Samara | A warm interior welcomes guests to this eatery

Chef preparing food in Samara

One of the latest additions to Seattle’s dining scene is this sophisticated bistro known as Samara. With space available for only thirty eight visitors, the owner of the modest eatery desired a design scheme that nurtured an intimate atmosphere for the venue.

Washington architecture and design firm, Mutuus Studio, took this brief on board and as a result have produced a craftsman-inspired interior which exudes a sense of warmth and familiarity to welcome a range of guests.

Taking centre stage in Samara is undoubtedly the extensive chef’s counter and impressive multi-level, wood-fuelled grill and oven which sit behind. The compact dining space opens up to this hub to allow visitors to catch a glimpse of their food being prepared while benefiting from the feeling of being gathered around a fire.

Mutuus’s use of earth tones and dark-stained oak walls contrast the stark white spaces that are currently circulating the design scene. But interestingly, these elements still seem to ooze the ever-coveted sense of calm that white washed walls are renowned for.

Wood clad walls in Samara
Custom lighting by Mutuus Studio features in the design

To unearth the thought process behind the design, we spoke to Mutuus Studio’s Saul Becker (SB) and Jim Friesz (JF).

Questions for the design team:

For those of us who haven’t been to Samara, how would you describe the restaurant’s atmosphere?
SB: 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.

Artwork in Samara
The artwork featured in Samara showcases the artistic talent of Mutuus Studio’s Saul Becker

Does the design in any way reflect the menu and food on offer?
SB: The design and the menu are inextricably linked. Each ingredient and each element of the restaurant’s 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.

What inspired the use of darker tones in Samara’s interior?
JF: The darker tones of the restaurant enhance the experience of the firelight from the hearth and the custom lighting made by Mutuus. Keeping the light low also helps create the sense of intimacy with the space and the food.

What informed your material palette?
SB: The material palette takes cues from charred wood and copper cookware. We chose copper as our metal over blackened steel or other more conventional metals because of its connection to cooking. The ember glow of the fire inspired the design of the lighting that uses a torched copper exterior patina with the polished copper interior. Inside, rich earth tones dominate, bringing to mind a tranquil wooded understory. 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. 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.

And finally, What was most important to get right with the seating layout of Samara?
JF: The chef’s counter was critical to get right. It needed to be intimate and connected to the hearth but not feel like it put the chef on stage. More like being hosted at someone’s home than Eric (the chef) on display. Even with Seattle’s reputation for rainy weather, people still like to be connected to the outdoor neighborhood streetscape when dining. So we organised the table layout next to new, large operable windows at the front, cosy corner of the restaurant.

A visit to Samara will not only have you relaxed in its warm, wooden surroundings, but is also a chance to discover and enjoy some of Seattle’s best local produce.

Photography: Kevin Scott

To discover more about Samara click here

See here for other work from Mutuus

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