Walking into Fairfax—a new all-day wine bar in the West Village of New York City—doesn’t really feel like you’re walking into a dining establishment at all… and that’s exactly the way Gabriel and Gina Stulman, the husband and wife duo behind this and other hot spots Bar Sardine and Joseph Leonard, want you to feel.
“The concept was inspired by a lot of places that Gina and I have traveled to in Europe—London, Paris and Copenhagen, where we’ve constantly gone as diners. This ‘new world’ style of wine bar is way more than a wine bar in terms of its culinary ambitions, but a lot more casual and way more relaxed than a restaurant,” Gabriel tells Domino.
What does that mean, exactly? A place where one can sit back, relax, and enjoy a casual meal—as well as a bottle of wine (naturally).
And that vibe is reflected in the decor; think living room furniture, a grand bookshelf, a more formal dining area, a huge bar area with rustic hardwood cabinetry, and a whimsical mix of textiles, carpeting, and artwork on the walls. When you walk into Fairfax, you mostly feel like you’re at your best friend’s home, and you immediately have the urge to stay awhile. While that feeling is completely intentional, the reason behind it is even more interesting—much of the furniture at the restaurant has been a part of Gabriel and Gina’s own home in the past.
Gina explains, “I think in terms of style, it looks a lot like our home. And actually, a lot of the furniture came from our house and from our office and from our storage unit, which is cool because there’s all these pieces that are just from different parts of our life together. I think the look was to keep it kind of cool and comfortable and casual, but also add some bright colors. We wanted the bookcase to be a bright yellow, and we have a lot of green plants everywhere outside and in.”
Some standout pieces in the space include a velvet royal blue armchair, perfect for curling up with a great book and a cappuccino, and a worn-in sofa with a rustic, embroidered rug (used as a coverlet) to add a cozy touch. “This couch in particular has a kind of a vintage feel to it, but it’s also a classic couch that you can have forever,” says Gina.
The modern paintings, soft tapestry, and colorful accents pair perfectly with the hodgepodge of plants on the windowsills, which let natural light shine through. And of course, the bright yellow bookshelf only adds to that sunny vibe—so it’s no wonder Gabriel considers it his favorite item in the space.
“The inspiration for the bookcase was from a wine bar that we went to in Copenhagen,” he says. “They had a bookcase that separated a dining room table from a sofa area, and we liked the way you could see completely through. So you see those people and you feel that connection of being in a restaurant and not being isolated, but you also get a little bit of your own barrier and own space. Gina found this beautiful, bold yellow bookcase that we loved, but it was a custom order and we needed it sooner than we could get it made. So, we bought an almost identical bookcase in white and spray painted it.”
These different nooks and crannies are also the reason the space has such a welcoming vibe to it. Gabriel explains, “We like the idea of making it feel like a New York apartment in some ways. Every apartment we’ve lived in, the living room and dining room are typically not separated by a wall, and I think we definitely took some inspiration from that—and also from hotel lobbies. So when you look at Fairfax, there are different zones: You have a sofa and coffee table, and then across from it a dining table. And that happens at three different times throughout the venue.”
In this way, Fairfax encompasses several different things at once—coffee shop, restaurant, wine bar, and even hotel lobby. “I think we both really wanted it to feel like a place that you can come to at multiple points during the day. You can come in the morning and sit on one of the sofas with your laptop—which is often how a lot of us work nowadays, I think—and have a cup of coffee and a pastry. We wanted to have these little pockets where you can have these different experiences,” says Gina. “So, there’s the person that maybe wants to do that and there’s maybe a person who wants to come in for a breakfast meeting. We have proper table for that.”
However, the couple was certainly cognizant of the fact that having too many elements together can cause an area to feel claustrophobic, and they made certain considerations to ensure that wasn’t the case.
“It’s a balance, so I think that you really have to play around with it as you’re putting it all together,” says Gina. Adds Gabe, “I think we definitely want everything to be warm and cozy. That’s the main thing. We don’t want to suffer style over coziness. We both love a lot of the cleanliness of midcentury stuff, but when everything is done, that way doesn’t always convey warmth. I think that’s where rustic elements work.”
Walking into the couple’s West Village home conveys that same sense of warmth, and it’s easy to see the inspiration behind the space. “We wanted [Fairfax] to look like our living room,” explains Gina.
The style is very rustic chic, with a lot of prints, a little taxidermy, and pops of color. “I would say that now, our aesthetic is really becoming a cocktail of different things. We have certainly been influenced by a trip we took to Morocco a few years ago, and we have enjoyed these juxtapositions of bohemian fabrics overlayed over more contemporary styles,” says Gabriel. A Moroccan rug covers a soft wooden chair, while a textured sheath serves as the carpet—just like in Fairfax. The pale grey sectional adds a slightly modern vibe, but the marble side table prevents the home from looking too bohemian.
And that’s the way the couple wanted it, having the ability to infuse their restaurants with a sense of homeyness and comfort. Gabe explains, “We’ve always bought things that we love. Like both of those sofas, we got a lot of love and a lot of use out of them. But then, our styles and our tastes evolved. We got a slightly larger living room and we decided, ‘Let’s trade out that leather sofa that we’ve had for several years and get a nice big sectional.’ Our brown sofa has been the centerpiece of three different living rooms—but now, we can breathe new life into it by putting it in Fairfax.”