Brasserie Astoria, Sweden

29th April 2021

Drawing inspiration from its cinematic past, the Brasserie Astoria in Sweden seamlessly blends lighting design from Paloma Design Studio with Joyn Studio’s rich interior design scheme to create a dramatic space. 

The Brasserie Astoria has been located in one of Stockholm’s ‘it spots’ from the early 20th century. Originally built as a cinema, the now restaurant, which is part of the Frantzén group, has undergone a design overhaul with lighting design by Paloma Design Studio and interior design by Joyn Studio.

arc caught up with Jenny Loqvist and Sofie Bamberg, two of three partners of Stockholm-based Paloma Design Studio, to find out more about their design journey and process for this project.

“During 2016-17 we worked with the client Frantzén Group on their flagship restaurant Frantzén,” Bamberg explained. “This restaurant went on to win both the Swedish Lighting Design award and also received three Michelin stars in 2018. Thanks to that successful collaboration, we got the opportunity to get involved with this new venture with them.

“Overall, it’s been a process of two and a half years from concept to a finished restaurant where we worked closely with Joyn Studio the entire way.

“We got involved in the project early on when the first design concept was set by the client and the interior designers. The venue is an old cinema originally built in the 1920s, so to create a cinematic feel was a natural starting point,” Bamberg  added.

Taking direct inspiration from the building’s history, the team was able to create a design scheme that played on contrasts, combining themes of “rustic elegance”, “relaxed but cheerful”, and “elegant but permissive”.

Spreading over two floors, the 1500sqm restaurant contains several spaces that allowed the interior design team to explore different moods and experiment with varied experiences, all whilst maintaining a common theme throughout.

Loqvist explained how the lighting concept was incorporated into these spaces and what they hoped to achieve: “Our idea was to create scenographic lighting where you would clearly experience different moods depending on the room you were in. Both the interior and the food offer the customer varying sensations and pace. The idea was that you should be able to dance in a shimmering and pulsating bar environment, but in the room next door be able to sit down for an intimate dinner for two and enjoy a candle-lit environment and a world-class meal. Our job was to enhance this and bring these ideas to life through light.

“Throughout the whole process we worked very closely with the interior designers, who in turn have worked closely with the client. In the original concept, from the interior design team and the client, there was an overarching idea of what the lighting should feel like. We were, however, given full freedom in how that feeling was translated into actual solutions and executed in the end. A continuous part throughout the collaboration was to ensure that the lighting highlighted all the materials and functions that were crucial for the interior design.”

Starting out, the team created detailed concepts with sketches and reference images early on that were verified against the interior design concept. Once both interiors and lighting landed on the same page, physical testing was carried out against various materials and colours selected by Joyn Studio’s team.

Furthermore, taking advantage of the pre-existing space, the team was able to complete onsite testing against real daylight conditions and room volumes. Nevertheless, working in a historic building also came with its challenges. “Working with a heritage building almost always means antiquarian restrictions to adhere to. In this case, this included some existing walls and architectural details that were to be preserved. So, the lighting in these areas had to be installed without interfering with the original structure.”

Further adding, in reference to the architectural considerations for the lighting, Loqvist said: “Then, we have the functionality of the space, which needs to work for both guests and staff. How do you create an inspiring light environment that also allows for the chefs to do a good job? This is always a fine line to walk, but we believe we have found a good balance here.”

The Brasserie, much like many hospitality spaces, incorporates a nice balance of architectural fixtures from XAL, Global trac, iGuzzini, Maxel, Delta Light, LED Linear, Ifö Elektriska, Flux Belysning, Flos and Orluna and decorative lighting throughout. Not only was it important for the overall design for pieces to cohesively fit, it was also integral for the light quality and form to feel consistent.

“Early on, we developed a train of thought as to how the decorative lighting should be implemented in the various rooms,” explained Bamberg. “We started with the functions we wanted the decorative lighting to have in order to best complement the technical lighting, for example ominous glittering light, shielded directed light, and so on. We always work with lighting in layers when we shape a room, and for us the technical lighting is always our focus and the decorative lighting is subordinate to this.

“The process of identifying the exact decorative lighting is one we always do together with the interior designers, since form and material are very important factors to take into consideration. Our main task in this stage is to assist with choosing the light sources that meet the quality specifications and to ensure they dim well with the given lighting control system. This always proves to be a challenge since decorative light sources are light-years behind the technology used in technical lighting.”

When it came to selecting fixtures that accentuated and complemented the restaurant’s bright and vibrant interior design, Bamberg said their focus was to ensure the lighting complemented the architecture and interior scheme by “using space, materials, colours and textures” as their starting point. “From this we decided what type of lighting principles should be used, which fixture is needed, what colour temperatures are the most advantageous and which beam angle would achieve the best result,” she continued. “Throughout the project we have continuously tested our lighting principles against materials and colours to ensure we stay on track to achieve the common vision.”

Upon completion during 2020, the team were fortunate to have not been heavily impacted by the effects of Covid-19; they only experienced minor delays to the opening date due to lockdown restrictions. “Moving forward, it will temporarily impact the number of guests and opening hours. Initially, it also means no dancing on the tables but hopefully this curfew will lift soon enough,” said Loqvist.

“We are thrilled to have contributed to creating a type of restaurant like this in the absolute centre of Stockholm. This is a big happening and a unique restaurant in the way that it has so much to offer purely in terms of experience,” she reflected. “It offers an experience that can last all the way from lunchtime into the wee hours of the night. In addition to this, they not only offer some of Sweden’s top chefs but also the opportunity to grab a drink and a spin on the dance floor in a really inspiring bar environment. We are hoping that this will be a well-visited place even for international guests once Covid-19 decides to leave us be.”

And, upon reflection of the completed project, Loqvist added: “We are very happy with the final result and most of all very proud that we got so close to the initial ideas and concept.

“The lighting really adds to the warmth and atmosphere throughout the whole venue. In many places the lighting is well integrated and hidden in the woodwork, and these elements create small pieces of jewellery and eye catching objects that really enhance the interior. Some examples of these are the glassware cabinets and the central staircase, and almost all fixtures have been painted in the same colour as the ceiling, which adds to a strong cohesive feeling and a calm and ordered sensation. This is quite a simple addition in the process but one that adds a lot to the overall feeling of the place.”

Pic: Erik Lefvander