HOSPITALITYDESIGN: Square Feet Studio’s Crafts the Laidback Alderwood Santa Cruz

Will Speros • Photography by Andrew Thomas Lee •
January 8, 2020

A blue palette evokes the nearby bay waters in Santa Cruz

When chef Jeffrey Wall was developing the French-influenced, vegetable-forward Alderwood Santa Cruz, he turned to John and Vivian Bencich of Atlanta design firm Square Feet Studio (who partnered with Wall on the Kimball House restaurant in Atlanta) to tell a nature-first story via a refined design lens.

“The atmosphere is casual but composed to encourage many different types of experiences,” John says of the restaurant, which found a home in a former fast-casual deli. “It’s not enough to create the space—there has to be a real desire and skill to connect with people, and that was what we wanted [to do].”

Photography and foraging by Wall himself steered the design toward influences found in nature. Indeed, depictions of mushrooms appear in branding and are echoed across the interior through spindle back chairs and felt ceiling baffles. In addition to copper elements and wood detailing, existing beadboard paneling was retained but updated with a fresh coat of paint to complement the blue palette, which tethers the interior to the nearby bay waters.

“Blue was something Jeff and his team were drawn to early on, so we focused on layering different shades, textures, and intensities of blues and blue-toned blacks,” says John. “It wasn’t intended to be literal, but the bay waters are so incredibly beautiful and helped ground the space in some context.”

Much thought went into the layout of the space, with the open kitchen and large chef’s counter encouraging guests to be active participants in their preparation and presentation of their dishes. The L-shaped makeup of the two bars breaks up the space and was sculpted, Vivian says, “to highlight the beauty in the imperfections that exist in the bountiful nature in and near Santa Cruz.”

Walls are adorned with a linear motif inspired by wild mushrooms

A bar and chef’s counter anchor the dining room’s L-shaped layout

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