Pascale Gomes-Mcnabb: interior architect

She is the secret sauce behind some of the country’s most arresting restaurants. Naturally, she is equally opinionated about the aesthetics of beauty.

When it comes to eating out, first impressions matter. Comfortable chairs, flattering lighting and a polished fit-out all inform your experience of a restaurant, whether it’s a fine-diner or a shake shack. When leading restaurateurs look to deliver spectacular spaces, the kinds that inspire lingering over cheese boards and digestifs, many of them turn to Pascale Gomes-McNabb. The Melbourne-based designer, who has dark curls and a bright disposition, is a virtuoso at creating dining spaces infused with drama, discernment and delicious flourishes.

In Melbourne, CBD darling Cumulus Inc and the upper floor of the recently rebooted Stokehouse in St Kilda are among her many projects. In Sydney, she hatched the breathtaking interior of Cirrus at Barangaroo, which is arrayed with timber dowels and a floating speedboat, and the splashy new Bentley in the CBD. Adelaide’s Penfolds Magill Estate Restaurant is another standout credit. “People want a little theatre with their restaurants,” she says of her single-minded approach. Unsurprisingly, Gomes-McNabb is just as meticulous about her beauty choices.

TM: How important is a restaurant’s design?
PGM: "I eat out not only for the food but the total environment. I’m drawn to well-realised restaurants where all the components are carefully considered. Design should communicate how to use the space, and what the space is about. It doesn’t have to be high-end, but there needs to be a certain ambience, a style of service, and a level of comfort commensurate with the offer. Lighting is one of the keys to creating an inviting space."

You famously get involved with everything from the lighting fixtures to the serving plates. Do you crave TCC (total creative control) on projects?
"Yes, absolutely. It is every designer’s dream to be given creative control. It is a privilege on any project and, of course, there has to be complicit trust and understanding between client and designer. As a designer, you are taking on the client’s needs and desires and interpreting them in your design language."

Private residences or new restaurants—which do you prefer conceiving?
"They are very different typologies. I love the interaction, consideration and research that goes into both. Restaurants are often fast-paced, high-octane and daring in their design, and cater to a large number of people. Residential projects are more slow-paced, tailored and intimate. Each project for me is entirely unique, as is the outcome."

I eat out not only for the food but the total environment. I’m drawn to well-realised restaurants where all the components are carefully considered.

What projects are you working on right now?
"A beach house, a few city residential projects and two hospitality initiatives. They’re all very hush-hush at the moment, so it’s hard to reveal too much."

Are you as disciplined about beauty as you are architecture?
"Whether it’s beauty or architecture, I strive to be consistent and methodical and always allow time for something extra. Cleanse, tone, moisturise, repeat are the basic tenets of my routine. Tatcha’s The Deep Cleanse lifts away impurities, Omorovicza’s Queen of Hungary Mist is my go-to toner, and lately I’ve been using La Mer’s The Moisturizing Cool Gel Cream."

Are you a fan of liquid liner for its graphic lines?
"Ha! You would think so but no. I prefer my eyeliner a bit smudged, so I use a pencil instead."

Do you ever judge beauty products on their design? And, if so, what looks good?
"Packaging and design are extremely seductive to me. I do notice Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders for their reflective packaging, and it helps that the contents also refract light. Mostly I lean towards vegan, natural and organic products that are also sophisticated."

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What does your beauty routine consist of?
"First thing in the morning, I drink lemon juice in warm water, then I exercise. I tend to wash my face in the shower, then apply moisturiser, eyeliner and lip balm. In the evening, if I am going out, I’ll turn to RMS Beauty for lip and eye colour, Hourglass mascara, and a black eyeliner. I like to wear different perfumes depending on the occasion. Now that it’s winter, I mix Frederic Malle Carnal Flower on the front and Comme des Garcons Black at the back and on the wrists, but lightly and only at night. In terms of hair care, I recently discovered Living Proof, and their products are excellent for curly hair. I like their packaging, too."

What do you turn to when you want to be totally extra?
"I visit the fantastic professionals at Mecca Cosmetica to get my makeup done, and then the hairdresser,. A little bit of pampering goes a long way! And for creating a vibe at home, I gravitate to candles by Diptyque and Byredo."

In terms of interiors, what are your favourite restaurants in the world?
"I admit there is a disconnect. Often restaurants I admire don’t necessarily have memorable food, and vice versa. But ones that spring to mind for both include Oxen in Stockholm, and the two quite distinct but lovely restaurants in Stockholm’s Grand Hotel by British designer Ilse Crawford. I love Mugaritz near San Sebastian for its setting, the food and the reverence without pretension in the design and service. Clown Bar in Paris is tiny but the nineteenth-century murals of clowns make me smile. And I just discovered the oldest wine bar in Verona, Bottega del Vini from 1890, which has a charming interior, gorgeous rude young waiters, an amazing menu and blaring rock music. In London, Rochelle Canteen is the spot during summer, with its beautiful English garden and exquisite food."

Similarly, which hotels have you stayed in that wowed you with their design?
"Alila Uluwatu is a sublime resort perched on a cliff in Bali. It’s a complete fantasyland. I like Macakizi in Bodrum, in the south of Turkey, for its relaxed luxury and indoor/outdoor spaces, with bougainvillea and white-washed buildings cascading down the hill to the sea. Les Bains Paris, the former nightclub turned hotel, is still hot. The New Hotel in Athens by the Campana Brothers has cleverly upcycled the furniture. The Bauer in Venice is a fun place to stay during the Biennale, and I love the seventies renovation. Straf in Milan, which combines minimalism and classicism, is a respite from the hubbub of the city. Edition Hotel in London is practical, with great art and fun trimmings, while Shoreditch House has lively club spaces with great people-watching. And, of course, Jackalope Hotel in the Mornington Peninsula, which I collaborated on with Fabio Ongarato Design and Carr Design."

Back at home, do you subscribe to any other beauty services: facials, massages, chakra balancing?
"Massages, yoga and magnesium floats or floatation tanks. It’s about having a fun and balanced life after all. Laughing is such an underrated beauty product. I like to keep it fairly simple. I was impressed with the NuFace device in store at Mecca the other day, and that’s on my wish list now."

Interview by George Epaminondas
Photography by Lucy Laucht
June 2018


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