A Gloomy Basement is Reborn Into a Vibrant Italian Bistro

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By Lucy Wang
An Italian–based design firm transforms a dark, dreary basement into a beautifully bright bistro.

Studio DiDeA has given a dim basement space a new lease on life as Cento61, a stylishly renovated bistro in Palermo, Italy. Located five feet underground in an early 20th-century building, the 1,400-square-foot restaurant now houses a plethora of natural light, greenery, and an elegant color palette—a striking contrast to its former dismal condition.

Before the restaurant was renovated.

Before the restaurant was renovated.

"The main challenge for us was to convert this basement in an airy space, enhancing the garden and choosing finishings and materials that would amplify the internal clarity," says Studio DiDeA, who has designed both the bistro’s interior, as well as the spacious exterior dining area.

A minimal but elegant palette of materials keeps the restaurant looking bright and airy.

A minimal but elegant palette of materials keeps the restaurant looking bright and airy.

Although a minimal material palette was crucial to achieving the bistro’s bright and breezy appearance, inspiration also came in the form of an existing 200-year-old Cycas palm in the garden. 

The Cycas forms the focal point in the outdoor dining area.

The Cycas forms the focal point in the outdoor dining area.

The regal tree has not only become the focal point in the outdoor dining area, but it also inspired the greenery-filled interior. Low-maintenance climbing plants, such as a creeping fig and philodendron, grow from wooden planters that are elevated high on the walls.

The hanging plants were inspired by the existing 200-year-old Cycas palm in the garden.

The hanging plants were inspired by the existing 200-year-old Cycas palm in the garden.

To further establish continuity between the indoor and outdoor spaces, the architects used white iron grids to add additional layers of texture. 

A look at the white iron grids that form tabletops and dividing screens in the outdoor area.

A look at the white iron grids that form tabletops and dividing screens in the outdoor area.

The interior material palette includes wooden durmast panels that lend a sense of warmth; Calacatta marble panels add a cool touch of elegance.

The restaurant sits 40 people inside and 40 people outside.

The restaurant sits 40 people inside and 40 people outside.

More so, lighting became an artistic statement at the bistro. Flos’ IC lights and suspension lamps hang from the ceiling and are bolstered by dimmable LEDs that hide behind white iron grids.

Materials in varying shades of blue bring the sky indoors.

Materials in varying shades of blue bring the sky indoors.

Various shades of blue "bring the sky inside" with Niagara blue inserts, cobalt blue sofas and chairs, as well as light blue chairs that playfully contrast with other bright yellow chairs. The mix of chairs and color inject a subtle vibrancy into the space. 

A mix of chair types adds a playful, fun touch.

A mix of chair types adds a playful, fun touch.

Bright yellow seating is also used to inject vibrancy within the space.

Bright yellow seating is also used to inject vibrancy within the space.

The floor plan of Cento61.

The floor plan of Cento61.

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Studio DiDeA

General Contractor: Paolo Lupo / VFMC di Carollo Filippo

Interior Design: Studio DiDeA