Studio Gameiro draws on Algarve’s craftsmanship for Austa restaurant

A bench made from ancient rock salt, a carved stone bar and custom-made aluminium furniture were used by Studio Gameiro for the interior of Portuguese restaurant Austa.

Located in the town of Almancil, Portugal, the studio drew on the craftsmanship of the surrounding Algarve region when designing the interior of the Austa restaurant and coffee shop, which also has a shoppable pantry.

Austa interior
Studio Gameiro designed the interior of Austa

“The inspiration behind the design of Austa was a fascinating journey rooted in the rich heritage and craftsmanship of a much underrated – and still unknown – area in the Algarve region of Portugal,” studio founder João Gameiro told Dezeen.

“It has an extraordinary tradition in expertly crafted objects, from ceramics to weaving, iron and copper works, and even salt extraction, which ended up playing an absolute central role in the project.”

Bench made of rock salt
A sofa made from rock salt is among the custom-designed furniture

Studio Gameiro used tactile materials for the restaurant, cladding its walls in soft lime stucco in earthy beige and tan hues.

Much of the furniture was custom-built, including a four-metre-long bench and a collection of bespoke plinths made out of locally mined rock salt.

“We learnt that right underneath our feet, in Loulé, there was a rock salt mine, 230 metres deep into the Earth, with 230-million-years-old salt,” Gameiro said.

Rock salt bench in Austa
More than 200 salt blocks make up the bench

“We had to do something with this incredible material and convinced the Loulé mine to collaborate with us to transform some of their leftover pieces into building blocks, and then ‘puzzling’ them out to form a completely original object,” he continued.

“These blocks were carved in the same dimensions of the terracotta tiles used in several complementary projects, and arranged in a specific manner, extending the formal reference of the geometry patterns found in the local terracotta kilns.”

Shop in Austa restaurant
Customers can shop the pantry section of Austa

The resulting bench was constructed from 230 geometric blocks made from the rock salt, which Gameiro said are “almost as strong as stone”.

“In essence, the Austa project not only carries a story of design and craftsmanship but also embraces the strength and endurance of materials deeply rooted in the Algarve’s geological history,” Gameiro said. “Digging down to showcase something unique out in the open.”

Aluminium stools
Aluminium chairs were made for the restaurant

Austa’s founders Emma and David Campus and Studio Gameiro also worked with local artisans to create custom-made furniture for the store. This includes wooden stools informed by Portuguese cafe chairs, as well as locally made aluminium chairs.

Stone was used for the main bar in the restaurant in another reference to the history of the Algarve.

“The central bar showcases intricately carved moleanos stone blocks, a nod to the region’s mining heritage, complementing the light hues of the space,” Gameiro said.

“Bespoke designed fixed equipment, including bathroom sinks, echoes the dimensions of terracotta tiles, paying tribute to the sea’s colours and textures.”

Copper lights in Portuguese restaurant
Copper light pendants decorate the space

Copper and other metals were chosen for decorative and practical accessories.

“Our research on local craftsmanship led us to incorporate copper, gold and silver, echoing techniques dating back to the Roman and Arab periods,” Gameiro said.

“Inspired by the art of making copper saucepans (still amply used nowadays), a nine-piece series of copper light pendants was designed to create a moody light feature, celebrating heritage, memory, and expertise, and the serendipity of all involved.”

Bar counter in Austa restaurant
The bar was made from carved moleanos stone blocks

Austa and Studio Gameiro will also release a limited collection of the furniture designed for the restaurant that will be available for purchase, making it a shoppable interior.

Other notable interior projects in Portugal include an Algarve boutique hotel with vintage furnishings and a home with an interior that was informed by theatre spaces.

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