“Double rainbow all the way across the sky!” With that simple phrase you are welcomed through the front doors of Chi Chi, Matt Woods Design’s latest hospitality project.
The attention grabbing neon is reflective of the humorous tongue-in-cheek response to what has been the studio’s most trend-conscious project to date.
Matt says owner and chef Les Huynh (of Blue Ginger) is taking a punt here. “The restaurant is located in the south western Sydney suburb of Canley Heights (a stone’s throw from Cabramatta), one of the country’s most multicultural areas, well known for its traditional Asian flavoured, no frills, low-cost dining experiences. Whilst it’s apparent you may find Sydney’s best value pho in the area, this is uncharted territory for a modern, inner-city styled Asian restaurant and bar.”
The brief called for a fit-out reflective of the name, Chi Chi: affectedly pretty or stylish, deliberately chic. As such, the design responds with confidence and good humour.
Matt says: “De-materialisation is the focus here with a conscious effort made to retain and work with the primary structure of the existing building. In an honest response to the existing interior architecture, brick walls, steel trusses, concrete floors and timber ceilings are deliberately expressed to expose the building’s former industrial heritage.
“New forms take an angular approach with recycled timber battens clad to the entry dwarf wall, whilst mild steel cross straps draw your attention to the open plan kitchen and bar, both of which are framed with angular hoods made of obscure wire glass and steel. In addition, the aforementioned trusses are illuminated with strategically placed LED strips, and the render over the existing brick wall is peeled back at a 45-degree angle to create a series of almost silhouetted peaks.”
Throughout the interior, mild steel, concrete, copper, brass, marble and reclaimed timber are used in their raw state, envisioned to patina as the fit out comes of age. In contrast, the giant magenta fusuma screens (dividing the dining room from the bar) along with blasts of eggplant and yellow within joinery and furniture items set a playful tone.
A rough and ready, floor-to-ceiling, Manga-styled graphic, courtesy of SPECIAL, runs the entire length of the dining room. Stare long enough and you’ll find a proliferation of irreverent and cheeky pandas poking fun at pop culture icons such as Daft Punk, Pulp Fiction, skeletal zebras and even the front-loading washing machine. The one in the shades is Ming, whilst the lucky waving panda is, of course, Chi Chi.
Matt Woods is an award winning Sydney interior designer.