Oceans Restaurant by Rockwell Group is a timeless and approachable dining experience in the heart of New York’s renowned Union Square.
Oceans restaurant is a local and globally inspired seafood restaurant situated near New York’s Union Square and is the third collaboration between design studio Rockwell Group and Toptable – an award-winning collection of restaurants defined by its exceptional cuisine and striking decors, creating a timeless and approachable dining experience.
Oceans celebrates an elevated take on a New York bistro with a downtown feel. A spatial strategy telescopes the energy from the bar into successively more intimate dining spaces, including multiple seating groupings, three private dining areas, and a sushi bar – offering a distinctive and flexible restaurant. An undulated wood-rib ceiling, inspired by New York’s historic archways frames each discreet, but open, environment. White oak, whitewashed brick, hammered antique brass, and leather and navy-blue accents dominate the luxurious material palette.
Craig Chowaniec, Senior Associate at Rockwell Group, talks darc through the project: “Oceans is Toptable Group’s first project outside of Canada so we really wanted the design to reflect the client’s incredible ambition, by creating a space that was noticeably unique. They gave us an opportunity to dream up something bold. The way we approached this was to embrace curvature; by curving nearly every component in the restaurant, the space embraces and envelops you in a way that right angles could not. The architecture appears to swoop and move to a rhythm.”
The entrance to the restaurant lies on the corner of Park Avenue South and 19th Street where Rockwell Group carved into the storefront to make an inverted entry and gracious outdoor foyer. A custom, curved glass profile creates this grand entranceway, which features a custom globe pendant with bronze details, creating an undisputed presence on Park Avenue.
“Lighting played an extremely important role in this project,” continues Chowaniec. “As far as restaurants are considered, the space is rather large. We wanted to embrace the grandeur, but also provide a sense of intimacy at each table for the guests; lighting enhances that to an extraordinary degree.
The length of the main dining room in the restaurant is defined by six existing large window bays. Rockwell Group renovated the storefronts with completely custom profiles in solid wood, making them operable onto 19th Street and Park Avenue. An elevated outdoor patio on 19th Street also provides additional seasonal seating, Rockwell Group used the window bays to create a strategy for the atmosphere of the dining room, focusing the majority of the energy around the 30ft long bar and decreasing scale as the restaurant recedes.
A large exposed kitchen at the back becomes a focus-point for diners, while an adjacent blue title sushi bar and semi-private dining room are grounded by a grand custom hex chandelier. A false wall conceals a secret private dining room featuring white oak millwork and a handmade alabaster pendant hanging over an eight-seat dining table. A feature staircase escorts guests to the shared lower-level private dining room and wine cellar, a celebration of multi-style brick, complemented by a series of wall-length backlit wine cabinets.
“Lighting at Oceans typically ranges from 2700-3000K,” says Chowaniec. “In every space we advocated for a lower colour temperature to create a relaxed, sophisticated and warm, candle-lit style environment. Many of the decorative lighting fixtures were custom designed and then manufactured by the likes of Hammerton, VISO and Juniper.
“The architectural lighting is designed to essentially disappear, which increases the expression of the decorative fixtures. A system of millwork beams in the ceiling hide the architectural lighting so you only notice the custom fixtures beneath. Both architectural and decorative elements share the same warm colour temperature – the rich, soft glow akin to candlelight, feels consistent throughout the space.”
In terms of restrictions on this project, for Chowaniec, the overscale swing fixtures that hang over the round booths in the main dining room are attached to the building’s original columns which were built in 1909. At the turn of the century, cast iron columns were typically fireproofed by terracotta – beneath the plaster finish is a thick layer of terracotta brickwork and we wanted to cantilever the lighting from these columns, so anchoring the pendants without compromising the cast iron and existing fireproofing was definitely a challenge.”
Reflecting on the project, as Tabletop Group viewed the restaurant less as a commercial project and more as if it were a private residence, there is an amazing attention to detail and tailoring throughout… “We were absolutely thrilled with the end result,” says Chowaniec. “Oceans exceeded all of our expectations; we spent many hours refining the conceptual drive behind the space’s curvature, which is palpable when you walk through the space.”