Lovers Unite wraps Bar Chelou in Pasadena with expressive drapery

Late artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude influenced the dramatic drapery around this restaurant in Pasadena, California, designed by Los Angeles studio Lovers Unite.

Conceived by chef-owner Douglas Rankin as a take on a Parisian bistro, Bar Chelou opened earlier this year in a building in a Spanish Colonial Revival plaza next to the Pasadena Playhouse.

Curtain pulled back to reveal a mirror
Natural muslin is draped around Bar Chelou, emulating the works of Christo and Jeanne-Claude

Lovers Unite had just a few weeks to transform the space into an operational dining room, so looked to ways it could make maximum impact with minimal time.

The studio found inspiration in the legacy of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped some of the world’s most recognisable monuments in giant swaths of fabric – most recently the Arc du Triomphe in Paris, which was realised a year after Christo’s death.

The duo’s seemingly effortless but meticulously planned drapery is echoed on a much smaller scale around the Bar Chelou space, which was formerly a Baroque-themed restaurant called Saso.

Dining room with copper tables and green floor
The restaurant in Pasadena features copper-topped tables that reflect light from an amber glass chandelier

“We felt the spirit of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work was a good conceptual fit for a project, which is supposed to evolve over time, but we’re able to be referential while being playful with our approach,” Lovers Unite told Dezeen.

“Translating the gesture of the wrap to a human scale and a hospitality context changes the meaning and impact of the gesture — it’s not necessarily an artwork but it’s evocative and surprising.”

Patrons enter via an arched doorway, and are immediately met with the sight of natural muslin fabric hung around the walls and above the bar.

Curtains surrounding dining room
Curtains surround the dining room and offer glimpses of the kitchen in places

“Upon entering, one might feel as if they are visiting an expansive and uncluttered artist’s studio in a transitory state; hints abound that change is coming,” said the Bar Chelou team.

Lifts and pleats in the curtains created by thick ropes reveal the chefs at work in the kitchen, as well as framing views of the arched windows seen in mirrored panels.

A dark shade of green was chosen to contrast the natural muslin and is used across the dining room floor and built-in leather banquettes.

Similarly coloured tiles clad the front of the walnut-topped bar counter at the front, which is slightly lower that the main dining area and offers additional seating.

Bar clad in glossy green tiles
A dark shade of green chosen to contrast the fabric covers the front of the bar counter

Thonet-style bistro chairs accompany polished copper cafe tables, which reflect the light from a custom, amber glass chandelier that spans the length of the room.

Walls were painted to match the hue of the curtain fabric, and the window frames are bright green.

Bar area illuminated by green-framed arched windows
Light pours into the bar area through arched windows with frames painted bright green

Pasadena located is northeast of Los Angeles, where many new restaurants with notable interiors have opened over the past few months.

Among them are the retro-futurist 19 Town designed by Jialun Xiong, and Great White Melrose, which offers outdoor dining on a pink-plaster patio.

The photography is by Chris Mottalini.

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