Belltown’s Spanish tapas restaurant Pintxo opened in 2010 in a narrow space with even tighter kitchen quarters. The capacity was at times limiting yet also part of the restaurant’s cozy charm, and the food and cocktails earned Pintxo a solid reputation. Last June, though, the restaurant moved to a new location nearby with significantly more elbow room: about three times the floor plan.
By sectioning off the space thoughtfully, owners Amanda and Cory Chigbrow’s impressive design plan embraced the growth while maintaining the sense of intimacy that pervaded the original restaurant, ultimately earning Pintxo the Eater Award for Seattle’s Design of the Year in 2017.
“Some people really had a hard time of letting go of our previous space on 2nd Ave. and we can’t blame them — it was small but mighty. But the reality was we outgrew it,” Amanda says. “We knew we didn’t want the [new] space to be pristine and perfect. We wanted it to instantly feel loved and lived in, making the transition easy and familiar.”
The expanded home became a gorgeous complement to the kitchen’s bright, visually appealing dishes. Bathed in amber light, the restaurant has several additional features that put it atop the list of the city’s smartest interiors: Walls are adorned with impressive paintings; bundles of herbs hang from the ceiling; and a massive stained-glass installation looms, backlit, above the central bar, providing one hell of a focal point for the restaurant.
“Our challenge was that our previous space on 2nd Ave. was tiny — and that was a huge part of its ambiance. With the move to 4th Avenue, our space more than tripled,” Amanda says. “We wanted to keep that same feeling but create a space where we could serve more people with that Belltown-meets-Spanish-food vibe.”
To carry over that intimate ambiance, Cory and Amanda have sectioned off several niches, including a lounge area near the front door, an open bar framed by a giant glass installation, and a dining area separated by reclaimed glass windows.
The couple looked to the neighborhood and to the kitchen for design inspiration. “We have always been inspired by Belltown,” Amanda says. “But we also have to keep that Spanish vibe going because we are a tapas restaurant. So for the design, that meant we had to focus on edgy yet approachable. It has to be appropriate for the late-night crowd but still accessible for a nice dinner.”
In addition to several pieces of art the couple collected over the years, they were able to reuse the lights from the old atrium for the dining room. An iron rose chandelier above the host stand, lights leading to the bathroom, and lights in the lounge were all rescued from Charlie’s on Broadway. Keeping the space’s existing ironwork was a no-brainer.
The obvious centerpiece is the stained-glass installation, which was created by the interior designers at Splinter and Slag. The designers sourced stained glass from around the city, and each piece was hand-cut to fit the angled iron shapes, which were welded over a period of six weeks.
“There are a few secret messages in the stained glass and a couple of personal items, like a piece of the wallpaper from our beloved bar, The Upstairs (which closed last year), and a Washington license plate from one of Cory’s old cars,” Amanda says.
If perhaps they needed some confirmation that their new space would be appreciated, Cory and Amanda got it from a famous face: A few months ago, comedian and late-night television host Conan O’Brien, whose wife is from Seattle, dined at the restaurant. At the end of the meal, he complimented the kitchen and the team on the food and service — and the restaurant’s design.
“It felt incredible to get direct feedback that all that we’ve been putting into the space was just what we were intending and it was well-received,” Amanda says.