Glamour stakes

The Burj Al Arab's latest F&B venture, Junsui, radiates elegance from every luxurious finish.

The lift lobby is part of a future stage of refurbishment.
The lift lobby is part of a future stage of refurbishment.

When Jumeirah International decided the time was nigh to transform the perfectly located office space on the Mezzanine floor of the Burj Al Arab into a destination F&B outlet, there really was only one firm they could turn to - the original creators of the iconic hotel's much-talked about design - KCA.

The management of the Burj Al Arab decided that the 500m² space should house an all-day dining restaurant that had an Oriental flavour. Luc Delafosse, general manager, Burj Al Arab explains: "At Burj Al Arab, we have seen an increase in the number of guests from Asia of approximately 150%. The addition of Junsui will help to meet the increasing demand as well as to offer another unique Burj Al Arab experience, which compliments those already available to diners." But a Japanese-themed eatery is far from what KCA has created.

Delafosse continues: "The brief was to create a design that fitted with the opulent décor of the hotel, having a very rich and luxurious feel but with a difference in colours and materials." The concept was deliberately indistinct, allowing room for Khuan Chew and her team, led by John Carolan, to be extravagantly creative with the space. Carolan explains: "When you first think of an all-day dining restaurant you immediately think of light, natural finishes with clean lines so when Khuan first showed me the mood sample board she had put together I was bowled over, the glamour just seeps from every material and texture on it." He adds: "She was adamant from the beginning that the restaurant should be alluring and glamorous and make the customers feel like film stars, and so this black and white scheme was born."


The guiding principles of creating elegance and glitz pervaded every choice of design detail, but firstly, the complex issue of space planning and layouts had to be addressed. "We were stuck with a very difficult footprint, as four massive sheer walls divide the space that are obviously immoveable as they support the building above. This was initially quite daunting, but worked in our favour in the end as it naturally compartmentalised the space into manageable dining areas," Carolan says.

A further structural concern was the low ceiling. "The ceiling height of 2.8m was a principal challenge. But we overcame this by ensuring that guests were treated to a ‘wow' interior with the glitz and glamour, the lightness and activity, which all distract the eye." Carolan also installed strips of mirrors in the ceiling and along the perimeter at irregular angles that give the impression of variant heights. The clever use of mirrors also breaks up the solidity of the sheer walls.

Additionally, the client was clear that the kitchens should be open to the restaurant with live cooking stations dotted throughout the space. He adds: "The original space allocated to the cooking stations was much smaller on the first few plans and then the kitchen consultant gradually made it bigger and bigger!" KCA semi-obscured the expansive circular kitchen by placing it behind patterned glass that adds privacy and an attractive visual effect. "We wanted to keep an element of openness, but behind the scenes preparation is not very glamorous, so the etched glass partitions are an ideal compromise."

Entering the restaurant from the lift lobby, guests are immediately treated to an elegance overload, with Swarovksi pendants designed by Karim Rashid hanging in the entrance, set against a stone water wall. "In Chinese/ Japanese culture, having a water element in your interior is very fortuitous and it seemed fitting that we abide by this thought in our design," Carolan says. The trickling water wall denotes movement and nature too; with the pale blue pools contrasting with black granite flooring and rough stonewall blocks.

Moving into the bar, a large mirrored wall adjacent to the bar gives the feeling of depth and infinity. It is framed by a vinyl crackle wall covering that has the effect of textured snakeskin. This was sourced from Markasia in Hong Kong. KCA used a matching paint effect for the double doors in the bar to ensure echoes of the same style.

KCA collaborated with Swarovski to create some of the stunning effects in the bar area. The ceiling consists of glass panels embedded with Swarovski crystal droplets and LED fibre optics. These oblong transparent panels are flanked by a punched metal sheet with a light diffuser placed behind. "I am delighted with the way this turned out; it is surprisingly simple to do and yet very effective, it highlights the central ceiling area by drawing the eye in," Carolan says.

The original bar was meant to be glass, but this just wasn't feasible for the long length needed, so instead, the finished bar is a combination of power glass with fibre optics embedded into black and white granite on the top of the bar counter, with Swarovski vinyl-backed material covering the façade of the bar. The crystal specialist also supplied other glitzy finishes such as the lengths of crystals that adorn the doorframe surround. It is this type of finish that exudes the sense of luxury and elegance that is evident on the initial mood boards that KCA put together in the initial stages of planning.

Textures such as fur, padded silk upholstery and leather - both real and synthetic- sit effortlessly alongside each other. An interesting black and white beaded material adorning the back wall of the bar is from Andrew Martin and is reminiscent of a genetic coding pattern, bringing a hint of the futuristic into the interior design.

The furniture in the bar is a mix between custom-designed and ready-manufactured items. The L-shaped sofas in the bar are specially made and clad in leather with a special embossing and tipping from Townsend Leather and are accessorised with faux fur cushions in black and white. The orb-like glowing coffee tables are called Planet Table from Italian company Bonaldo, while the cream-coloured tub armchairs are part of the Tulip range from B&B Italia.

The bar's flooring is an interesting mix of Emtex patterned carpet, which KCA chose for its randomness and segmented design. This is offset with custom-designed leather floor tiles, also by Townsend Leather. The flooring in the main restaurant is predominantly marble. The Crema flooring was provided locally by El Marge, while the Crema Marfil is sourced direct from Spain. Mosaics by Sicis provide an alluring contrast to the marble as Carolan explains: "I really believe that Sicis mosaics are the best product on the market. The luminescence of the material is due to its composition - 20% colour and 80% glass rather than the opposite ratio in many mosaics; the effect is very subtle."

For the walls, KCA sourced coverings by the German manufacturer ADC Dommel and sumptuous mother of pearl tiles from Thailand and juxtaposed these harder finishes with soft leather. Carolan explains: "Instead of being downcast about the sheer walls, we decided to use them to our advantage, and we tried to make them look as though they are floating - matching the leather cladding on the floors with a similar leather finish with embossed leather in the middle of the walls in a diamond form. The soft material takes the hard-edged quality from the huge partitions."

For the furniture in the main dining area, KCA turned to local manufacturer Greenline who made the dining tables from ebony macassar, with glass and mother of pearl sheets inlaid into the tabletops. The idea of having backlit glass tabletops was mooted at one design stage, before this subtler version was settled upon. Aside from the banquette seating, individual dining chairs are sourced from Italian furniture firm Costantini Pietro from the ranges Geo and Brighton. Caboche pendants from Foscarini complete the look.

Despite having a very small space allocated to them, the restrooms are a real talking point. Situated in the old store area, tricking the eye into believing the space is twice its actual size is cleverly accomplished through the use of wall and ceiling mirrors. The overhead mirror has an aged feel through its bronze hue, which was sourced from Chelsea Artisans.

To create a feeling of depth and transparency, circular glass basins and long linear chrome taps by Boffi were chosen, which are available locally from Purity. The tiny square wall and floor mosaics are supplied by Sicis, with complementary mother of pearl tiles from ADC Dommel. The Black Galaxy Floor from El Marge sparkles with embedded crystal chips that catch the light, while Cambrian Black granite is used in three finishes, all from the US-based firm Polycor.

Such an extravagant scheme is befitting of one of the world's most famous hotels, but the key to its success is its attention to detail as Carolan concludes: "There's a definite symmetry to the design - many of the elements look random, but they're really not! My favourite part of the design is the subtle nuances - the contrast of materials that are placed next to each other and the sense of understated luxury that runs throughout the space."

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