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Smith Hanes Studio brings “sense of calm” to Carmel restaurant in Atlanta


Atlanta-based Smith Hanes Studio has used a palette of natural colours and materials to help diners at this restaurant imagine they’re beside a beach.

A laid-back, coastal vibe was the goal for the Carmel restaurant, located on a cobblestone street in Atlanta’s Buckhead Village.

U-shaped bar and suspended light fixture wrapped in rattan
The U-shaped bar at the entrance to Carmel is wrapped in rattan

Founder Tal Baum of Oliva Restaurant Group wanted to create a space that would transport guests to the casual seaside ambience, so she tasked Smith Hanes Studio with designing an environment that draws upon a variety of beachside communities.

“[Baum] wanted us to bring a sense of calm and expansiveness to Carmel, like you’d experience on the Mediterranean coast,” said studio founder Smith Hanes. “Our interior designer Janine MacKenzie accomplished that with a beautiful warm palette of naturals that coax us to remember the balmy indoor-outdoor breezes of Tulum or Puerto Escondido beach.”

Bar area with table seating and tall stools
Lime plaster covers the walls to evoke a coastal aesthetic

A variety of local artists and craftspeople were brought on to achieve the desired effect. Lime plaster was hand-applied to surfaces by Super Delicious Walls and custom fibre installations by Sonya Yong James were added as accents.

Meanwhile, upholstery and millwork were crafted by fabricators Hancock Surface Studio, Onemost Studio and Bjork Studio.

Dining room with warm lighting
In the dining room, woven pendant lights emit a warm sunset-like glow

Upon entering the establishment, a U-shaped bar is wrapped in rattan, matching a light fixture suspended above that follows the same shape.

Folding back a large wooden window opens the bar area to the street, where additional seating is built into the facade to serve cafe tables.

Dining tables beneath a fibre artwork
Contributions from local artisans include custom fibre installations by Sonya Yong James

The back bar is set against a wall of textured, square white tiles, and framed by an arch with curved pillars covered in similar but smaller reddish tiles.

“The rattan-wrapped bar, amber-tiled barback, glowing drink rail and sculptural lighting evokes a world of cabanas and parts of the Mediterranean where handwoven basketry is commonplace,” said the restaurant team.

Past the bar area, a deep arched opening leads into the 1,600-square-foot (149-square-metre) dining room.

Mossy green banquettes, wooden four-top tables and chairs, and sheer curtains are all washed in a warm glow, “as if the sun is setting low on the ocean’s horizon” according to the team.

Booth set in a niche carved from the walls
Booth seating is set into niches carved from the walls

The pendant lamps above the tables are woven from elephant grass and feature matte porcelain bulbs.

More tilework, this time in sage green, clads the area around the kitchen passover window, which is flanked by niches for booth seating on either side.

Carmel exterior with seating below an open window
A large window opens to additional seating along the restaurant’s exterior

Hanes founded his eponymous studio in 2004, and also opened an office in New York in 2020.

Focusing on hospitality interiors, the team has previously completed a bar and restaurant in Atlanta that’s decorated with floral installations, and the ground-floor eateries within a renovated hotel in Portland, Oregon.

The photography is by Tim Lenz.


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