Falcon, a restaurant-lounge by John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, is an indoor-outdoor magnet for Hollywood hipsters
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Hollywood's young and restless, ever in search of the next watering hole, have found it at Falcon. Named after Rudolph Valentino's estate, Falcon's Lair, and designed by John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, it's the latest from the owners of Los Angeles's scene-making Voda, Lounge 217, and Pearl Dragon. Falcon has just what a cool-trolling crowd wants: a sexy lounge and a change-of-place outdoor scene.
John Friedman and Alice Kimm were hired on the strength of their design for the Brig, a bar in Venice, California. For Falcon, they faced the renovation of a dilapidated Craftsman-style building, home to a 1940s hofbräu. It had lain vacant for decades on a gritty stretch of Sunset Boulevard lined with billboards advertising low-rent "gentlemen's clubs."
The $550,000 renovation began street-side, at a 28-foot-high plaster wall devoid of signage or other identification. What's more striking, however, is the 80-foot-long processional ramp that follows the wall as it wraps one side of the property. The ramp leads from valet parking to the entry, relocated to the rear. Along the way, a glimpse of Falcon's patio appears through the woven metal that screens a vertical slot in that massive white wall. Farther on, eye-level windows offer tight views into the dining area.
Once inside the vestibule, one experiences a feeling of compression, thanks to a ceiling height of just 7 feet 10 inches. That changes rapidly in the 2,200-square-foot main room, where a ceiling 10 feet 3 inches high rises to 12 feet in a sector with newly exposed beams. A centrally located bar draws guests into this generously proportioned space. The bar's vertical surfaces and counter are clad in Micarta Brass, a bullet-resistant woven laminate that Kimm says is relatively unknown; durable clear resin coats the counter. Spotlights, embedded in the stained-oak flooring, make the bar structure glow. Nearby, lounge furnishings appeal to new Hollywood by harking back to old Hollywood's Rat Pack heyday, with custom zebrawood benches, a 5-foot-square alpaca-covered ottoman, and white shag rugs.
Nothing physically separates the lounge from the L-shape restaurant proper. Nonetheless, part of the restaurant enjoys semi-secluded status produced by a 7-inch-high platform combined with a canopy and wall paneling of zebrawood. Steel-framed windows set in the zebrawood look back out to the entrance ramp. The thin profiles of the Honduran-mahogany banquettes and cantilevered tables express the architects' contemporary attitude.
Around the corner, a DJ station, three banquettes, and six freestanding tables maintain their distance from the lounge scene. Instead, they overlook the amped-up activity on the dining patio. "It's the final destination in the procession. The spatial compression, felt inside, explodes as one steps into the open air," says Kimm. A 1,600-square-foot space reached through sliding glass doors, the new concrete construction accommodates 80 at tables. The smooth off-white plaster of the walls lends a Mediterranean aura, their pale color contrasting with the darkness of the night sky.
In addition to the table seating, bleachers facing a 60-foot-long stretch of wall offer an option for lounging and, occasionally, film viewing. A steel-framed clear plastic canopy and L.A.'s ubiquitous heat lamps assure continuous operation during the rainy season, from October through February. As a result, Falcon's patio can double as one of the city's largest screening "rooms," year-round.