A year after Babalu Tacos & Tapas closed its doors, the reimagined and rebranded Babalu energized Gay street once again. The new owners are the same group that brought Maple Hall and The Maple Room to Downtown Knoxville, and as our return clients, we worked collaboratively to establish the newly branded restaurant in the JCPenny building.
What began as modifications to the existing seating layout, morphed into a holistic redesign of Babalu’s dining experience through not only the furniture, lighting, or millwork design but also the food presentation, uniform selection, and coordinating with the graphic designer on the menu design. The custom neon light fixtures, including the brand tagline “Baby, I love you”, add yet another level of spice to the space.
Designed during the COVID pandemic, seating was designed with an awareness to social distancing. The dining layout was designed to engage different levels of intimacy throughout the space. Starting at the bar, it is more open and energetic; however, as one proceeds through the restaurant, seating becomes more intimate with the use of custom partitions made from wood, millwork, and fabric.
The trendy play on materials and seating arrangements celebrates the warm bohemian, elevated interior design. All these details are further emphasized by the multi-level lighting design, which transforms the space as daylight fades.
With all the changes to the branding, interior architecture, and seating arrangement, the restaurant’s kitchen and bar remained in their original locations. Removing the bulky bar soffit and enclosing the kitchen, in turn, visually opened the bar area. To top off this area, the custom-designed maple wood ceiling cloud create a focal point for the entire bar.
In line with our client’s vision, our interior architecture studio connected Babalu to the adjacent Maple Room and the bowling alley below—this creates the opportunity for a full-evening-out with varying channels of entertainment, in one building.
Our collaboration with local artisans, consultants, and our client intensified each layer of the concept’s brand development. We cannot help but say, “Baby, I love you”.
Photography by Alyssa Nealon at nvelop AP.