As an interior designer who specializes in restaurants in New York City, I am constantly visiting some of the most revered restaurants in the world. The other night I decided to dine at one of my preferred eateries and experience the décor of one of my favorite designers Christian Liaigre.

Liaigre is known for his work at Buddakan, a 16,000-square foot space in the Chelsea Market of the Meatpacking District. Buddakan opened its doors in March of 2006 and is owned by Stephen Starr of the Philadelphia-based Starr Restaurant Group.

Buddakan hosts 275 in the dining area and 50 more for drinks, with an Asia meets Paris meets New York-like feeling. Asian influence is noted not only on the menu but also in the décor, creating a dramatic twist along the way. High vaulted ceilings create a grandiose atmosphere. Perhaps Liaigre was influenced by the Louis XIV era of his country’s history, contrasted with a touch of the Moulin Rouge.
As I walked through the wrought iron doors, goose bumps ran down my spine at the thought of transformation. In front of me was this concrete industrial building that once housed a Nabisco cookie factory. Making my way towards the hotel-style reception desk, I was quickly escorted to my table.

The first room I encountered was the bar area filled with mystery and suspense. My senses were aroused, both for my Asian palate and my inquisitive design mind, which was about to unfold. The bar is made of stainless steel; it has a modern clean line look that adds to the space. The synergy of a stunning modern-infused traditional look is tastefully distributed.

One of the many great rooms has beautiful ivory-colored bricks as the backdrop and is a bit more intimate, possibly for those who shun the limelight. Lined with black and white arches and punctuated by large, tall and red cylindrical vases that stand from floor to ceiling, lacquered rim mirrors add to the sexy setting. Chairs are upholstered in black and red, giving the room a very Asian flair. The chairs and tables on one side of the room bring out a minimal look, lending to the theme of modern meets traditional meets Asia. The fusion of all three accents the restaurant with colors that excite and entice the mind.

The library located on the upper floor is quieter, catering to private events. It has gold-gilded faux books that illuminate a dramatic bookshelf that wraps around from floor to ceiling. A long, black leather, low Japanese-style couch in the center of the room provides a comfortable yet luxurious setting where guests can mingle.

The main dining room is subterranean, accessible via a grand 25-foot dual staircase that gave me the feeling of being the belle of the ball. Located on the lower level is a long, wooden communal table approximately 30 feet long that accommodates about 30 guests. Beautiful floor lamps surround the tables; hanging above the tables are copious candelabra chandeliers, giving the room a romantic and mysterious feeling. Brocade-upholstered tops adorn the banquet seating, and the back chairs have a splash of color. Boldly colored, latticed-shaped screens are spaced around the room. The screens help divide one floor from the other while simultaneously keeping you aware of every inch of space. Liaigre accomplished showing the many sides to his designs while still leaving room for the imagination.

Buddakan has made its mark of excellence in the design of restaurants thanks to the vision of Stephen Starr and interior designer Christian Liaigre. Buddakan is an enormous restaurant, with lots of rooms, a smorgasbord of décor, great ambience, the infusion of patterns, colors and form that come together creating a masterpiece. What went through Monsieur Liaigre’s mind? Was it decoration? Was it theater? Or was it both? Monsieur Liaigre, I thank you for bringing a hodge-podge of color scheme palates, making them fit so well at Buddakan.

TEXT BY Vanessa de Leon