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Open Hearth: 7 Design Ideas to Steal from Dunsmoor in LA

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Open Hearth: 7 Design Ideas to Steal from Dunsmoor in LA

January 31, 2024

“We were inspired by ritual meals: church banquets, Sabbath gatherings, and old American dining halls,” say Karen Spector and Alan Koch of studio Lovers Unite. “We were thinking a lot about the soul importance of gathering.”

It was—no surprise—peak pandemic, and the duo was working with chef Brian Dunsmoor on the design of his eponymous restaurant, Dunsmoor, in LA, where, with a few exceptions, the open kitchen is powered not by electricity but by hand, cooked not on modern appliances but with fire.

Previously, the circa 1929 Spanish Revival building was “a dusty, partially demolished and partially framed shell,” luckily with some original plaster and brickwork still intact. “We did everything we could to enhance the bones of the building and not ruin the character. It’s rare to find commercial properties with so much history and character in Los Angeles.”

The centerpiece of the space became the open hearth and working kitchen, which had to be equal parts functional and attractive. “We created a narrative about Dunsmoor the character based on Brian’s travels around the country,” the designers add. “Our references were pulled from Shaker spaces as well as JB Blunk’s home in Northern California.”

Here, 7 design ideas to borrow from Dunsmoor.

Photography by Chris Mottalini, courtesy of Lovers Unite.

1. “Granny it up.”

&#8\2\20;brian loves a granny aesthetic, and we were pretty restrained with 17
Above: “Brian loves a granny aesthetic, and we were pretty restrained with the rest of the design so we thought we’d granny it up for him,” say the designers. “There’s so much window, so it’s a lot of lace, which is a pretty fun effect. We sourced from a company in France specializing in lace and macrame called Macrame Curtain. There’s also a little easter egg of a vintage macrame piece over the doorway in the wine bar which reads ‘keep your dress clean'”.

2. Try church chairs.

the dining area is filled with salvaged chairs taken out of a church. &#8\2 18
Above: The dining area is filled with salvaged chairs taken out of a church. “We spotted these chairs with bible pockets from Merchant and Found,” say Karen and Alan. “We figured they could probably look good for another century.”

3. Go au natural on the walls.

&#8\2\20;the walls in the dining room are a combination of original masonry 19
Above: “The walls in the dining room are a combination of original masonry, plaster, and new plaster (from Meoded). In the wine bar, we used a Portola Roman Clay called Cassidy.”

4. Design around the hearth.

the heart of the restaurant is the open hearth and kitchen, with cast iron pots 20
Above: The heart of the restaurant is the open hearth and kitchen, with cast iron pots and pans hanging above. “Dunsmoor has a super minimal back of house, so much work happens at the hearth,” say the designers. “We wanted the drama of the fire and the activity of the kitchen to be a focal point of the design but not overwhelm the dining experience. Here, the function really is the aesthetic. We just tried to frame it all with beautiful, real materials and let the tools, flames, and people working have their space to do their thing. Close collaboration with Brian and the team makes it all come together.”

5. Necessities can be decor.

chef in the open kitchen. speaking of function as aesthetics: &#8\2\20;it w 21
Above: Chef in the open kitchen. Speaking of function as aesthetics: “It was very important to have space for tools for the hearth and items that need to be accessible but not cluttering up counter space,” since the space is a functioning kitchen. The pot rail is a custom design from Enclume.”

6. Keep it all within reach.

a wall mounted knife rack keeps blades within much easier reach than tucking th 22
Above: A wall-mounted knife rack keeps blades within much easier reach than tucking them away in a drawer. What keeps the area from looking too haphazard? Storing like with like.

7. Consider a copper bar.

&#8\2\20;the copper bar top was fabricated by dusk, our craftspeople for al 23
Above: “The copper bar top was fabricated by Dusk, our craftspeople for all the wood pieces you see throughout the restaurant (including the custom tables, barstools, bars, wine bar, and wine shelves),” the designers say. “Winston and Ted personally attended to all the fine details of how it was put together.”
the outside of the wine bar. 24
Above: The outside of the wine bar.

For more, head to Dunsmoor. And for more design inspiration from restaurants, see:

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