Mixing time and place, Studio Barbara’s design for Lulu’s at the Lodge is gorgeously insouciant, fresh and a whole lot of fun.
January 12th, 2024
Tasked with creating a restaurant experience where colours, patterns, textures, and curated objects would tell a story of countless summers, Studio Barbara has hit on just the right mood. “Our ultimate goal was to transport our guests to a realm where they could collectively explore and embrace new adventures,” says Felicity King, co-founder and director of Studio Barbara.
Key to creating a fiction that sits outside of time and space is the ability to mix era-blurring items in a way that reads with cohesion. For Lulu’s at the Lodge, the mood is holiday, with a touch of the American Lodge aesthetic of the JFK and Jackie Onassis era. That said, it is no second-rate retro or cliché. Rather, there are objects from such a vast array of eras that no single time stands out, but is more correctly an amalgamation of the individual Belle Époque writ large.
As such, the conceptual framework of creating “a place to create memory” has been explored through a series of environments that function as repositories for memories and influences, each resonating with every guest in a distinctive manner. “The design aspired to elicit a profound sense of nostalgia for previous adventures while simultaneously nurturing the birth of fresh, lively memories,” explains Ben Selke, co-founder and director of Studio Barbara.
Lighting, for example, steps easily from a French gilt wheatsheaf tole (painted enamel) chandelier over the fireplace to a Paolo Venini Chandelier in gold from the 1940s to mid-century chandeliers, glass feature lights and the magnificent entry chandelier in pink Murano glass. Joining these extraordinary moments are a sea of simple cone pendants in rattan and metal. The result is a slip in time, where every piece has its own evocative nature, but together they coalesce as an international mood that sits outside the day to day. In short, the tone is high holiday.
“This harmonious amalgamation was intended to serve as a vibrant celebration of diversity and life experiences, embodying a profound appreciation for the rich tapestry of individuality,” says King.
Set within the rolling hills of Jamberoo, Lulu’s Restaurant & Bar sits amongst the pine tree grounds by a beautiful river. Almost ridiculously idyllic, Studio Barbara has done well to escalate the mood rather than load in the oatmeal tones that is ubiquitous to spa resort aesthetics. Instead, Lulu’s is a vibrant burst of energy, a fun and chirpy surprise giving presence that layers French Mediterranean vibes with saturated colour, texture, pattern and eclectic pieces to create a quirky and animated space.
“Central to our design was the desire to make guests feel at home and inspired within this hidden, mysterious, wonderful world of magic,” says King.
Positing an “eccentric holiday home somewhere in a little French town on the coast of the Mediterranean, where time has layered the walls with little memories and pieces of all those from near and far who have moved through” the design narrative is surprisingly light and legible. With no limit to the colours, patterns, textures, and objects that have been brought together to create the interior, clarity prevails through some magnificent colour blocking holding everything together. Two shades of mint, for example, are used to emphasise architectural shift and highlight some furnishings, while darker tones create dados, trim and accent.
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The green also provides an excellent pairing with the pink and orange tones of furniture, lighting, objects, details and the pink clouds floating across the ceiling. A broad seventies geometric rug brings these colour together elegantly, while the largely unnoticed expanses of white in table-tops, plinths, ceilings and some walls gives the whole room to breathe.
Continuing the eccentric pleasure palace mood, the layout places lounge settings among the various dining settings to allow for a natural switch to a relaxed session by the fire or looking out to the garden. The vintage sofas are low and seventies in a burnt orange corduroy, with further accents of toile (open weave printed linen) cushions, marbles, wicker, and eclectic vintage and customised sideboards.
Within Lulu’s is the quite different Finn’s Bar. Approached via an arched corner of the dining room, the moody cousin is where all things dark and sumptuous create a startling contrast to the frippery of Lulu’s. For this slice of heaven, deep blue walls are salon hung with dark gold framed David Shrigley posters, while the lounge in gold and black checkerboard velvet adds drama to the tall wall of dark tile and grand brass chandelier of the fireplace.
The folky timber burl chairs are simply fabulous and pair well with the robustly pedestaled marble tables and leather and grey boucle banquette running along the wall. But it is not all sombre, as Selke explains: “In this inky, murky setting, unexpected bursts of pink emerge, teasing the eye and adding a touch of the whimsical, flamboyant.”
Indeed, a subtle French influence weaves its way through the design, with as, the designers intended, the feeling that “you’ve stumbled into a hidden room layered with trinkets.” As such, the layering is intense with objects and cushions, vases, plants, lamps and such on every surface.
Shifting from indoors to the multiple outdoor terraces, the mood becomes overtly sunny with fresh white outdoor furnishings with scalloped edge detailing (B Seated Global) studded with exuberantly peach and terracotta cushions. From small to large groups, there is a mix of round white tables and the orange and white checkerboards of the larger rectangular tables. Then there is a sea of white fringed orange sun umbrellas, a bright mint green tuc tuc, floral cloth napkins, zigzag detailed plates, a host of topiary balls and cones, plus a dense border of plantings between indoor and out.
There is a brilliance to this project that comes of the exceptional colour work, but also lies in the designers’ understanding that a new mood – slightly Wes Anderson, slightly beach, slightly European and entirely holiday mood – is both needed and highly appreciated.
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