Walking into Kaikaya at the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in Valencia, Spain, is the ultimate mood-lifter. From the punchy palette of hot pink, green, and navy to the parrot lamps and cascading foliage, it’s a place where, while cliché to say, the design is just as mesmerizing as its Nippo-Brazilian dishes.
For Spanish design studio Masquespacio, which got involved with the project in the summer of 2017, it wanted dining at Kaikaya to be an opportunity for “guests to disconnect from their outside daily routines and enjoy a unique moment that transports them to a world of tropical flavors, colors, and details,” according to Ana Milena Hernandez, founder and creative director of the interior design agency. Taking inspiration from both Japanese and Brazilian cultures, as well as the owner’s upbringing and love for surfing, the resulting design is full of energy, color, and whimsy. And while booking a flight to Europe isn’t always the most responsible thing for our bank accounts, we’ll settle for some ways to get the Kaikaya look in our homes.
Work With What You’ve Got
Before Kaikaya was the city’s first tropical sushi restaurant, the space previously housed a coffee shop. The interior remnants of its past are still evident, and instead of covering them up or tearing them down, “it was important to maintain the existing interior architecture,” says Ana. So the restaurant kept the original beams, brick walls, and flooring on the second floor. “The imperfections show through, but it fits perfectly with the concept of evolving nature,” a theme seen throughout the restaurant.
Highlight Your Heritage
Mireia, Kaikaya's owner, grew up in Valencia, Spain, but spent a large portion of her life in Portugal and Brazil where “she connected with what we call tropical sushi—sushi made by Japanese immigrants with ingredients available in Brazil,” says Ana. After hearing her story, the design team used that as the starting point, utilizing elements and materials from both countries—as seen with the raffia circles, wooden-patterned bar, and bright mosaic tiles.
Go Bold with Color
The vibrant colors of Kaikaya come directly from the owner’s fascination with tropicalismo, the Brazilian arts movement that started in the 1960s. Taking notes from the movement, Masquespacio went bold by choosing multicolor mosaic tiles, a myriad of plants, and custom palm-leaf-and-brass-parrot lamps. But to ensure the look wasn’t too overwhelming, “the wood brought a softer touch to the existing colors through the furniture and finishes,” adds Ana.
Incorporate Private Spaces
Throughout Kaikaya, there are sculpted wooden booths that allow patrons to have an intimate dining experience. “The idea behind them was to create some private spaces to make guests feel like being in a cocoon,” she says. “Having those private spaces in a public restaurant made it feel unique.” In addition to the enclosed seating, the intense usage of plants helps with that cocoon-like feeling. You feel like you're dining within a lush forest.
Always Mix Textures
From the wooden details to the raffia to the shining tile, everything in Kaikaya is visually appealing. And while the color palette is a big reason for this, it’s the mixture of textures that makes it feel elevated and cozy. “Designing a restaurant, you can be much more creative and add decorative details to the design that create a sense of emotion,” she says. We're ready for our trip to Spain.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest