International design practice Red Deer has brought a slice of southern Italy to Los Angeles in the form of Grá, an artisan sourdough pizza and natural wine restaurant housed in a converted barn building.
Located in the city’s trendy Echo Park neighbourhood, the 3,500-sq-ft restaurant is divided into a bar, the main dining hall with an open-plan kitchen, an off-street patio area and a recessed internal courtyard.
Red Deer worked closely with owner Michael McSharry to create a space that is inviting and authentic, with original features such as the timber roof trusses and blockwork walls left exposed.
‘We were looking for a site with a bit of soul and this building was just perfect,’ says Red Deer co-founder Ciarán O’Brien. ‘A lot of other people had passed on it because of the strict health and safety codes in LA but we saw its empty shell as a testbed for playfulness.’
Red Deer has worked on numerous commercial projects in London – including a restaurant and workspace housed in an Edwardian canteen – but Grá is the studio’s first eatery in the US. The architects applied the same approach as in their European projects, using materials sourced from builders merchants and salvage yards to give the space a unique character.
In addition to preserving and restoring the roof, 40,000 granite cobbles were individually laid to create the restaurant’s patchwork-like floor. Marble offcuts are incorporated into the moulded concrete bar top, and the bar front is made from low-cost garden edging tiles.
‘We focus on what really matters,’ O’ Brien explains, ‘and for us, it was this big space that feels like you’re in a forgotten pizza-dough factory in Naples.’
‘We like to concentrate on the hero things like the incredible floor and preserving this fantastic ceiling,’ he adds, ‘but you don’t then have to spend the earth on the rest for it to be amazing.’
Other walls are made from clay planters used in gardening, while the slouchy banquettes are constructed from breeze blocks. Reclaimed lighting and midcentury furniture complete the informal and laid-back look.