Anju: Portland, Oregon

Anju: Portland, Oregon

By Amara Holstein
A new restaurant named Anju recently opened in Portland, Oregon. With a darkly sleek interior, industrial finishes, and original art on the walls and ceiling, it comes as a pleasant surprise that local firm Compressed Pattern did the design on a tight budget using only recycled materials and a crafty attitude.

Located in North Portland, the restaurant was envisioned as an Asian pub serving small dishes of Korean and Japanese food, with an extensive sake and shochu list as complementary libations. The space is a long, shotgun-like galley; previously another restaurant, it "felt cold before," says designer Arielle Glade, who cofounded multi-disciplinary design and concept studio Compressed Pattern along with her husband and fellow designer, Travis Weedman. "We wanted to make it feel like a lively, fun Asian street market at night.


To do so, the designers first painted the walls dark green and rust, adding warmth and a nice contrast to the cool concrete floors. A corrugated metal half-wall separates the kitchen from the dining area. The metal, reclaimed from an old barn and sourced through Craigslist, provides texture and also lets pinpricks of light through small nail holes.

The benches upon which diners happily devour dishes of spicy shrimp cakes and kimchi pancakes are old church pews, also found on Craigslist. The designers took them apart, sanded them, and then stained them black and reupholstered them in vinyl. The tables were another Craigslist score -- bowling alley tables that Weedman and Glade refinished. Stacks of wood shipping pallets that they found discarded on the street comprise a back wall for the restaurant, behind which is a storage space for extra chairs and equipment, but which also enhances the street market effect.  Weedman also created a painting at the entry out of white Sheetrock mud dabbed with ash garnered from the bottom of his barbecue at home.


The crowning effect, literally, is a rope installation that floats above the length of the space—the material cost only $500 and took Weedman three days to make. Five thousand feet of cotton clothesline rope twist and turn their way down nearly 75 feet to create a canopy above the tables. "We wanted to do something unique and unexpected, but also affordable," explains Weedman. He first cut eight dowels of hemlock wood into varied lengths, ranging from a little over six feet to ten feet long. He then drilled 57 holes into each plank, and suspended the wood pieces from steel rods on the ceiling at intervals along its length.


Weedman strung the rope through the holes in the wood planks in a process he likens to using a loom. Each of the fifty-seven pieces of rope was then cut and knotted at the ends, secured into a wood column at the restaurant entrance by brass grommets and tied off at the other end. The rope canopy undulates through the space, changing shape as it moves through the different lengths of wood. "Every time someone comes into the restaurant, they strum their hand across the rope like an instrument," Weedman says of its tactility.


With white glass birds made by the designers' friends and artists Esque floating below the canopy, eating here truly feels like you're sharing your mushroom dumplings with friends in an outdoor market in Seoul or Tokyo late at night.


Images courtesy Matt O'Brien.


Get the Dwell Newsletter

Be the first to see our latest home tours, design news, and more.