Kelly Ross’ design for Il Camino, the private dining room at Agostinis in East Hotel, Canberra, is an articulation of the architecture of Carlo Scarpa writ large with impressive detailing, sculptural form, and material rigour.
There is a lot of love between the East Hotel and Kelly Ross. In 2016, Ross was responsible for creating the hotel’s first hospitality offering, Joe’s Bar, and then onto signature restaurant Agostinis, before completing the East Hotel’s totally fabulous foyer.
For Il Camino, Ross was effectively handed the functional brief, while being given free rein with the how. Transforming an unusable outdoor space into an internal hub, Ross has created a private dining room, bringing an Italian sensibility to Canberra that is 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 round — 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. Colour too shifts, 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 space, Ross sets her stage with the immediate introduction of three, bar-height tables. These black and gold marble on copper bases by Koala Living 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 Agostinis 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 10cm 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.
Functionally, 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 (by really good people) 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.
Photography: Adam McGrath