While a second-year architectural student, David Montalba received this valuable piece of advice that he has carried with him throughout his career: “If the idea behind your project is not essential to the building, it will get cut, so make sure your ideas are rooted in pragmatism.” This was especially relevant when he approached the remodel of the restaurant/bakery Milo + Olive, where Montalba was charged with merging two seemingly disparate spaces—an artisanal wood-fired pizza restaurant and a high-end bakery—into one cohesive area while creating a unique environment that married old architecture and modern design.
The restaurant was brought to life through an industrial open kitchen concept that draws on the use of utilitarian materials. Precise elements such the thin blackened steel of the storefront that splits up urban façade, monolithic communal tables that feature a huge blackened steel base, unfinished exposed brick walls, open shelves with hand-stenciled signs, and the creative use of millwork and plywood all encourage a practical yet playful eating and cooking arena.
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the project is the lightbox that hangs above the cooking stations. Constructed of painted wood covered in custom designed, zinc sheet metal panels, the fixture serves two purposes: First, it disperses natural light that filters from skylights above throughout the space and literally “sculpts” the architecture, Montalba says. Second, it allows for open beams in the ceiling. Los Angeles County does not permit exposed wood in a food preparation area, but by installing the lightbox, it became a code-compliant measure. “It’s a really high design element that was rooted in a practical, solution-oriented idea,” Montalba says.