French-Lebanese architect and designer Annabel Karim Kassar has unveiled her captivating architectural vision for the highly anticipated Ella Funt restaurant as part of the anticipated revival of the beloved New York institution Club 82 located in the vibrant East Village of New York City. Scheduled to make its grand debut in the summer of 2023, Club 82 is poised to become a prominent fixture in the highly anticipated revitalization of the cherished New York establishment. This iconic venue will boast a two-tiered experience, with the street level showcasing the exquisite modern French restaurant, Ella Funt, while a vibrant cabaret club awaits below ground.
The design envisioned by Annabel Karim Kassar of AKK Architects beautifully captures the essence of the original Club 82, honoring its storied past and captivating atmosphere. Simultaneously, it boldly charts a new course for the space, embracing its potential for growth and evolution. With a keen eye towards the future, Kassar’s design seamlessly blends history and innovation, creating a space that is both rooted in tradition and poised for a vibrant future. Ella Funt, a restaurant named in honor of one of the esteemed performers at the club, showcases Karim Kassar’s expert use of color, light, and texture. Through a skillful combination of these elements, Kassar has crafted a captivating ambiance that sets the stage for the restaurant’s globally-inspired French cuisine. The result is a sensory experience that is both alluring and dramatic.
In a striking departure from the prevailing trend of minimalist restaurant designs in New York, Karim Kassar embraces a maximalist approach that pays homage to the charm and grandeur of past architectural gems. Drawing inspiration from the beloved Palio on West 51st, renowned for its captivating ceiling-high mural by Neo-Expressionist painter Sandro Chia, Kassar skillfully incorporates artistic commissions and infuses her own expressive touch throughout the entire space. This design choice evokes a sense of nostalgia and captures the breathtaking allure of a bygone era.
The Ella Funt bar showcases a remarkable architectural composition. The image beautifully captures the essence of this establishment, highlighting its unique design elements and aesthetic appeal. The bar’s architectural features are expertly showcased, allowing viewers to appreciate the careful attention to detail and thoughtful craftsmanship that went into its creation.
Karim Kassar skillfully crafts distinctive character and ambiance for every area, seamlessly transitioning from the bar and dining area to the kitchen and restrooms. The utilization of vintage oriental tiles as decorative elements on the walls serves a dual purpose in this design. Not only do they function as partitions, effectively dividing the space into distinct zones, but they also contribute a sense of drama and visual interest to the overall aesthetic. Karim Kassar skillfully crafts understated visual interfaces that cultivate a sense of seamless continuity. An elegantly illuminated bookcase, for instance, serves as a graceful link between the kitchen and dining area, imbuing the space with a comforting and enveloping ambiance.
The primary dining space has been conceptualized as a French Salle a Manger, meticulously designed to provide utmost comfort to its patrons. Enhancing the ambiance of this area is a captivating large-scale mural, skillfully painted by the renowned New York artist, Marcus Jahmal. Kassar skillfully implemented a design strategy that effectively delineates a refined dining area from a vibrant space dedicated to savoring organic wine, cocktails, and delectable small plates. This deliberate division not only adds a distinctive focal point but also introduces an intriguing element of voyeurism, transforming the bar into a captivating hub for both observing and being observed. The discreet lighting enhances the captivating and sensual ambiance, skillfully crafted by Kassar through the strategic placement of light and shadow throughout the space.
The design of the open kitchen creates an inviting atmosphere for diners, allowing them to witness the culinary artistry of Chef Nick Koustefanou. The bar area serves as a tranquil haven during the day, transforming into a vibrant and cozy space in the evening. To enhance privacy, the space features three exclusive private booths and a discreet “whispering bar” that offers secluded pockets of seclusion.
Ella Funt, captured through the lens of Seth Caplan, showcases the meticulous eye of Kassar, who places great emphasis on the design of the restrooms. These spaces are thoughtfully crafted to leave a lasting impression on the guests fortunate enough to experience them. The Gold Toilet features a strategically placed window that offers a captivating view of the stairway leading into the nightclub. In addition, the accessible toilet, which is often overlooked in design, boasts a remarkable display of Kassar’s own paintings. These artworks, inspired by Cezanne’s evocative Les Baigneuses (“the Bathers”), adorn the walls from floor to ceiling, adding a touch of sensuality to the space.
For me, a restaurant needs a strong sense of place and a certain drama, not anonymity. You should be excited as soon as you step foot into it. With Ella Funt, my wish was to honour the memory of the original Club 82 whilst creating something that felt new and contemporary. I looked to capture a total human experience, there is something for everyone who enters.
Annabel Karim Kassar
The Ella Funt restaurant is now open, while the Club 82 venue is set to open its doors in late 2023.
Annabel Karim Kassar, Concept Design and Curator
Architecture: AKK Architects – annabelkassar.com
Rabih Zeidan, Architect, Designer and Project Manager