West Hollywood Restaurant Conservatory is a Design Gem
The restaurant and bar’s many spaces beg to be explored.
Blending fresh design, high-quality food and an eye for detail, West Hollywood’s Conservatory stands out.
I chatted with design and concept creator Jim Hustead of Age Old Trade Design. His goal with Conservatory was to create an escape along Santa Monica Boulevard—a place that encouraged you to keep returning to discover all the little surprises it has to offer.
I recently tried it and can tell you, the food and drinks are great and the staff is amazing. But it was the space itself that really stood out. Hustead somehow managed to create six uniquely-designed areas that all tie together perfectly and a surprising seventh that can’t be missed.
The Sidewalk High Tops featuring The Green Wall
The Intention: To expand on that European street café vibe but literally raise you up to sit at eye level with passersby enjoying the lively boulevard.
Design Elements: Enjoy al fresco dining while still feeling protected with high-top tables that bring you up off the street and a living wall comprised of 1,300 plants.
Experience: My friend and I enjoyed Golden Hour (3-7 p.m. daily) and shared charcuterie and cocktails. The Green Wall offers a fresh counterpoint to the urban streetscape.
The Intention: To offer a European-inspired street café that pays homage to the historic Irv’s Burgers without disingenuously trying to capitalize on it.
Design Elements: Colorful pillows brighten up tables, intentionally spaced close to one another to encourage conversation and create a lively, community ambiance.
Experience: I visited on the day it opened and that was exactly what happened. We took some photos in front of the Instagrammable cafe and then settled in to enjoy our iced coffees. We chatted with a local writer that sat next to us while petting his French Bulldog.
The Dining Room
The Intention: “I am all about proper dining rooms and proper design,” says Hustead. Even though the whole property is an outdoor space, he wanted the dining room to feel substantial.
Design Elements: “Everything has weight,” said Hustead. That includes the cushions, lighting and brass railings. The dining room is also anchored by two big round tables – a bit of a “risky choice” since two-tops can’t simply be “pushed together” to create something for larger parties. Shutters allow the space to play with lighting, while still providing protection from inclement weather.
Experience: We sat in the cozy corner banquette with our backs against the dramatic firewall. This gave us a great view of the entire dining room. I think the dining room lends itself to a romantic date, but could also be a nice choice for a business dinner.
The inspiration: The goal was to build a bar that works just as well during the day as it does at night. For instance, dive bars are great because they can be warm, intimate and sexy. Patio bars are ideal in the daytime when you want that bright, al fresco atmosphere. But how do you accomplish both?
Design elements: Choose substantial furniture and keep the back bar area open and airy (note that you don’t see 1000 bottles behind the bar). Also, hang fresh herbs—apt to be used generously by the bartenders—to bring a visually herbaceous element to the space.
Experience: The bar is inviting and lively. The bartenders mix up a bespoke daily punch, but act fast. It’s only available until it runs out.
The intention: Hustead wanted a bar that took mixology seriously but didn’t take itself too seriously. “I also see the Society Room like a good book … as the pages get torn or folded, it will start to develop its own personality and style.”
Design Details: A dramatic high-gloss green palette offset with pink touches and black-and-white floors set the stage for heavy marble tables, whimsical accents and bold brass features.
Experience: I haven’t had a drink here yet, but did pop in for a peek and yes, we took some fun pictures with the curated collection of whimsical books.
The Intention: Hustead wanted to construct a casual hangout area that wouldn’t become cliquey. It’s a small spot that could easily become engulfed by one large party. There was also the obvious desire to create drama with fire, which as I mentioned before, is visible from the dining room.
Design Elements: This zone features the fire pit, “comically small” stools that are easy to move around for you and your friends. Umbrellas at Golden Hour create a super cozy, almost tropical feel.
Experience: We celebrated two birthdays on Conservatory’s opening night and as a party of 12, we were one of those large cliques that could have easily take over the space. Hustead was right. The furniture choices still allowed other couples and smaller groups to hang out by the fire pits. We were able to move the chairs and stools around easily.
Surprise Space: The bathrooms and hallways
The intention: “I’m currently obsessed with the concept of using as little signage as possible,” said Hustead. Of course, the requisite legal signs are there, but he reckoned that with proper design elements, the need for large arrows and in-your-face signage wouldn’t be necessary.
Design elements: The hallways feature non-repeating patterns, stripes and pastel paints inspired by macarons. There are three gender-neutral bathrooms, each slightly different with touches that tie back to other aspects of the restaurant.
Experience: OK, here it is: the bathroom (pictured below) is what sparked my interest in taking a design focus for this post. It was so well-appointed and the details were so complete that it inspired me to talk with the designer and learn more about the whole space.