HOSPITALITYDESIGN: Roman and Williams Designs Verōnika Restaurant


Photography by Adrian Gaut •
June 6, 2020


New York architecture firm CetraRuddy recently reimagined a 19th-century Renaissance Revival building as Fotografiska New York—the first North American outpost of the original Stockholm photography museum. The landmark building provided the ideal canvas for restaurateur Stephen Starr’s latest, the 150-seat Verōnika restaurant, which is a nod to grand European cafés. For the interiors, he brought in longtime collaborators Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer, cofounders of New York firm Roman and Williams. Their concept: to magnify the complex dynamic that binds painting and photography. “In so many ways, the conflict is still unresolved, and it’s in the unresolved where voltage is created,” says Alesch.

That sense of tension is felt upon entry via a “twilight-colored hallway that takes you to the mystical bohemian forest landscape of the bar area,” says Standefer, referring to the mural by local artist Dean Barger that mixes earthy and cyan tones. It is here, Standefer points out, that the interplay of photography and painting is felt “most viscerally.” Barger’s work juxtaposes a massive stained-glass window behind the honed black St Laurent marble bar, a holdover from the building’s days as the Church Missions House. Past the lounge, the dining room achieves a majestic air, thanks to imposing brass chandeliers that meld with blackened brass-arched doorways inspired by Giorgio de Chirico. Although the design “dramatizes the cusp of the era” when painting transitioned to photography, says Alesch, it also modernizes that relationship “by digging deeper into the elements of each in terms of composition, light, and form.”

This article originally appeared in HD’s May 2020 issue.

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