Chef/Owner Johnny Spero is one of the most personable and unique figures in DC’s dining scene. When he approached us to execute the interior design for his newest venture Bar Spero, we wanted to craft a space that both reflects the seriousness of his time in Spanish kitchens and his playful nature.
With Bar Spero’s seafood menu reflecting a creative American spin on his roots in Basque cuisine, we pulled inspiration from a Spanish emphasis on simple shows of pristine ingredients as part of the guest experience, with refrigerated displays setting the tone behind the host stand and bar. It’s a large space with lofty ceilings, but with carving out a lower bar adjacent to the kitchen, Bar Spero has the focused energy of a boisterous Basque dining bar while tables ringing the window line allow for a more languid experience. The interior, like the food, is elemental and distinct, separating itself from the unadventurous dining rooms of DC’s past and present.
Keeping the space clean but warm, a simple palette of blonde woods, toffee leather and cotton velvet seating, and dramatic oceanic drapery keep the space soft and natural while hand painted glazes on thousands of custom Red Rock Tileworks hex tiles around the bar give a visual variety to a crisp material.
The LED ‘mountain ranges’ are the defining visual feature of the space, standing up to the height of the space and anchoring seating groups while giving Bar Spero a visual signature both within the restaurant and from the adjacent high traffic avenue. The ribbed glass panes show movement in the kitchen but obscure the staff, peeling back only to highlight the hearth as the centerpiece of the kitchen.
The bathroom design is an ode to Johnny Spero’s playful side and one of his favorite fashion statements—his beloved Pit Viper sunglasses.
Bar Spero has opened to wide acclaim, including editorial features in Eater DC, Thrillist, and the Washingtonian. Streetsense’s design was touted in Hospitality Design, recognized for giving the bar and restaurant its status as “a convivial and eclectic social hub influenced by the Basque seafood fare on its menu.”