We talked to Silvia García, the Valencian interior designer who redecorated Sents, Restaurant Gastronòmic in Ontinyent (Valencia), recently awarded a Michelin star. Silvia managed to create a contemporary atmosphere that is serene and comfortable at the restaurant, using fabric from the Mystic Collection by Aquacleanfor both upholstery and the walls. Her proposal to use this fabric in off-white for the restaurant walls initially surprised Ximo and Santi Prieto, owners of Sents but their doubts instantly evaporated when they saw how easy it was to clean these fabrics using Tecnología Aquaclean®.
Silvia García, you graduated in philosophy. So how did you get into interior design?
When I finished university, I got an offer to take over a new Design and Decoration Department at the glass manufacturers La Mediterránea, a department that was just being started up. So I accepted the challenge. Since then I have been collaborating with lots of architects and decorators, and this is where my professional career has led me. That's how I started getting involved in designing interiors.
What does design mean to you?
Design is a working method that is both rational and emotional, and used to solve space problems. In my case, I like contemporary design best. I'm always searching for simple, natural forms. That's my natural tendency.
Your influences, your idols?
The classical Scandinavian designers. Probably, my favourite is Alvar Aalto. That's because of his pure lines and simple designs, and because the majority of his work takes inspiration from nature.
What were your sources of inspiration when you started the Sents project?
First, you have to understand what the owners want to do in their restaurant: how they work, their target audience and the kind of cuisine they are into. You have to talk a lot with your client. The gastronomic proposals of the Prieto brothers is based on Mediterranean cuisine, with some oriental influences, mainly Japanese. The chef Santi Prieto has a long career in this type of cuisine. That's why I thought I should create an elegant climate, with a touch of sophistication, but at the same time quite intimate. So I proposed a contrast between a strong colour like navy blue and a neutral off-white tone, and we used that combination to start creating the atmosphere for this new restaurant.
Why it is important to design the space in a restaurant in the right way?
I think it's like creating a good film set for a movie. It's the framework in which the chef's and the sommelier's culinary and oenological proposals will be staged. It's not just about creating an image, but about helping to specify and define a global gastronomic experience. You not only have to create physical comfort, but acoustic comfort as well. Sound is sometimes key because it allows you to create intimacy, although this is normally a little neglected in most restaurants.
Is that why you use fabrics on the wall?
Yes, I like using lots of fabrics, both in furniture upholstery and on walls. Aesthetically, I love the sensation, but I do this with the double intention of absorbing sound and creating a more relaxed and serene atmosphere. At Sents we used the Mystic fabric from Aquaclean for the walls, in an off-white colour.
When customers come in, they notice it and start talking more quietly. It creates a kind of soft, enveloping ambiance that makes people stay calm, control their voices and create the perfect atmosphere in which to enjoy a series of exceptional dishes.
How did the Prieto brothers (Sents, Restaurant Gastronòmic) react when you presented them with the proposal of using Aquaclean fabrics on the walls?
They were surprised. At first they raised their eyebrows a little. It's not very usual to do something like this. In fact, this concept is applied more in certain classy hotels. When I told them about the benefits of fabrics using Tecnología Aquaclean®, they started to like the idea. Both Joaquín and Santi were very aware of the issue because right from the start they had had problems, not only with the acoustics but with maintenance as well, and they were looking for an effective solution.
You use Aquaclean fabrics, but how did you find out about this technology?
I discovered Aquaclean fabrics from my professional relationship with the chair-maker Sillas Santa Lucía(Aielo de Malferit, Valencia). I found out about the quality of these fabrics in terms of resistance to abrasion and friction, excellent cleaning and maintenance, and also as great fire-retardants. You couldn't ask for more in a fabric.
That's why I started using them in almost every project I was involved in. Above all, I like the plain colour palette, and I really love Aquaclean's Mystic collection, which has a very sumptuous touch, lots of body, lots of personality, and over 40 colours to choose from.
Another benefit is easy cleaning... right?
Yes. Personally, I love chairs that are upholstered, but restaurants often have their objections because of the obvious cleaning issues. I had a hard time convincing Ximo of the advantages of placing Mystic fabric on the walls, and even more in approving white as the main colour! Here, at Sents, in addition to the normal restaurant services, mainly catering to adults, they also stage events in which there are children running around. Because of this, Ximo told me I was crazy, crazy! Saying we're going to have to change the walls every two months! But it didn't turn out that way. The results have been really great.
So, you're satisfied with the result?
La verdad es que mucho.