In 2013, the Mondrian Hotel on LA's famous Sunset Strip decided to close their signature restaurant, Asia de Cuba, originally designed by internationally recognized designer Philippe Starck.  To replace it, they wanted a new version of Herringbone, the popular seafood restaurant in La Jolla, California with a stunning design by Thomas Schoos. Thomas was honored of course, though a little daunted.  How do you follow Philippe Starck!  And how does one take a rustic warehouse and make it fit into the glamorous playground of Hollywood movie stars?

As Thomas recognized, the trick of adapting Herringbone for the Sunset Strip would be to retain the brand's rustic, eclectic identity while also creating a sophisticated atmosphere glamorous enough to fit its upscale new location.  A key decision was to keep many of the essential design elements from the original Herringbone but give them a polished sheen, like jewelry adorning a classically attired Oscar-winner.  

The difference in settings between the original and new Herringbones could not be more stark: The original Herringbone is set in a vintage warehouse with rustic wood walls and vaulted ceilings.  The new Herringbone is set in the Mondrian hotel, an icon of modernism by Philippe Starck with minimalist decor and an aura almost like a museum. Although Asia de Cuba had been influential and successful, ownership wanted a warmer, more inviting space that would fit today's more casual attitudes about fine dining.

Although Asia de Cuba did evoke an upscale beach house with whitewashed wood panelling and white upholstery, the surfaces were becoming deteriorated and dated.  We began by stripping the entire restaurant, inside and out, preparing it for a fresh, clean installation.

Thomas wanted a beach house atmosphere, but a beautifully upscale and elegant one.  The walls are still white, but closer inspection reveals a rich texture of hand-trowelled plaster containing flecks of mica that shimmer and glisten when they catch the light. Here Thomas is installing wall sconces made from sea corals that add to the glow. 

The original Herringbone featured chandeliers created from rustic objects strung with looped pieces of course rope. In order to keep this distinctive feature and yet make it more refined, Thomas decided to use white rope and polished brass fittings. Here Thomas arranges the electrical wires, ropes and Edison bulbs so that they create artistic shapes, fitting each chandelier to its location in the restaurant.

Two of the unique rope chandeliers Thomas created for Herringbone LA.  The bunches of Edison bulbs create a warm ambient light and add sparkle to the surroundings, such as the gold-dipped acacia root table in the photo on the left.

There were actually several stages in the evolution of the Herringbone rope chandeliers, versions of which are featured in all the restaurants Thomas has created for Top Chef Brian Malarkey. The first such chandelier appeared in Searsucker in San Diego and consisted of simple course rope hanging from rusted iron bars (fitting the "urban cowboy" theme of that restaurant). In Herringbone La Jolla, Thomas kept the rope and Edison bulbs, but hung them from antique row boats, appropriate to the seafood theme.  Finally, for Herringbone LA, the ropes are white with polished brass fixtures, becoming more upscale and posh.

For all the Brian Malarkey restaurants, Thomas creates original paintings and other works of art based on the theme of food with a whimsical, humorous point of view.  For Herringbone LA, Thomas decided that, instead of simply hanging the art from the wall, he would create "art tables," allowing guests to dine directly on top of the art.  Here, he uses gold chain to create the image of a fish for one of the Herringbone tables. The art tables are mixed-media, using acrylic paint, metal brads and metal chains with a high gloss finish.  The art spills onto the table legs as well.

One of the two "art tables" created for Herringbone in its intended setting. The gold chains used in the table painting reflect the chains used on the wall sconces and the looped ropes in the chandelier to create a unifying theme.

In the original Herringbone in La Jolla, a striking feature is the chandelier created from a Beluga whale skeleton that hangs over the bar. Herringbone LA does not have room for such a large feature, nor is the rustic nature of such a piece appropriate. To reinterpret the piece, Thomas hired an artist named Jocelyn Marsh to create an entirely new fantasy creature based on bones from an ostrich, a goat and a crocodile.  This more delicate creature is gold-leafed and strung with fine chains, again creating a jeweled adornment that is eclectic and yet refined.

Two versions of the skeleton chandelier:  The rustic bone and rusted steel version on the left fits its industrial warehouse vibe, whereas the more delicate gold-leafed version adds sparkle and bling to its posh Hollywood environment.

Perhaps because of southern California's perfect weather, bringing the outdoors inside has long been a feature in Hollywood nightclub design, as seen in this vintage photo of the famous Coconut Grove ballroom built in the 1920's. Indeed, creating an indoor/outdoor vibe is central to Herringbone's brand identity. Unfortunately, low ceilings in the Mondrian space prevented the presence of indoor trees at Herringbone LA. The perfect answer was to do the opposite: bring the indoors outside in the form of this spacious outdoor living room and bar.

In the former Asia de Cuba, the patio was occupied largely by the oversized flower pots seen in photo on the right. Although an imaginative and memorable feature, the pots did little to create a cozy, useful outdoor environment. Thomas replaced these pots with a large bar and living room area that creates a variety of social environments.

Another striking feature of the original Herringbone is it's six live indoor olive trees, made possible by the high warehouse ceilings, skylights and a complex watering and air system. This was obviously not possible in Herringbone LA. So, the trees moved outside. But this time, instead of gnarled, weathered old olive trees, Thomas chose tall, elegant Italian cypress -- the type seen in Tuscany or around classic Hollywood mansions -- and bent them into a series of dramatic arches.  The ornaments hanging in the middle of the arches are buoys of the type used with fishing nets.

In the rear of the restaurant's patio, classic Hollywood views are enhanced by protective glass panels, cozy fire pits and eclectic, comfortable furniture pieces, creating the perfect environment for decadent schmoozing or clinching that career-changing deal.