Inspired by the ‘POPOL_NAH’ (which loosely translates as ‘People’s House’) landmark council house in head chef Cali Rivera’s homeland of Honduras, the concept for the restaurant was developed around the idea of community and unity.
The materiality of the space reflects this, with the design tiling used on bar tops and bench seating tabletops taking reference from brick lay designs of the original structure in Honduras. Similarly the mat pattern was reconstructed from the Copan mosaic project as decoration on the façade of the council house, and represents a symbol of power among the Maya.
Coloured ropes used to hang objects and shelving and rough render applied across bar fronts and walls further reference the rural housing in Honduras and create a natural textured finish. This was then painted white for a modern Melbourne setting.
A particularly striking element is the raw cypress pine feature wall, softly back lit using LED strip lights to add warmth to the interiors.
Melbourne-based designers Peter Strateas and Mario-Luca Carlucci payed homage to the late Alexander Girard (also from New York), developing a series of six hand-painted wooden dolls to symbolise the various figures within the People’s House. These can be found hanging on the interior wall of the venue. The colour palette was inspired by renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, whose influence can be seen in various features within the venue.
The theme of community was a central element of the collaborative approach that informed the design of the interiors. As Kat Ho of Strateas.Carlucci – Lifestyle Projects says, “The team extended not only to the designers and trades people involved – the whole Popol_Nah team, including the owner Carolyn, the chef and all staff got involved.”
The project is also remarkable for the speed of its turnaround (2 months planning and one week one week fit out), demonstrating that a considered use of finishes and decoration can dramatically transform a space and imbue it with a distinct character.
Photograohy: Ribal and Gil / Superteam Studios