The Elm is located across from historic McCarren Park, on the cellar level of the King and Grove Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The restaurant’s design concept is inspired by the beauty and curiosities found in the industrial landscape of the urban park, but also by the experience of the forest beyond the city. Regardless of origin or inspiration, the design details are expressed with a modern, hand-crafted, and sophisticated approach that results in an experience that is fresh and innovative.
The minimalist and natural architectural palette sets the tone with its raw concrete and end-grain wood floors, steel and glass partitions creating a backdrop for the design elements that live within. Custom concrete paver stones are used throughout the restaurant’s interior and exterior walls, as back drop for the dining areas, the entry vestibule and the sculptural installation of axes beyond the host. At the kitchen counter the chef’s tasting menu is experienced on book-matched slabs of leather-textured quartzite with nickel tagged drawers integrated along its face. Overlooking the entire space is an illuminated thirty foot long oak planter with a lush installation of creeping ivy.
Nostalgic moments like carving initials into a tree or park bench inform architectural details like crests carved into communal table tops, shallow etchings of wood species into the dining tables, and chess boards carved into the bar top at both ends. Framed by the restaurant’s double height glazed façade, an art installation comprised of felling and splitting axes seems simultaneously both precious and renegade. Custom porcelain dipped steel light fixtures configured like branches or mounted antlers are complete with shotgun cartridge slots, and tipped with incandescent bulbs.
Other fixtures adorning the space, such as the sconces at the bar and chefs counter, are inspired by cast-iron street lamps but crafted of wood, nickel and hand-blown glass. The large sculptural pendant lights which hang from the double-height ceiling reference vintage warehouse fixtures, but are reinterpreted in walnut and glazed porcelain. While various other sconces throughout are inspired by, snow shoes, bee hives and honey jars, as well as flowering plants with porcelain form and finish reminiscent of a bird’s egg.
Balancing out this juxtaposition of ideals is the raw warmth of the custom seating pieces anchoring the space. Chestnut colored leather hides are detailed with inspirations from hunting satchels, and evergreen and tweed upholstered stools reference the refined hunting vests whose fashion and utility are of equal importance.