A duo of interior designers for whom the goal was to do as little design work as possible: meet Matthew Maddy and Nico Arze, the pair behind Dumbo’s newly opened Mediterranean restaurant Celestine.
The restaurant is conceptualized around the eastern Mediterranean — “everything from Israel through Lebanon down to Syria,” Maddy says — during the late Sixties/early Seventies.
“We had this image of a swinging Beirut dinner party overlooking the sea in, like, 1971, in an apartment, or someone who loved to throw dinner parties who had a little money to spend,” Maddy continues. “That was such a cultural, artistic, fashionable city at the time. We wanted the place to feel really fun and light and to the extent, to whatever extent possible, to feel sort of like an apartment — to have a residential feel, as opposed to a purely commercial feel.”
To that extent, the sweeping views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges were left to be the focal point.
“We wanted the windows to be very elegant and unencumbered,” Arze says. “We really want to respect the view and make sure that we don’t have anything that would block the view.”
“We just framed out the windows with these very thin bleached oak mullions, and we did a bleached white oak floor, bleached white oak ceiling with some stretched fabric, with some stretched textile in the ceiling, all of which is the same kind of bleached oak color,” Maddy explains. “It’s very monochromatic and doesn’t distract the eye from the view.”
Celestine is from the team behind Brooklyn’s Grand Army bar; Maddy and Arze previously designed Lilia and Russ & Daughters Cafe, in addition to Grand Army.
For this project, they also looked to Arze’s hometown of Santiago for inspiration.
“We went back to his hometown and found these very gorgeous, handmade pressed concrete tiles,” Maddy says. “They are hand-pressed, handmade,” Arze adds. “Each one takes about five minutes, so you can imagine how long it took. We flew all the way to Chile, and we picked the right colors, the right design. We had a container shipped from Chile all the way to Dumbo.”
The vibe is meant to complement the warmth and simplicity of the dishes.
“You can feel how human scale it all is and that was an important part of what we were trying to do with the restaurant,” Maddy says. “To make it feel really handmade and approachable.”
More from the Eye: