“Dark, velvety, and secret” are just some the words Genevieve Gergis, co-owner and pastry chef at Los Angeles’ Bestia and Bavel, says people associate with Middle Eastern restaurants. When conceiving Bavel, she and partner chef Ori Menashe wanted to turn that stereotype on its head, from the furniture and decor to the food, while infusing it with a distinct sense of L.A.
“I wanted Bavel to be very light, like it was an extension of the outside, kind of an oasis,” Gergis says. “The Middle East has a lot of sun-bleached colors and wood, and they do a lot of greenery inside. That’s a big decorating point in the Middle East.”
To help her bring the look to life, Gergis enlisted Greg Bleier of Studio Unltd who also designed Bestia, her and Menashe’s first restaurant. Gergis showed Bleier photographs that she took while she and Menashe traveled throughout Bavel’s influencing countries — Morocco, Israel, Egypt, Turkey — leading him to draw from the juxtaposition of different materials over time. The Arts District warehouse they chose was also blessed with high ceilings and a northern orientation, capturing daylight without being in the direct line of the sun.
“That was the number one that she wanted: [the restaurant] bathed in light, the finishes to be very light, [and to include] a few colors that she is always drawn to,” Bleier explains. “Then a final layer of a softer touch in terms of furniture and comfort, things that have a lot of texture to them and a pattern and a pretty touch.”
Bavel makes devoted diners of just about anyone who walks through the door. Since its opening, it has been lauded by magazines like Food & Wine, given a rave review by the late Jonathan Gold in the Los Angeles Times, and named one of the year’s best by Eater and Bon Appétit. It was also awarded Eater’s Restaurant Design of the Year, in no small part due to the restaurant’s breezy, coastal aesthetic — a vibe that shoppers can, with some help from Gergis and Bleier, bring into their homes.
Establish a rich but neutral backdrop with white and brass
Bleier wanted to start with a blank canvas — something elegant and light, but multi-dimensional. They hired a scenic painter to whitewash the walls, he says, with layers of plaster and paint, giving the space a little history and mystery. The light, airy cafe vibes carry through with white marble and light wood, which Gergis notes serve as just the right backdrops for plates of rich meat and stews.
Together with the white tones, touches of brass throughout — on shelves, tables, and lights — establish a rich but neutral base.
Buy: A marble table with a brass base...
Buy: Or a marble table with a cafe base
Buy: Brass shelving
Accent in shades of turquoise blue, yellow, and coral
Bleier added rich dashes of color throughout the restaurant — turquoise blue, goldenrod yellow, and pinky-orange coral — and repeated them throughout in various materials for a layered effect in the space. “[So] you have one color…. and not just one texture, but multiple textures,” Bleier says. “There’s three or four different textures of that color.” By and large, the restaurant is concrete and graced with lightly-colored materials, so the colors invite your eye around the room.
“One of the elements that we developed was the floor pattern of decorative tile laid within the concrete, which is inspired by outdoor plazas [and] inlaid flooring that you would see in the region,” Bleier explains of the scalloped floor tiles. Gergis chose the coral linens, reminiscent of Pantone’s 2019 Color of the Year, which was also echoed in the bar stools. Whether it’s tiles repeating on the bar, floor, and backsplash, or coral on the napkins and bar stools, simple repetition weaves every “neighborhood” of the restaurant together and infuses it with a Mediterranean-Middle Eastern palette.
Buy: Coral cloth napkins
Buy: Turquoise pillows
World Market Oversized Dark Teal Tassel Indoor Outdoor Lumbar Pillow, $20
Rachel Ashwell Bali 12x20 Lumbar Pillow in Teal Velvet, $169
Source One Upholstery Marrakesh Fabric in Willow Grove, $49 per yard
Tap into arabesque influence
There was some desire on Gergis’ part to incorporate arabesque influence, who selected the light fixtures that hang over the banquettes. With that in mind, Bleier selected Moroccan sconces and other lighting to echo that throughout the space. Additionally, an arabesque tile adorns the kitchen’s bar and the charcuterie bar.
Yes, you can tile your own home — and it can make all the difference. And if you’re not in a situation where re-tiling the bathroom or kitchen makes sense (hello, renting!), try some adhesive tiles to give it the same effect.
Buy: Moroccan-inspired lighting
The Anthropologie and Tom Dixon pendants below are the ones that actually hang in the restaurant. As for the sconces, you’ll have to scour Etsy just like Bleier did.
Go all in on plants
Genevieve wanted to bring greenery into restaurant, but to call the hanging plant lattice above Bavel’s dining room just that would be something of an understatement. The well-tended-to living sculpture inspires mouth-agape wonderment in diners and is the focal point of the restaurant’s design. Bavel in Hebrew means Babel, as in the Tower of Babel story from the Bible, as well as Babylon, site of the famed Hanging Gardens. “We wanted to bring that heritage and [mythology] into the project,” says Bleier. While a lattice might not be the ideal thing to hang from an apartment ceiling, there are ways to create the same effect with hanging pots and spindly plants.
Buy: Spindly plants
Buy: Hanging pots
Bring in statement-making seating
The large footprint of restaurant created the opportunity to build distinct dining areas at Bavel, with diners seated in a variety of different configurations. Classic Thonet cafe chairs, below, are the actual ones used in the restaurant, as are the Bend bar stools, which have become a design statement across plenty of other of-the-moment restaurants these days.
Buy: Classic wood cafe chairs
Buy: Metallic bar stools
Embrace simple dinnerware with a little romance
Gergis wasn’t looking for elaborate plates, platters, or bowls, as Menashe wanted simple white. To her delight, when she chose a version that had delicately-shaped edges rather than clean and crisp, Menashe was on board.
Buy: White dishes with some curves
The Mozart line from Bauscher is what is actually used in the restaurant, but look for anything with a lightly scalloped or softly decorative edge, like Savannah dinnerware from Crate and Barrel.
Buy: Glassware with flair
Gergis trusts her bar staff to choose the best glassware for their cocktails, but the textural quality of the restaurant’s design is still there. Ridged glasses from Duralex, below, are used in the restaurant, and decorative coupes accent the fresh and vivacious drinks menu.
Hatch High Ball Glasses, $20 for set of four
Duralex Manhattan Clear Tumbler, $33 for set of six
fferrone Bessho Glassware Tall Glasses, $110 for set of two
Spiegelau Perfect Serve Collection Perfect Coupette Glass, $48 for set of four
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