Aesthetic Appetite

Contemporary warmth in sleek surroundings, Philippe is a feast of design


News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Philippe Restaurant
Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com

After nine months of design work, the new jewel of BLVD Place, Philippe Restaurant + Lounge, has opened its doors. More than a destination for Paris-meets-Texas cuisine, chef Philippe Schmit's restaurant has been expertly appointed by the design studio of  Lauren Rottet.

Despite its sleek exterior, Rottet imbued the restaurant with a distinct contemporary warmth. "I do really contemporary work, and people love it," she told CultureMap. "But listening to Philippe talk about it being a place where people just felt really comfortable coming in, spur of the moment, made me rethink everything."

"I started thinking about the restaurants Philippe showed me, which all shared an industrial modern aesthetic," Rottet says, suggesting that the restaurant channels the style of Pierre Chareau.

"The Industrial Age wasn't so slick-modern. It was very contemporary, but all the finishes were raw. It wasn't fussy. If it was sheet metal, it was sheet metal. If it was concrete, it was concrete. So the look of the turn of the 20th century was contemporary, but by nature of what the materials were, it became warm."

After years living in Paris and working in New York, Schmit collected a stock of menus and photographs that are now the basis of a carefully composed collage wrapping around the first floor bar.

For inspiration, Rottet looked towards New York's Ace Hotel. "It looks like you're in an army barrack," she explains of Ace and Philippe. "The new thing is to make things to look old. It all feels very authentic and collected."

Both the first- and second-story bars are constructed of salvaged wine crates.

Black and white French films are projected along the wall of the lower floor hallway. "Expect lots of Catherine Deneuve and Alain Delon," says Rottet. Photographs of the Francodivas continue into the restrooms.

Architect Shafik Rifaat created the architectural spaces in which Rottet worked her magic. A dramatic staircase breaks apart the restaurant's symmetry and connects the casual, clubby lower level with a lofted swath of dining tables.

Since the majority of the restaurant's budget was directed towards top-notch kitchen equipment, the designers eschewed the temptation for multiple chandeliers and implemented diffused lighting with ruffled sheer drapery fabric. The edges were sheered by hand to soften the light. A disguised metal grid attaches the organza to simple overhead lights.

Five different placemat designs feature quotations from Schmit and other notable Frenchmen. For the logo, designed by Ph Design Shop along with the placemats, a diffused image of two overlapping spoons highlights the space's main activity.

"Originally we talked about just having 'Philippe,' but he wanted something that really said 'restaurant!'," Rottet explains. "In Paris or New York, the restaurants with the best food aren't overly pretentious. He's really trying to distance himself from what Bistro Moderne represented."

Working in partnership with Colton & Farb Gallery, Philippe boasts a caché of original artwork by local practitioners such as Paul Horn (pictured), Molly Gochman and Angelbert Metoyer.

A private dining room seats up to sixteen guests on Texas goathide chairs. Diners can gaze out onto the stairwell drama or watch their friends' reflection in a monumental antiqued mirror.

Rottet Studio created the room's custom wallpaper from enlarged architectural lithographs collected by designer Chris Alexian. "It makes it a little more personal," says Rottet, "like this is our restaurant to serve you."