Located in one of the busiest areas in Honolulu, Hawaii, Cafe Lani occupies a 4,107 sq. foot space with seating for up to 125 guests. The scope of work for the project included architecture, interior, lighting, graphic and furniture design of the full service restaurant with an in-house bakery and café/ bar. The project was a tenant fit up construction, starting with an empty shell on the second level of a large mall. The space had no finishes, with only exposed metal studs at demising walls and concrete floor with no infill. All coordination was done with engineers including electrical, mechanical, and structural, as well as with a kitchen consultant. The programming included a large capacity dining area and an open and back-of-house kitchen/ prep area with restrooms to accommodate.
The design concept was developed around the restaurant’s name. LANI, which means “heaven” or “sky” in the Hawaiian language, steered the design approach for an interior that is spacious, casual, and refreshing for guests, while allowing the restaurant to efficiently perform its many functions. One of the few challenges was how to create a completely visible yet intriguing space from the outside and the inside. Using the significant ceiling height to its advantage, spatial depth and use of light was carefully planned. The open kitchen and bakery enticed customers with the smell of fresh baked goods and lively atmosphere. The floor plan went through numerous layouts to maintain visual interest, maximize seating count, and support operational function. Mundane and repeating seating layouts were avoided. The space also consisted an existing expansion joint of the structure, which required tactful concealment at the wall, floor and ceiling.
The main design feature central to the dining area is tree structures that tower over the communal dining seating. The area is washed with up light reflected from the ceiling, which fall through the branches as shadows, creating visual depth without overbearing the space. The central area is also shared with the open kitchen, defined by suspended shelving extending from the high ceiling, housing decorative ceramics, plants, and glass jars that help keep the kitchen open while obscuring the overhead kitchen equipment. The large bar / coffee bar features natural materials and modern organic shapes which symbolically root back to the tree structures. Large natural wood planks frame the wall behind the bar, setting the casual atmosphere for the restaurant and visually differentiating the communal dining area from the other seating arrangements found on either side of the bar. Various atmospheres have been designated throughout such as the lounge type seating as if in a home setting, communal seating as if in the woods, and picnic style seating as in the outdoors for an exciting dining experience.
Designed by Wanderlust+ Architecture, Interior and Graphic
Photography by Yasushi Sakai