in concrete are a stunning reminder that this mundane material can be transformed into a tactile and decorative surface for interiors.

The dramatic Dune wall tile by Urban Product is available in concrete as well as walnut wood and gypsum and leaves you just dying to reach out and touch it.

Even those designers who do not work directly with concrete have been getting in on the act. Norwegian company Concretewall creates unique and realistic wallpapers designed to look like concrete.

The Concrete Collection is designed by photographer Tom Haga who photographs raw and refined concrete walls, raw cinder block walls and even graffiti, in locations right across Norway. The high-resolution images are then transformed into wallpaper.

Kitchens too have undergone an industrial revolution as designers have selected concrete as their material of choice. Austrian design studio Steininger Designers has created an innovative concrete kitchen made of ultra-thin 8 mm concrete, which is sturdy, light, heat-resistant and hygienic.

Bathrooms too are making use of the advantageous properties associated with concrete. Glass Idromassaggio‘s Concrete Soft bathtub is made from DuctalR concrete and bears the signature of the designer Gigi Rossi.

Whilst all these concrete products look pretty impressive and add a touch of industrial chic to interior spaces, I’m still not convinced that concrete is a material I would want to use in my home. How about you?

Wood-Concreate Combination by AFGH

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Incorporating concrete in interior design can have quite an impact. This home shows how using a lot of this basic material, concrete can simultaneously give a home a polished and yet, unrefined look. The straight lines of the slabs give this space a streamlined, contemporary look, while the rawness of it softens those lines and brings in a charming imperfect quality which seems to say ‘relax, we’re not that serious’ – basically making it feel more comfortable. Wood is also a bit part of the interior design and takes the comfort level further. So together, wood and concrete make a nice pair, balancing each other out. Also, take a moment to appreciate the bathroom. Almost fully concrete combined with the right lighting scheme, the space is warm, raw and streamlined, which stays right on cue with the rest of this home. Learn more about this contemporary concrete home in Berlin by AFGH.