And Our Season Tonight Is…

When Park Avenue Summer debuted last June, it had an intriguing, if slightly gimmicky, mission. Inspired by Joe Baum’s initial plan for The Four Seasons, the restaurant would take the seasonality concept to the extreme by shutting down and reinventing itself—its menu, its décor, even its name—four times a year. Owner Michael Stillman (his father, Alan Stillman, founded the Smith & Wollensky empire) hired AvroKO, the same firm that designed Quality Meats for them, to create what essentially amounted to four separate restaurants in one. Each had to capture the flavor, texture, and temperature of its corresponding months, yet somehow come easily undone. For Park Avenue Summer, for example, the glossy, lemon-yellow walls of the dining room were constructed out of separate panels screwed into movable steel frames. Crisp, bright light emanated from two rows of rectangular fixtures made out of what looked like glass but was actually featherlight—and therefore portable—translucent vinyl elastic. But that was then. On September 23, the first day of fall, after the last brunch was cleared, chef Craig Koketsu (who also runs the kitchen at Quality Meats) gave the waitstaff a crash course in his new mushroom-infused menu as electricians and carpenters descended upon the dining room with only 48 hours on the clock. If it all sounds a bit theatrical, it was. “But it’s not meant to be trickery,” says AvroKO’s William Harris. “We’re not trying to hide the inner workings. You can see the snaps on the seat cushions and the tracks on the wall.” In less than nine weeks, everything will change over again. Technically, winter begins on December 22, but after Thanksgiving, says Stillman, “it’s winter in New York.” To contrast Park Avenue Autumn’s shiny copper and rich brown hues, the theme will be white, white, white. “The uniforms will be white jackets with white ties,” says Stillman. “We’re going to get killed on the laundry.”

Photo: David Leventi

1. Furniture
Eighty percent of the AvroKO-designed pieces made the transition from Summer to Autumn. The reversible banquette cushions simply need to be flipped from off-white leather to fall-friendly plum.

2. Wall panels
Summer’s panels were sent to a warehouse in Queens, where, as Stillman says, “all seasonal things go to rest.” Autumn’s panels are made of dark wood inset with pinstripes of mirror. To add depth to the room, a few panels were removed to reveal recessed spaces covered with panels of textured brown animal skins. Summer was about flat surfaces, says AvroKO’s Harris, “whereas there’s a lot of movement in the space now.”

3. Ceiling installation
All the components—the copper cylinders, the pieces of rope, and the planks of wood they’re attached to—were custom-made in a makeshift workshop next to the pastry kitchen. The idea, says AvroKO’s Harris, was to “change the volume of the room” by dropping the ceiling. To warm up the light, amber-colored gels cover the bulbs.

4. Wine wall
During Summer, a clear glass wall showcased the house wine, a custom-blended rosé from Hitching Post with a label designed by AvroKO. For Autumn, the clear glass was replaced with amber. The new house wine, a Hitching Post Pinot Noir, arrived opening day. Up next: for Winter, a Cabernet from Hedges in Washington State, followed by a Pascal Jolivet Sancerre for Spring.

5. Room configuration
Tables were casual and bistro-esque for summer. Two long banquettes allowed diners to meet their neighbors. “But fall’s more ‘see-and-be-seen,’” says Stillman. Now two large semi-circular booths take center stage.

And Our Season Tonight Is…