LA’s restaurant design took major strides in 2017, with a decided blend of colorful contemporary approaches with a grounding in midcentury modern furniture and aesthetics. Some of the most unique new restaurant interiors took wild shifts away from trends, with places like The Exchange in Downtown Los Angeles leaning on heavy 70s-style wood paneling.
Wallpapers were a big deal in 2017, with places like Lono, Felix, and Tintorera adding colors and patterns to otherwise minimalist spaces. Lushness was another key part of restaurant design in Los Angeles, with Wabi, Rosaliné, and The Exchange using either hanging or indoor plants to create a bright, natural look. Here now, the most beautiful restaurants in Los Angeles that either opened or remodeled in 2017.
Steve and Dina Samson’s airy, semi-industrial Rossoblu had perhaps the most compelling overall design of any restaurant that opened in 2017. Early photos reminded industry pundits of Copenhagen’s Relae, though the colorful mural along the far wall looked better than its European inspiration. The grand high ceilings and that ultra-reflective wall rounds out the space while the golden bar area feels like the ideal place for a chic pre-dinner drink. 1124 San Julian St.
Perhaps the most unique design in Los Angeles at the moment, The Exchange’s blend of wood paneling, leather banquettes, and turquoise walls gives it a special kind of warmth. And with large windows that look out into the Downtown landscape, it feels enmeshed with all the development happening in this part of the central business district. 416 W. 8th St. Downtown LA.
Ricardo Zarate’s comeback Peruvian restaurant in West Hollywood is like two sides of a coin. The airy, bright back room feels incredible lush and natural, though with white-tiled walls, neon accents, and modern furniture it has an almost throwback vibe. The front area’s inviting feel comes from its open kitchen and substantial bar area, which buzzes every night. 8479 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood.
Easily the most arresting design of 2017, this previously empty architectural wonder stood for years in Culver City’s Hayden Tract as a signature work of star architect Erin Owen Moss. This year, it transformed into a four-story restaurant of the grandest ambitions from Jordan Kahn. The clear views from its top floor perch, and its tiny mid-story dining room, gives the place an otherworldly feel while its flameless kitchen, located on the third floor, feel like a sci-fi movie set. 3599 Hayden Drive, Culver City.
Joe’s commanded reverence and respect for years along Abbot Kinney before it closed a few years ago. Evan Funke’s pasta restaurant gives it new life, with modest appointments and comfortable midcentury furniture. The place looks a lot better when lit with daylight, though it retains a suave, understated appeal when the evening descends. The pasta lab commands the most attention, especially when cooks are rolling out fresh pasta through the night. That front cocktail area feels especially like a European cafe, though it’s often bustling with those hoping to land a walk-in table. 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice.
This modern Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake boasts a wide outdoor dining patio and a fantastic bar area. 2815 Sunset Blvd, Silver Lake.
With clean, modern lines and just the right balance between orange and brown hues between off-white tilings and walls. Casa Cubana has a relaxed ambiance that feels perfect with an afternoon cafecito. 541 S. Spring St. Downtown.
This modern Tiki lounge in Hollywood eschews the kitsch and knick-knacks of classic Polynesian cocktail spots, with opts for a pattern-laden interior. The place recalls a tropical destination with the stylish touch of a Hollywood bar. 6611 Hollywood Blvd.
This glorious remodel has one of the brightest and nicest new restaurant interiors in Los Angeles, thanks to a hipster-Tulum vibe meshed with a beachy-cool color palette. 118 Entrada Dr. Santa Monica.
When the sun goes down, this lovely Chinatown restaurant and wine bar has just the right lighting. Magenta neon greets diners as they walk in, and unfinished rafters enclose a sweeping wine bar that does a lot with very little in the way of embellishment. There’s something really nice about sitting out on the small patio, with the Gold Line train rumbling above, and the deserted Chinatown streets just beyond. 1135 N. Alameda, Chinatown.
Wabi Venice had a pretty clear transformation in 2017 and everything from its easy-going Nobu-style menu to its striking interior drew scores of diners once it reopened. The back dining room has a rowdy, clustered ambiance while the front’s bar, assembled with a winding wood edge, steers away from the straight lines that characterize most other bars. Perhaps the hanging plants and the incredible wallpaper were a little too on the nose, but most design mavens would give this Venice restaurant’s remodel a big thumbs up. 1635 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice.