There is a lot of love between the East Hotel and Kelly Ross. In 2016 she was responsible for creating their first hospitality offering, Joe’s Bar, and then onto their signature restaurant Agostinis, before completing the East Hotel’s totally fabulous foyer. For the new Il Camino, the client effectively handed her the functional brief, while giving free rein with the how.
Transforming an unusable outdoor space into an internal hub, Ross has created a private dining room that brings an Italian sensibility to Canberra that is uniquely impressive. “We really wanted to create a luxurious room that our guests felt special in. It was also very important that we created the new space to be used all year around – so in the warmer months you can open the large glass windows and feel summer in the air and in the colder months you can sip a negroni by the fireplace!” says owner Dion Bisa.
Starting with the skewed brass framed entrance and shift in materiality towards more luxurious marble and stone, the transition from Agostinis to Il Camino is pronounced. Colours shift too, with the deep warm tones of Agostinis giving way to the light shades and textures of the private dining room.
Effectively splitting the room into an arrival zone and dining, Ross sets her stage with the immediate introduction of three bar height tables. These black and gold marble on copper bases are not dissimilar to large chess pieces and the sculptural gesture is astoundingly good. Accompanying this are high chairs (rather than stools) by Blu Dot in a neutral bouclé on bright red steel frames. It is an unusual and exceptional combination that serves perfectly to frame the table bases when viewed from the banquette seating dining tables or fireside.
This same bouclé appears in the thick comfortable chairs by coco republic, paired with rust-upholstered banquettes and rose marble tables on solid orange custom powder-coated legs. There is more than a little of the Memphis art movement and the modernist architecture of Italy to the design language Ross is pursuing, with the solid cylindrical legs of both tables and chairs providing the foundational key.
“Il Camino is a place of celebration. A celebration of life and high Italian design. The materials, textures and forms are inspired by one of the most enigmatic Italian architects of all time, Carlo Scarpa. Time-honoured crafts marry contemporary manufacturing technique within his work and we felt this is a mirror to the processes happening within the Agostini’s kitchen,” says Kelly Ross.
Semi-circular Halo lighting by The Lighting Collective in tinted hues and white picks this up well with a fluted wall relief by Intrim Mouldings, adding further interest. On the far wall, this fluted detail has been rearranged as a geometric pattern of corresponding sections that both baffle noise and frames the pair of dining tables.
In this part of the dining room, the tables proper are incredible. Comprising large slabs of white marble, the surfaces are polished while the 10-centimetre depth remains hewn. Large blocks of marble provide the table supports with a resulting impression of stately and European modernity. Here the chairs by JR Furniture are somewhat lighter, with rust brown upholstery and timber legs.
In terms of functionality, the room is intentionally flexible with a bespoke brass and timber geometric screen that can be used to divide the room in two. That said, the screen is absolutely beautiful with a mid-century modernist sensibility that enlivens the space with its sculptural form. The screen is another custom element in the space manufactured by Inset Group.
Peach textured walls and ceilings are again sculptural with stepped frames surrounding large expanses of aged bronze. Lighting is likewise of the theatrical ilk with a pair of linear pendants in shining gold brass anchoring the gathering zone while rounded dark brass De Angelo pendants sit above the dining tables. Burgundy Uno Bubble orbs by Mark Douglass give additional light and look extraordinary when viewed through the large picture window facing the street.
There is a European heart to the design of Il Camino that is instantly apparent. Transformative, luxurious and relaxed, this is a space for large family gatherings, intimate celebrations and special occasions. Uniquely architectural, the design language is high Italian, modernist and seriously good.
Interior design – Kelly Ross Design Studio
Photography – Adam McGrath
Traditional Custodians – Ngunnawal people