Forget the lotus. The new symbol of Echo Park is exposed plywood

Photo by Patrick Hoesly/Flickr

The L.A.Weekly profiles Kris Keith, one of the city’s most popular restaurant designers who is responsible for the brick and wood interior of Echo Park’s Mohawk Bend.  Keith, not known as a shy guy, takes credit for prodding Mohawk Bend owner Tony Yannow to build out a giant 10,000-square-foot restaurant and brew pub instead of a more modest 2,000-square foot eatery. Mohawk Bend is designed with Echo Park in mind, Keith told the Weekly:

Keith used exposed plywood for everything from tables to toilets, evoking the DIY spirit of the starving-artist customers he wanted to attract. “I can see going into somebody’s apartment in Echo Park, and they would have a plywood couch,” he says.

Keith also built the Hindu-inspired style interior of Naya, the recently remodeled Silver Lake restaurant, and convinced the owners to make their Indian food less ethnic and more mainstream, said the Weekly. The result are samosas stuffed with nacho cheese.

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  1. Not everyone who lives in Echo Park is a starving artist. Damn hipsters…

  2. Starving artists cant afford Mohawk Bend.

  3. Oh puh-leeze , the days of starving artists in Echo Park is all but over !
    Starving artists dont drive audis rovers and mercedes and buy upwards of $500,000 houses .
    Starving artists cant shop at stores that sell 40 dollar t-shirts and 10 dollar vegan tacos .

  4. i don’t think anyone is buying 500k houses in EP; we never graduated to that status. but if anyone wants to buy my plywood couch (and matching ottoman), hit me up at Iheartplywood@gmail

    • Roughly half of the homes currently listed for sale in Echo Park are above 500k, and there’s plenty of million dollar homes in the Echo Park hills.

      The gentrification happened many many years ago. The people complaining loudest about it now are landlords sitting on a fat payday when the market comes back. They just don’t want anyone messing with their investments.

  5. Bootleg Theater was waaaaay ahead of this “trend”

  6. I think it’s much more likely that a starving artist would find cheap furniture on Craigslist than make something out of plywood. That said, I thought the design of the Mohawk Bend’s bathrooms (plywood all over, covered with some sort of clear laquer) was very creative and interesting.

  7. Bathrooms that were plywood all over, covered with clear lacquer were a fixture of the now closed and missed Broadway Deli, 3rd st Promenade, Santa Monica. Plenty of houses selling for 5, 6, & 700K in Echo Park.

  8. this guy is proud of designing mohawk bend. . . ha, ha, ha . . . seriously?

    strangely, mowhawk bend is the design equivalent of talking an indian restraunt into making thier food less ethnic with the addition of nacho cheese.

  9. Naya is a blander, still as expensive version of Tantra. No Thanks. If that influence is his, he should stay away from restaurants.

  10. While there’s a sprinkling of audi’s and rovers around here (echo park, SL, etc.), it’s NOTHING like the westside where it seems even your server at the bar/restaurant drives a audi/rover.

    Take a drive down any random echo park/SL residential street and you won’t see it littered with audi/rovers, ‘cos the cars on those streets are owned by people who actually live here. The audi/rover/bimmer/MB’s are mostly coming from outside of the eastside.

  11. The only person I know that owns a range rover lives in santa monica, lol.

  12. It’s unclear if it was Keith or the Weekly writer who had the silly idea that plywood reflects a “starving artist” DIY aesthetic. FWIW, plywood has long been a signature of Frank Gehry (check out the bar at REDCAT in Disney Hall), and is also a favorite material of other local architects, including Barbara Bestor.

  13. It is important to note that while plywood is very unhealthywhen used indoors in an exposed visual fashion – especially as flooring or walls. Plywood is a significant source of formaldehyde as it is made using adhesives that contain urea-formaldehyde (UF) resins. You do not want your baby crawling over a plywood floor and you certainly don’t want to be breathing it indoors for a length of time. When I see plywood used this way I think “invisible chemical fumes”.

    • Typo alert – please ignore “while” in the first sentence. Thanks.

      • The plywood is varnished/resin’d at Mohawk, does that seal it enough?

        I mean, wood floors are usually just nailed to plywood under them, is that not to code?

        • @fleaman-

          Re Mohawk’s varnished/resined plywood, if the plywood is visible, then it is a hazard.

          Wood flooring covers the plywood so it is not visible (see above).

          Any direct contact with exposed plywood, however varnished, exposes you to a health risk from formaldeyde. This includes breathing indoors where the invisible formadehyde fumes are trapped in a room. Designers like Mr. Keith tend to be hip visual guys, not environmentally hip green guys.

          • Wood flooring doesn’t ‘seal’ the vapors from the plywood. Certainly a varnished/resined ply is way more ‘sealed’ than strips of wood flooring nailed to plywood.
            I guess I just don’t get the logic of this?

  14. Hopefully a tree will fall on this guy’s ego.

    • It would be more fitting if he were crushed by a distressed-wood beam falling out of the ceiling of Anthropologie while he was cruising for “new ideas.” Or smashed beneath an overturned truck of Pier One wicker baskets. Or knocked in the head with a coffee table book of plywood architecture from the 60’s.

      But a falling tree would also be acceptable.

  15. I just used plywood to build a wall in my house because I didn’t wan to deal with all the problems associated with drywall (not just chinese, folks- le sigh) nor am I particularly comfortable with the practice of making Sheetrock with recycled “plant waste” (this is not vegetable, this is coal plant waste). I purchased formaldehyde-free birch ply called “PureBond” from a company called Columbia forest products. This is available at some home depots or they can order it for you but it is finish grade ply so not so cheap (also lots of lumber yards carry it). Most plywood from home depot is Georgia Pacific plywood, as is their sheetrock, this company is owned by the nefarious Koch brothers, who I try not to support. There are wallboard alternatives on the market horizon but hard to find for small projects at the moment.

  16. sucks that anytime someone does something artistic, productive, and cool with there life it then get’s picked apart and ridiculed by the discussion board warriors. perhaps these places should of stayed abandoned or remodeled by someone with home depot taste ? perhaps the skilled labor that built should of stayed home and been unemployed? perhaps people shouldn’t have a choice to go to a new spot in EP?

  17. Plywood used as a predominant visual material is nothing new;
    The architects all over VENICE BEACH in the 80’s were using it in their so called Deconstructive Architecture and made quite a splash, but in 2011 it seems a bit passe…..

  18. This is hardly something original. Even the Chipotle in downtown LA has exposed plywood all over…

    And who else?

    Urban Outfitters, of course.


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