A fresh look for the Restaurant Savoy

A fresh look for the Restaurant Savoy

Restaurant Savoy RestorationHelsinki

With a lot of love and a bit of repair, Helsinki’s iconic Restaurant Savoy and archetypal Artek interior have been given new life. First opened in summer 1937, the Savoy epitomised Aino and Alvar Aalto’s approach to design: warm, welcoming, and centred on human needs. Framed by terraces on three sides, the dining hall was rendered in high-quality natural materials, including various species of wood. Lush plants, perfectly harmonised fabrics, and comfortable furnishings made for an environment as functional as it was friendly. For 80 years, this design was largely maintained, though decades of restaurant operations naturally produced some wear and tear. That’s why in 2019, Ilse Crawford and Studioilse were commissioned to give the Savoy a fresh face.

Restaurant Savoy RestorationHelsinki
“The Savoy needed a bit of repair and a bit of love – but it didn’t need reinventing.” - Ilse Crawford
Restaurant Savoy RestorationHelsinki

During the six-week renovation – a cooperation between Studioilse, the Helsinki City Museum, the Alvar Aalto Foundation, and Artek – all original structures and joinery were restored, and the restaurant’s spatial layout adjusted to reflect the original proportions. Though renovation is not usually part of the Artek portfolio, the Savoy presented a unique opportunity for involvement: a major historical Aalto location, largely preserved in its original state. Artek thus reupholstered all original sofas and most original chairs in a palette of soft browns, blacks, and whites, including two banquette sofas, 16 Aino Aalto Chairs, and some 60 Club Chairs. All visible wooden components of the latter were kept, while hidden construction elements were built anew. This complex process, executed with precision and care, maintained the integrity of the chairs, creating a powerful link between present and past. New lighting elements were also introduced, reiterating the theme of continuity and renewal: two A201 pendant lights and a wall-mounted Golden Bell – relaunched Aalto classics, much like the Savoy itself.

Restaurant Savoy RestorationHelsinki
The Savoy version of Chair 611 was custom-made specially for the restaurant’s terraces
Restaurant Savoy RestorationHelsinki

In addition to restoring the vintage pieces, Artek also created a new special version of the classic Chair 611 specifically for the Savoy. While the standard 611 features a birch frame and linen belt webbing for the seat and back, the Savoy version boasts a frame of matt lacquered oak, a back of leather webbing, and a seat upholstered in leather. Available for a limited time at the Artek stores in Helsinki and Tokyo, the chair can also be experienced live at the Savoy itself. Visit savoyhelsinki.fi to make a reservation.

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