Completed in 2006, the courtyard at Chai’s Lounge and Tapas is a 2,000 square foot outdoor courtyard addition to an existing restaurant and bar on King Street, one of the main shopping and nightlife streets of downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The courtyard location is right on the sidewalk and is flanked by 2-story brick and stucco walls on each side. The goal was to design an outdoor partially covered bar, dining and lounge area, with an inviting decorative wall & fence along the sidewalk to draw people in, and a fountain focal piece to add the soothing sound of water to the space. The courtyard is designed to hold a capacity of 100 people. A mixture of wood, metal, concrete and glass was used to create a contemporary and sophisticated atmosphere, while lush landscaping and well-placed lighting were used to bring the space to life.
The exposure to the sidewalk allowed the opportunity to create a very unique front wall assembly that would attract passersby and draw them into the space. While the materials used to create this assembly are typical to Charleston’s historic fabric, the way that the wall assembly was designed created a unique and modern use of the materials. The assembly starts with an elegant custom-designed wood and glass double entry gate. One gate is a more solid pattern of wood with an asian touch, and the other is a wood and glass panel that allows for filtered views into the courtyard. Both of these gate panels open and neatly tuck into custom designed side nooks to become finished side wall panels. A glass canopy over the gates cantilevers out over the sidewalk to provide an inviting entry.
Adjacent to the wood and glass gates is a custom-designed poured concrete wall made to emulate large blocks of white travertine stone. This wall provides a solid definition to the edge of the sidewalk and a layer of privacy for the courtyard, while creating a dramatic feature on the sidewalk that marks the courtyard and holds the signage. The wall is split vertically up the center and then opens up to create a hole where a curved metal sign floats in the opening. A pipe rises up in the vertical slot and holds a gas lamp that shines through the rear of the signage providing an element of movement that catches the eye along the sidewalk.
Along the rest of the sidewalk is a rust colored fence that has a very organic design meant to emulate tropical grasses, and is heavily planted with lush landscaping directly behind which allows filtered views into and out of the courtyard, and establishes a dialog between the public and private space.
One enters the space through the gates and is first led through a path of bamboo to the host stand which is covered with a wood and glass canopy attached to the rear of the fountain wall. One is then led through the courtyard via a meandering brick pathway with square recessed paver lights. The path wraps around the fountain focal piece, which is made of the same poured concrete to emulate large blocks of white travertine stone. The back wall of the fountain opens up to create a “frame” to hold a sculpture resting on stone slab. Water pours from below the slab into a small pond, where one can sit on the edges.
The path then leads the visitor thru the rest of the uncovered dining and lounge areas which are surrounded by bamboo, ivy and palm trees to create a cozy and tropical atmosphere and natural canopies and shade. The meandering path finally leads under the exposed wood canopy structure that provides shelter for the bar and lounge spaces.
In the evening, the dimly lit atmosphere is accented with uplights at the columns, well-placed landscape lighting, and the recessed paver lights which dot the path as it winds thru the courtyard and continues into thru the bar, fusing the covered and uncovered space into one.