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Creating cohesion between two styles with stone and tile

For two restaurants under one roof in the Dominican Republic, architect Rafael Alvarez of Alvarez + Brock Design LLC combined a variety of stone and tile with other materials to unify the spaces

August 28, 2013
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When Rafael Alvarez of Alvarez + Brock Design LLC went to design two adjoining restaurants in the Dominican Republic, he was posed with the challenge of bringing two different styles under one roof. With a combination of stone and tile, the architect, who is a native of the Dominican Republic and now lives and runs his firm in New York, NY, was able to meet the aesthetic requirements of each and create a unified look for the exterior of the building.


The restaurants are set in a park, which has concrete paving, said Alvarez. “The idea was for the building to grow within the park,” he explained. “In the Caribbean, traditionally tile is used on the roof to keep the inside cool.”

With this in mind, Alvarez designed two large wings on the building — each clad with colorful mosaic tile. The 1- x 1-inch ceramic pieces were supplied by Town & Country. “The wings are clad in tile to keep the building cool,” explained the architect. “It also is a beautiful contrast [to the facade].”

Alvarez explained that supervising the installation was crucial to the design. “The installers first wanted to make a line,” he said. “The mosaics came on 12- x 12-inch sheets. I had to make sure that they mixed [the colors].” The body of the building is made of cement. The neutral tone found in the exterior walls is highlighted by the vibrant roof.

The colorful roof tiles not only help to keep the interior space from heating up, but they also add a festive look to the exterior of the restaurants. The shades of the tile also blend well with the surroundings. Alvarez explained that he saw similar tiles to these during a visit to the Spanish tile exhibition, Cevisama, in Valencia, Spain, which sparked the idea for this project.


When it came time to design the interior of each restaurant, Alvarez had to consider the needs of each. “The two restaurants are totally different in food, style and look,” he explained.

For the entry of Arrozsal, Alvarez chose a local limestone. The large-format pieces — measuring approximately 47 x 31 inches — make a statement on the exterior wall by the door as well as in the entry foyer.

The limestone consists of shades of beige, tan and gold with some movement — offering a warm aesthetic for patrons as they enter the restaurant. Alvarez explained that he brought a limestone with him that he wanted to use, but because the contractor could not get it, they went with a local stone. “Sometimes they have it, sometimes they get something else,” he explained, adding that he always has final approval.

Because of variations that are often found in natural stone, Alvarez produces samples and renderings to his client during his initial presentation. “I like big samples,” he said. “I say to my clients that I don’t like surprises. I tell them to make any objections now because this is what they are getting.”

A uniform look is achieved throughout Arrozsal with large-format green marble floor tiles. The marble tiles cover the dining and bar areas as well as the hallway leading the wine room and restrooms. Morever, the same material is also used on the lower half of the walls. “The rest of the walls are stucco that looks like concrete,” said the architect.

The chic look of the restaurant is further achieved with a large marble bar. The warm tones and soft movement found in the stone nicely complement the green marble flooring and reflect the golden tones in the light fixtures above.

“The bar is one solid piece of marble,” said Alvarez. “It was made in the Dominican Republic. The edges are fluted.”

To continue the look of elegance, white marble was employed in the restroom, cladding the walls and also forming the vanity top.


The second restaurant, Higuero, has a more local flair, according to Alvarez. “It’s more Dominican style,” he explained. “Almost all the materials we used are from the Dominican Republic.”

While the restaurant has a regional vibe, Alvarez tried to avoid a typical color palette of the Caribbean. A point of interest is created on the floor with a custom-made concrete floor “carpet.” “At the factory, one person poured the gray while the other held the mold,” the architect said. “This is a very traditional floor style in the Dominican Republic with modern flair that I designed.”

The concrete floor pattern is framed by 12- x 24-inch porcelain tile in a neutral shade. The porcelain floor tile not only offers durability for the high-trafficked dining room, but also brings subtle contrast to the floor design. Further enhancing the look of the space is a white Corian bar with a very contemporary monolithic look and frosted glass in the kitchen.

Adding to the local feel of Higuero is a large communal table in the dining area. The table top is fabricated from alabaster. According to Alvarez, he chose the material because it could be backlit and bring more light into the space.

In the restroom, White Carrara marble was used for the floor, walls and a custom sink cut on a miter, which was designed by the architect. The original design brings a modern touch.

In total, it took about a year and a half to complete the building and both restaurants.  

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