British designer Tom Dixon tackles his first project in the United States, importing influences from England and Japan.
BY BROOKE PORTER KATZ
For his first stateside interiors project, a Japanese-style speakeasy called Himitsu, London designer Tom Dixon set his sights on Atlanta — or, more accurately, Atlanta set its sights on him. “The co-owner, Farshid Arshid, convinced us that he understood what we’re about,” Dixon says. “He really appealed to me, and interior design is only as good as the client.”
The story that Dixon and his firm, Design Research Studio, set out to tell “came ready-made,” he says. Himitsu, which means “secret” in Japanese, is a spinoff of chef Fuyuhiko Ito’s sushi hotspot, Umi, that blends the exclusive feel of a Tokyo cocktail bar and the clandestineness of American prohibition. The theme begins with the nondescript storefront situated among white-collar offices at One Buckhead Plaza. Inside, patrons lucky enough to score an email-only reservation wait in a small reception area scented with woodsy Tom Dixon Earth candles. A sliding metal door leads to a dramatic, double-height space, where a 20-foot-long illuminated copper bar sets the stage for what may be the most extravagant cocktails in the city. “It’s show time: smoke and flames and lots of shaking,” Dixon says of the drinks, created by Shingo Gokan of New York’s Angel’s Share and Speak Low in Shanghai.
Hanging opposite the bar is a 12-by-16-foot painting by local artist Todd Murphy, which depicts a woman in an emerald-green dress holding an old-fashioned airplane, with a group of swans gathering at her feet. This dark, theatrical work inspired the overall aesthetic, a contrast between the shiny materials like copper and more textured, natural ones: concrete, cork, and blackened end-grain wood. It also influenced the jewel-tone hues found in the burgundy velvet chairs and teal leather banquettes. “The colors of the painting worked well with the bronzes and brasses,” Dixon says.
Above the main room, an eye-catching cluster of Dixon’s amorphous Melt lamps appears to hover in space. “It’s always nice to have a bit of a critical mass,” he says. “They act like a school of jellyfish, and you can’t tell they’re identical because of the way they light up.” (There’s also a second-floor balcony that has a more intimate vibe.) Other accents include sculptural furniture pieces that cast shadows against blackened steel and concrete walls and coffee tables by Warren Platner. Meanwhile, a “cabinet of curiosities” is filled with objects from Arshid’s personal collection, plus various Tom Dixon accessories, including a Pylon candelabra.
In truth, it’s the kind of stylish, VIP-esque place one might expect to find in New York or Los Angeles, but Dixon had no second thoughts about the location. “It’s kind of nice to do things in unexpected places,” he says.
Cocktail by Shingo Gokan
INSPIRED BY HIMITSU
Just like Himitsu, this cocktail has a contrast that reminds me of Irezumi, traditional Japanese tattooing. I based it on the classic cocktail French 75. The famous gin drink represents the designer of the bar, Tom Dixon, and the mixology touch signifies myself. By using fresh seafood, the drink represents sister restaurant Umi, and the skills of executive chef Fuyuhiko Ito.
2 parts Hendrick’s gin
4 parts salted cucumber and tomato water
1 part lemon shrub
Combine gin, salted cucumber and tomato water, and lemon shrub in a shaker. Fill it with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into glass and top with champagne. Garnish with an oyster, uni, ikura (or caviar), dill, and ponzu mignonette.
Shingo Gokan is the head bartender at Angel’s Share in Manhattan and the owner of Shanghai’s new speakeasy-style lounge Speak Low.