Inside Atera with Andrew Cohen, Parts and Labor

Posted in Interviews on July 3, 2013

Andrew Cohen and Jeremy Levitt are partners at Parts and Labor Design, a New York-based design firm specializing in high-end commercial and hospitality spaces, custom furniture and lighting. Their work has been recognized with award nominations from Hospitality Design Magazine, including receiving the HD Wave of the Future Award 2012. Recently, they’ve received Travel + Leisure’s honorable mention for Best Restaurant Design of 2013 award for Atera. Here, we chat with Cohen about elements of Atera’s design and what they set out to accomplish.

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Tell us about the overall aesthetic you were going for at Atera. The concept behind Atera’s aesthetic was simple. Seek out ideas and materials that are naturally occurring and reinterpreting them and their relationship to each other. By establishing a naturally rough material backdrop it accentuates the modern, bespoke detailing, using more luxurious materials. Equally important was to create two distinct social and sensory experiences between the bar and the communal table below the living wall. And lastly, we wanted to create a tailored, unique and relaxed departure in the study and the lounge in the cellar, from the communal dining experience above.

The Atera space housed a restaurant before. Did you keep elements of that design, or scrap it completely? Originally we were charged with the task of creating a new experience using the bones of what existed previously. However, as the concept further developed, our collaborative ambitions did as well. We found ourselves basically removing everything from the existing space with exception of the walnut paneling and the curved steel wall, but even those were modified. In the end it was very clear that the space had to be completely reinvented.

The restaurant’s small size and open kitchen seem to be key components of its identity. What’s important to keep in mind when designing open kitchens? Small spaces? Everything has its place. The design has be extremely tight and thoughtful regardless of the aesthetic direction.

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Lightner’s dishes are often visually intricate, and unusual. How did the style of the food impact your design choices? The design concept is purely based on our own interpretation of the chef’s experimental and intensely refined approach to food. While complex and calculated in its conception and execution, the end result of the design is modern and subtle in its articulation. The details are then something to be discovered through the experience itself, revealing an undeniable connection between the design and the food. The intention is that the two should work together to fully enhance the total experience.

What’s one element of the design you hope diners notice? We hope that what diners notice during their experience are the small nuances in the details of the fixtures. We love the symbiotic relationships within each handcrafted piece that create something unexpected and sophisticated from something organic, natural and familiar. Such as the way the porcelain peels back at the connection to the brass armature suspending it above the chefs counter, or the way the ceramic outer shade rests on the glass inner shade for support above the communal table.

[Photo: Parts and Labor]