SAMARA || Tranquil Dining Designed with Rich Earth Tones

Think back to the last time you camped in the great outdoors, dined by the evening twilight and twinkling stars under the canopy of lush forestry by the warmth of a wood fire.

Seattle-based design studio Mutuus Studio has recreated this feeling of dining in an intimate, nature-inspired environment and infused the design with a craftsmen aesthetic for their latest restaurant project, Samara restaurant, located in Seattle. In addition to the space being designed by the firm, one of the partners of Mutuus Studio, Saul Becker, was the artist for the artwork that is featured in the space. The firm also designed and fabricated all the lighting fixtures, which include fixtures in both metal and micarta (linen and resin). The fixtures, and of course the rich material palette found in the space, contribute to the deep-forest atmosphere.

The restaurant takes its name, Samara, from the winged fruit of maple trees that twirl like a helicopter. That attention to nature finds its counterpart in the design of the restaurant. Inside, rich earth tones dominate, bringing to mind a tranquil wooded understory.

The design team sought to integrate the restaurant into the fabric of the neighborhood by creating a place that evokes a rich sense of timelessness and comfort. We wanted it to feel comfortable to go to in all seasons, a fire in the winter and a fire in the summer. We also wanted to welcome the neighborhood including families.
— Kristen Becker

The dining area opens directly to the wood-fired grill, ensuring that guests have a front-and-center seat to the preparation of their food and serving as a not-so-subtle reminder of the comfort we feel in ceremonially gathering together around a fire.

I liken the atmosphere to a Dutch still life painting. It’s rich and moody with an elemental simplicity. The simple copper pot was an inspiration to us. It’s something utilitarian that only gets better with age and patina. We carried this theme throughout the restaurant with custom patinaed copper panels, custom patinaed copper pendants, handmade Danish bricks, a soapstone chef’s counter and bar, and richly stained wood…simple materials that will get better with age and use.
— Saul Becker

Dark-stained oak paneling and wainscoting wrap a portion of the space and the bar front, while the balance of the space features a section of the building’s original firewall that was revealed during construction. The firewall is composed of framing timber turned on its side, and now provides a subtle homage to the cooking method of choice.

Seating for thirty is handled through a mix of seating groups featuring anti-tip tables topped with wood recycled from old piers, and a leather banquette. A chef’s counter, finished in soapstone, seats an additional six guests. Copper cladding wraps the area above the grill features a rich patina, and hand-made Danish brick, embedded with fused glass, surrounds the grill to create a delicate dance of firelight.

The design and the menu are inextricably linked. Each ingredient and each element of the restaurants design are given full weight. It was paramount that the mission of Samara was to give the restaurant patrons a heightened sense of the ritual of enjoying a meal and their presence in the space. Keeping the elements, ingredients, and materials clear allows the patrons to be present and focused on their experience. The smoky char of the sunchokes is reflected in the dark patina of the copper pendants. The warm copper glow of the wall mounted “Mallet” lights echoes the glow of the fire.
— Saul Becker

Throughout the interior, custom-designed-and-fabricated lighting fixtures serve as important touchpoint, bringing the spirit of fire into the lighting scheme. The chef’s counter and food prep areas feature a combination of 4-inch diameter Cinder lights and 2-inch diameter Ember lights, both made from knurled copper pipe and a custom patina. Banquette lighting is provided by a custom-designed rotating arm fixture dubbed Mallet (also featuring a knurled and patinated finish), that enables lighting to swing and adapt to table groupings. Translucent micarta sconces, made of linen and resin, line the wall.

The washroom features a light fixture made from a spent artillery shell, the body perforated and coated with reflective glass beads to create a subtle, twinkling light effect.

Samara succeeds in creating a dining environment portraying the restaurant owner’s vision, where guests are reminded of the intimacy of dining in the comfort of nature, accented with modern artisanal lighting fixtures that give the space its unique character.

Photos by Kevin Scott.