What do you get when you combine London's contemporary charisma with traditional Sienesene charm? You get Ave Mario, the latest member of Big Mamma's celebrated restaurant trio that allures interior and culinary enthusiasts across the city.
With its distinct Venician jewels and a colour scheme modelled from the red of the Pope's slippers, Ave Mario is the unorthodox new source of modern decorating ideas that you need to know about. Here, designer Apolline Lugger and the KIKI Design Studio team share their secrets.
1. Soften bold colours by adding layers of texture to the paint
We wanted to create the feeling of entering the Duomo di Siena: authentic, punchy, beautiful, multi-layered Italian interiors, unpredictable, and always with a surprise. The cathedral-style stripes in the main dining hall are cool rather than overpowering because the shade of green is not garish – in fact, it's so rich and dark it often looks black.
It's a heritage paint by Dulux – Mallard Green (opens in new tab) offset with Piano White (opens in new tab). If you're going for big colors, then showing texture within the paint finish helps to soften them. We used layers and layers of thick, glossy paint and left visible brush strokes. This gives the space more character and appears less serious and stark.
2. Use traditional pattern to contrast with modern design
The backroom resembles more of an al-fresco, courtyard style of dining. Here, the gingham table cloths not only offset the terracotta flooring and outdoorsy style banquettes, but they also bring some Tuscan warmth and old Italian charm on a grey, cold London day.
Marbles and ceramic finishes look chic but can make a room feel cold, but traditional fabrics warm up hard finishes. Trattoria Gingham is a classic and timeless design, but when balanced with more contemporary features – such as the mirrored ceiling – it looks cool rather than old fashioned.
3. Let drink become decor
The bottles on walls is a signature look that we have in all the Big Mamma restaurants, which include Circolo Popolare and Gloria; we love the colors, chaos, and Italian charm they bring to shelves.
We use a mix of vintage, undrinkable bottles of liquor and classic brands such as Aperol, Limoncello, and Campari, as the reds and yellows create a cozy glow. Our shelves are always designed with the height of bottles in mind; they're beautifully lit and always Italian. This is the modern dining room idea we never knew we needed, until now.
4. Embrace unexpected shapes
We designed the unique banquette sofa ourselves to bring a joyful 1970's groove to the space.
The room would be too serious if it only showcased straight lines. We worked with various French fabric houses and mills in North London to create the perfect orange for the room – from its tone and texture to its durability. It's playful, matches the carpet – and if everyone in the restaurant were to dance on it – it would survive.
The white chairs are Saarinen-inspired – this retro neo-futurist design is perfect for the basement. They are great dining chairs with pedestals, so customers can spin around and chat with others – this vibe translates exactly to dinner parties at home because they mean guests can freely talk to people on either side.
5. Source authentic accessories
We love to mix classic design with a twist and always add plenty of layers of love – for example – our collection of Italian Holiday magazine covers from the 1970s, genuine postcards from Italy, and old-school Fiorucci ads.
We also chose custom bistro rattan courtyard chairs by Parisian makers Maison Drucker. Every chair is a love affair – they should be beautiful, comfy, and practical. Our lights, pendants, and globes are handcrafted in Venice from Murano factories that have operated for centuries. Always go authentic in your search for accessories.
Megan is a News Writer across Future Plc’s homes titles, including Livingetc and Homes & Gardens. As a News Writer, she often focuses on micro-trends, wellbeing, celebrity-focused pieces, and everything IKEA.
Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and expansive collection of houseplants.
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