176 Carondelet Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63105
Not many architects get to work on the same space twice. Back in 2007, we designed Stratton’s Cafe at the Plaza in Clayton. Seven years later, Brendan Marsden of Modesto Tapas Bar & Restaurant leased the space to open his new concept for a daytime restaurant serving breakfast, brunch and lunch, called Whitebox Eatery. Borrowed from the construction industry, “white box” refers to a minimally-finished interior, ready for a tenant to move in. Just as the name implies, Brendan wanted that clean slate with neutral, contemporary finishes, but not a space that is cold or sterile-looking. Our goal was to give his guests a comfortably contemporary space with natural finishes to create warmth.
To keep the project within budget, the design team worked with as many existing materials as possible, while selecting affordable new finishes that could could give a big bang for the buck. We replaced the old tile and carpet with variegated bamboo flooring, and ran the flooring up the wall next to the front door and behind the order counter. Speaking of the order counter, instead of using the solid surface to simply “top” the die wall, we brought the surface down, almost to the floor. This draws attention to the ordering area, and it makes a robust statement of material. (It also looks like a big white box.)
To serve guests who need to eat on the run, Brendan requested a series of pickup boxes so customers could order and pay online, then simply grab their order from the boxes and go. These are located on the counter at the front door to give busy customers a quick getaway. More of these white boxes are used for storage above the drink prep area. The white box theme carried to the wallcovering, too. We found a commercial-quality vinyl wallcovering that was covered in embossed, randomly-sized white boxes. The rest of the walls were painted in warm grays and whites, while some high-traffic areas are protected by thin sheets of steel. Brendan found some great stackable chairs for the dining room, and they’re complemented by a durable Maharam vinyl fabric on the booths and banquette. New, airier light fixtures round out the space along with some beautiful David Stine live-edge cafe tables.