“Located in San Francisco’s burgeoning Hayes Valley, Sebo is a hip new addition to an equally trendy neighborhood. The cuisine: Japanese, and almost purely sushi or sashimi. The vibe: Sake-bottle-green walls and sleek wood tables, accents and sushi bar make for a comfortable, stylish space. Frosted windows create a warm feeling, and the 30 seats allow for easy conversation.”
–San Francisco Chronicle
“Sushi purists from all walks of Bay Area life elbow up to the seven-seat back bar of this cool Hayes Valley restaurant… The space is stylish and contemporary with a loft-like atmosphere, Japanese screens and six sleek, trapezoidal wood tables along with the coveted ringside seats.”
“The low-lit space features rich mahogany tables, subtle avocado walls, backlit Japanese screens and clean, geometric lines throughout. A seven-seat sushi bar is superbly helmed by the owners at the back.”
“The decor runs to glossy dark wood, subdued reds and greens, and backlit rice-paper panels. A skylight over the bar provides lovely natural light earlier in the evening this time of year. Seats are comfortable and the music is lively but quiet.”
Danny Dunham and Michael Black had definite ideas to create a rustic Okinawa style Japanese restaurant in San Francisco. They hoped to install a large gnarled wooden bar where food would be served on top of natural slabs of wood. Knowing the city well, however—and after working in restaurants for years to support myself through architecture school—it seemed to me that to be successful in San Francisco, they needed a more hip and stylish atmosphere that would allow them to be more themselves. Danny and Michael are young urbanites with strong passions for food, nightlife, music, and snowboarding. Our ambition for this design was to create an environment that showcased Danny and Michael working together in a profitable environment best suited to San Francisco and their own personalities.
Danny and Michael wanted to be the center of attention in their own restaurant. This was not only a place to serve food, but would be somewhere they would be spending the majority of their time everyday. They wanted to a space they could meet their friends and guests while they prepared sumptuous cuisine and developed lasting relationships. In addition, they wanted everything to be about the food, from its preparation, delivery to the table, and its consumption. Guests needed space to both share in great food and conversation with each other, and Danny and Michael. Ultimately everything in the restaurant was meant to add to the ritual, quality, and intensity—the affect of eating their food.
To give customers the hip sense of feeling “in-the-know”, we designed the restaurant to be unobtrusive from the outside in order to promote a sense of intimacy and discovery. Only people cool enough to know where to go in San Francisco—could find their way here. We installed a new storefront façade with a delicate screen and a simple graphic logo in the window. Passerby’s curiosity is piqued during the day when the restaurant is closed—only to be satiated at night when the space begins to glow from within. Upon entering the space a curvaceous shoji type screen with ambient lighting alongside a host station and intimate waiting area carefully blocks the entry. Passage through to the restaurant is a further part of the mystery. Angling the space to create a false perspective focuses all guests entering the room on Danny and Michael behind an expansive mahogany Sushi Bar. The bar patterned with shimmering aluminum reveals, is carefully designed not to block, but entice views to the kitchen and prep area beyond. Customers have the choice to sit at the bar and carouse with the owners or settle down at a variety of tables throughout the small room.
Tables and chairs are mobile and flexible able to expand and contract to create a multiplicity of indeterminate configurations. Central to the design is the intimacy of each table. Shaped in the form of a trapezoid, each table creates a sense of belonging for one, two, or three people. Either sitting alone at the helm of the trapezoid, sharing partnership beside or opposite each other, or grouping in odd and even configurations of three or more, the tables combine to create a unique eating environment. On weekends all tables are combined together to create large social spaces for individuals or groups to stop-in and meet new people.
Adding to the unique seating arrangements is the stage sets of the room. Walls defined by an array of shoji type screens made of mahogany and fiberglass rice paper that glow throughout dinner. The trapezoidal patterns inspired by the shape of the tables, create a forest of geometric ornamental lines that produce continuity between the panels and about the entire room. We designed the panels to hinge open and closed to create intimate booths, and spaces, around individual or large groups of tables. Lighting originally distributed on cables in diagonal patterns about the room create multiple focal opportunities to highlight panels, floors, or tables. Lighting is used throughout the space to create expansive continuity through ambient effects, or alongside concentrated spot light intimacy, that details the shimmering qualities of each individual dish or entrée. Sake green walls of alternate colored patterns create optical effects throughout the space, as defined below a geometric datum like a stage that sets everyday events to unfold. Confounding the spatial illusions produced by rhythms about the walls is the dark sienna brown ceiling, which adds richness and depth—so at night the space above the staging disappears. Ultimately displayed under large loft-like skylights among an array of hanging green sulky glass lamps work Michael and Danny preparing sushi and sashimi—ever-presently surrounded by the hustle and bustle of their warm yet exciting stylish hipster sushi club.
Principal Designer and Architect:
Stephen Phillips, AIA, Ph.D
Stricker Engineering (Structural)
BEC Associates (Title 24)
Jonathan Townley (Construction Management Services)