An endless list of celebrity faces and places have come to pass throughout Manhattan’s extensive history. Despite a slew of reincarnations since opening as an opera house in the 1920s, however, Ibis Mediterranean Restaurant & Lounge has survived the test of time. Having played host to icons of the stage and screen—such as Desi Arnaz, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, and Edith Piaf—the 10,000-square-foot space saw a total transformation when it reopened this past April as a signature restaurant at the Kimberly Hotel.
The two-story, 450-seat restaurant and lounge was entirely renovated to evoke the feel of old Hollywood. “We opted for a warm and cozy environment using noble and muted colors,” explains Andres Escobar, president and CEO of Montreal-based Andres Escobar & Associates. “All areas of the restaurant were defined from the beginning. The focus was to completely reconstruct the venue to reflect the elegance of olden times and reclaim a historic Manhattan destination.”
Mahogany-stained birch flooring and wall paneling provide a warm, neutral backdrop, unifying every space. Flush against royal blue microsuede-upholstered walls, a series of oversized burgundy banquettes along two raised platforms flanking the main dining room creates an intimate alternative to the central open-table seating. The platforms feature earth toned carpeting striped in abstract lines to complement the filigree above, while two pieces of contemporary art—custom crafted for Ibis in reference to the Art Deco era—depict black and white cocktail party imagery highlighted in clouds of billowing smoke. Resembling a wedding cake, a titanium pewter chandelier clad in teardrop crystals hangs overhead.
“We raised the two perimeters of the main dining room to make the central area flexible enough to use for private parties,” says Escobar. “Then we paired a classical-style chandelier with crescendo banquettes to give the patrons sitting along the perimeter the impression of being elevated and of importance.”
A grand spiral staircase was added as a literal and visual connection between the first and second floors, with twisted metal poles wrought in a mirror image of the perimeter platform partitions.
During construction, the team found a ceiling in poor condition, with layers of material that had been applied through several renovations over the past 20 years. “To incorporate the sweeping staircase now located between the bar and dining room areas, we had to remove all of the layers making the ceiling substantially lower than what we wanted,” Escobar says, a problem they solved by also relocating the AC system and ducts to the perimeter. The alterations increased the ceiling height on the ground floor and mezzanine levels from eight to 10 feet tall.
The only space to retain its original ceiling is that in the main dining room. “We used Art Deco motifs and faux finish to emphasize it,” Escobar says. “The mission was to bring the venue’s history to life. It used to feature a large stage where famous performers would entertain during the heyday of theater.” Where the stage used to be, a private dining room now sits separated from the main dining area by a glass and metal wall with integrated shelving lined with wine bottles.
“It was our goal to restore Ibis to reflect the essence and glamour of the 1920s opera house it once was,” Escobar says. “Now when you enter the space, it is like no other.”