Manhattan, New York, NY, USA
Project Year
Product Spec Sheet

Raw wood oak floorsDinesen
Banquette fabricsArc Com
Banquette fabricsKravet Inc.
TileNemo Tile Company
Panel GrilleRulon International

Product Spec Sheet
Raw wood oak floors
by Dinesen
Banquette fabrics
by Arc Com
Banquette fabrics
Panel Grille


Spacesmith as Architects

Spacesmith Reinvigorates Aquavit, Modern Swedish Eatery
International firm reimagines central bar and diversifies dining experience for longstanding Nordic favorite in Midtown Manhattan
Spacesmith is pleased to announce they have completed a much-anticipated redesign of the modern Swedish restaurant, Aquavit, in New York City. The fresh atmosphere and spatial layout has increased and diversified seating options for diners -- especially around the bar where a new L-shaped configuration accommodates an additional twelve-seat private chef's table, and in the lounge where smaller tables are added among plentiful banquette seating, allowing patrons to now enjoy small bites along with their drinks.


This is the third major renovation for the Michelin-Starred establishment since its opening in 1987. A repeat client for Spacesmith, Aquavit owner Håkan Swahn has worked with the firm's managing partner, Michel Franck, AIA, for over 20 years on previous incarnations of the restaurant's design. For this transformation the goals were many, as the last update to the space took place over 15 years prior.


In addition to maintaining the restaurant's brand identity with a space that reflects the classic Swedish cuisine "prepared in a creative, inventive and elegant manner," the latest design objectives were to: 1) make the space feel less stark by introducing a warmer palette and lighting scheme, 2) to create a more personalized dining experience by increasing seating capacity and introducing a greater variety of seating options, 3) to increase the restaurant's street presence, and 4) to modernize its systems and infrastructure.


“With each incarnation of Aquavit that Spacesmith has been a part of, the goal is to continue the brand identity while at the same time increasing the restaurant’s ability to prepare food in such a way that it can maintain its reputation for excellence,” Franck said. "We always aim to create more and better experiences for diners.”


Aquavit has been reimagined as a warm, glowing modern dining destination with a new, inviting connection to 55th Street and the Park Avenue Tower Plaza, as well as to 56th Street. The design palette is earthy and warm with products and materials bought directly from Scandinavia or sourced from Scandinavian craftsmen in the United States. An undulating, woodslatted dropped ceiling now connects the main dining room to the redesigned bar and lounge, and new floors of raw, wide-planked oak have been installed throughout. Finished with neutral fabrics that complement classic Northern European materials (wood, stone, and frosted glass), accents of blue and a new lighting scheme unify the diverse dining areas which range from public to private and from casual to formal.


While the restaurant’s base layout remains relatively unchanged -- two private dining rooms, a public formal dining room, and informal dining lounge around the bar -- much needed aesthetic and spatial upgrades were made. The existing long, linear bar was reconfigured into a shorter “L” shape to create space for a new chef’s table, additional banquette seating and tables for food service in the expanded bar/lounge. Public dining areas now also include more tables for parties of two and four and a new service station, while the private dining rooms have been refurbished and outfitted with audiovisual equipment to support a wider range of corporate events. The Spacesmith team also installed new, energy-efficient mechanical and electrical systems throughout.


To reinforce the contemporary look and feel of the space and enhance the overall dining experience, a once-solid wall between the kitchen and main dining room was replaced with a new transparent glass, metal-framed wall. Putting the fully reorganized stainless-steel kitchen on display has created a more bustling, lively and inviting interior for patrons and is also an intriguing spectacle for passersby who can now watch the kitchen crew in action from the plaza or 55th Street. A new sliding glass door also expedites food service between the kitchen and the public dining room.


As part of the design team's sustainability strategy, a conventional door will be replaced -- in phase two of the design implementation -- with revolving doors, to help address the wintertime stack effect and drafts at the entrance vestibule. The resulting gain of exterior wall space will be used for larger, more impactful signage around the entrance, some of which is already in place. A new window opening up onto East 56th further invites passersby to stop and "window-watch" private dining in action and admire the restaurant's rotating art program -- all together increasing the restaurant's street presence considerably.


Spacesmith kept and salvaged as much of the original structure and materials as possible during the renovation. Repurposed teak-colored wood now dominates most of the restaurant’s surfaces, including the curved ceiling -- which has been lowered to create a more intimate horizon line. New LED lighting fixtures with large, faceted, hand-blown glass pendants gently hang above the bar, enhancing the intimate glow of the central space. In the private dining rooms, circular recessed ceiling lights create a serene skylight effect and a wooden feature wall with cream-colored panels add warmth as well.


With every update to the restaurant’s design, Aquavit refines its unique atmosphere, continuing to driving business and bolster revenue. “The challenge for us is always to stay consistent with the clean and modern Aquavit brand. This time we made it warmer, more intimate and inviting,” says Franck.


Material Used :
1. Dinesen raw wood oak floors
2. Kravet and Arc Com banquette fabrics
3. Nemo Tile
4. Rulon Panel Grille

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Project Credits
Holland Boulevard and Rijksmuseum Schiphol
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