A Design Jewel is Revealed in the Heart of Beverly Hills

Strong personalities can often clash. The architecture and design story at Funke by Evan Funke instead reveals a synthesis of creative minds. "I feel like there are each of our personalities in it," says Clint Nicholas about the stunning venue. "Egos were put aside."

Download PDF

It's a project essentially five years in the making, even though Funke co-owner Kurt Rappaport's initial goal didn't include creating an ambitious new food and beverage destination. "I love great young architects, not starchitects," he notes about why he turned to architect Dan Brunn, FAIA, to orchestrate an overall design plan for rehabilitating the building and interiors.

It began with a vision to restore the exterior and rebuild the interior spaces of the 1930s Art Deco style building, which contains multiple businesses, including Rappaport’s Westside Estate Agency headquarters. Seeing the potential in the space on Little Santa Monica Boulevard that stands at the gateway of the Beverly Hills commercial district and next to the iconic Union 76 station designed by Gin Wong of Pereira and Associates, the concept for Funke was eventually born.

a softly lit restaurant with tables and booths
a restaurant with tables, chairs, and plants

"Dan is passionate, but there is no ego. He's also not afraid to take a risk as long as it's a good risk," Rappaport adds. So, while he leaned on Brunn's hospitality and retail expertise, Nicholas, who has designed homes for Rappaport, had a slightly different role when it came to selecting materials and finishes. "Clint said to me, 'I've never done a restaurant," and I said, 'That's a good thing. No bad habits,'" Rappaport recalls with a laugh.

The 20-foot-tall pasta lab, which the team likens to a Damien Hirst-inspired installation, speaks volumes about this dynamic. It's a dazzling feature that Nicholas identifies as "the heart of the restaurant," and proved to be a complex technical feat. The central enclosed glass and polished chrome working space take the feature that's an essential part of Felix, Funke's first restaurant in Venice and expands upon the concept without crossing the line into ostentation. This balance stems from sensibilities that have been aligned ever since Chef Evan Funke and Rappaport met.

“The heart of the restaurant”

-Clint Nicholas

It became apparent quickly that we saw things on the same level, we spoke the same vocabulary, and we have the same passion for detail," Rappaport explains. With the pasta lab, "people can see its theater. It's part of the experience and the highest level of something extraordinary, something really, truly special."“

The subtle glamour of the restored Art Deco facade is interpreted through a contemporary lens. This leitmotif carries throughout the two levels of the interior and rooftop lounge. "It was important in terms of the design to have it not feel like Las Vegas or a themed restaurant," the architect observes. A place like this calls for seen-and-be-seen opportunities balanced with the need to be discreet. Bespoke design elements, intentional moments, and careful spatial orchestration make Funke, with its three bars and two kitchens, unlike any other restaurant in the current L.A. dining ecosystem. Most private dining rooms don't have a separate outside entrance and dedicated interior corridor, for instance.

a bar with stools and bottles on the shelves

Form, function, and beauty harmonize in various expressions. An installation composed of 273 hand-blown Murano glass Fizi Ball modular lighting pendants by Australia-based company Articolo is another piece of functional art that activates the 24-foot-high ground-floor dining room. Here, technology and traditional craft merge; a state-of-the-art lighting system adjusts levels and even has a slight twinkling effect. To some guests seated in this room, as well as in the mezzanine or private dining room, this composed illumination might recall a star-scattered sky. Others might imagine peering at floating champagne bubbles up close. The reflection of the glass balls on the pasta lab surfaces could be a wink to Yayoi Kusama's infinity spaces, too. Meanwhile, pieces from Rappaport's own collection by the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and  Jean "Johnny" Pigozzi populate the walls.

Given Funke's Italian culinary expertise, it's only fitting that silhouettes, materials, and textures reference and pay homage to Italy. "I lived in Lake Como for a few years, and they have a rich history of Modernism, so there is a lot of that essence in here," Brunn says, pointing to a carefully fabricated wood and leather detail on a curved profile banquette. Influences from seminal designers such as Carlo Scarpa, Gio Ponti, and Marco Zanuso "are in the back of my mind," so part of the challenge was "how to put that together." Imported stones including Crema Del Monte and Verde Imperiale marbles and Loro Piana linen wall coverings add to the quality and richness of the palette that mirrors the quality of the food and drinks at Funke. “I come from this residential background, so I wanted it to feel very at home, like if you're sitting in someone's living room,” Nicholas says.

At what Rappaport calls "the prettiest rooftop in Beverly Hills," the translucent Cristallo Rosa quartz bar is positioned like a glowing pink beacon. From this perch at Bar Funke, "you look out at all of Beverly Hills, the mountains, the Hollywood Hills, and gorgeous architecture." Lush landscaping and comfortable seating ensures that the al fresco space is given equal attention to the considered interiors, and continues the overall flow and what Brunn describes as "authentic energy."

"The prettiest rooftop in Beverly Hills"

-Kurt Rappaport

Typically, multilevel restaurants as a rule are disconnected, but these are all connected. The upstairs is as good as the downstairs," Rappaport says. "I love the connection of everything."“