A West Village Café by Larah Moravek

General / People / Places / December 5, 2012

It’s hard to imagine tobacco grown and sold in the West Village of Manhattan, but interior designer Larah Moravek has seen the photos.

She was doing her due diligence on the site where The Goodwin Wine Bar and Café now stands at 430 Hudson Street.

“We found prints of photos of the Goodwin Company from the 19th century,” she says.  “It was a family-owned business that harvested tobacco here years ago.”

The family for whom the restaurant is named would build on the site in 1845, erecting a five-story structure with retail space at street level and residences above.  Moravek was called in for design strategies in 2010, as the current owners, former high-end construction company executives, sought to step into new careers as restaurateurs.  They live on two floors above the 900 square-foot cafe space.

“It’s not a large restaurant,” she says.  “There are 75 seats, including the bar, with a full kitchen below and storage and refrigeration below that.”

Her solutions for the Goodwin have jumpstarted her budding career.  The space itself, narrow at the front and opening up widely in the dining room to the rear, draws on French antecedents, but feels like it belongs right where it is.

“In the back, I wanted it to feel like a café in Paris,” she says.  “So we used mirrors behind the banquettes to create a comfortable environment.”

The bar is walnut butcher block.  Behind it are beams salvaged from the original structure, then carefully milled.  The dining tables are custom designed, carved out of oak with metal edging that yields a thoughtful, layered effect.  The beams are used throughout the dining area as well, on walls and ceiling.

But it’s the back room’s large, paned windows and the foliage beyond, that grant this space it rarified charm.  “It comes alive – it’s magical,” she says.  “It’s not like you’re in the city.  You’re nestled somewhere else.”

Somewhere tropical, it would seem, and far away from any tobacco field.

For more information, go to http://www.larahvmoravek.com/

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Mike Welton

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