Patachou Restaurants Have Gotten Edgier. Here’s How.

Martha Hoover geeks out on her vision for the design of each of her restaurants, guided by a few key rules.
Photo courtesy of Cafe Patachou

THE COLOR of the new Cafe Patachou in the Stutz Building is Sherwin-Williams Halcyon Green, a restful green-gray that skews dusty blue in a certain light. Patachou owner Martha Hoover has used it in every bedroom in her homes for 40 years and leaned on the hue to anchor her two latest openings, the Stutz location and the Zionsville Patachou that debuted in August.

“Restaurants, to me, are about transporting people,” Hoover says. She is the lead designer on all Patachou restaurants, working in collaboration with Delv Design architectural designers, Zesco for kitchen layouts, Jennie Hanson-Slaff of Calico Corners for draperies and upholstery, Robyn Harder of RK Florals, and other craftspeople. Construction on a Fishers location is underway. Design is one of her passions, and it’s as much a part of Patachou’s success as high-quality ingredients and exquisite service. There is a signature Patachou ambiance—chic, relaxed, friendly—if not a look.

“The goal is for the customer to know, without literally knowing, that they’re at a Patachou restaurant,” Hoover says. “The style of service, the style of food, but also the ambiance. There’s something about ambiance that you can’t always describe using words. You get [it] in your gut.”

One guiding principle is avoiding clutter and chaos. Restaurants are naturally bustling places, and Hoover, who hates messiness, tamps down the visual noise with restrained design. There’s drama, but no tension is created by having a lot of stuff (even artwork). That’s one reason most Patachou restaurants have banquettes—they create order and reduce the number of tables and chairs that can be moved around.

Over the years, Hoover has evolved Patachou’s monochromatic leanings to include more color, cheeky winks, and some edge, like the bookshelf at the Stutz location curated with feminist themes. It’s no accident that a spine reading “Wild Sex” in large lettering is front and center. The floras in glass cloches on the shelf add dashes of elegance, while murals with neon bears bring in whimsy and attitude. Are they a nod to pot edibles? Maybe, Hoover said in an Instagram video. But they’re mainly a reference to the gummies that another of Hoover’s enterprises, Bar One Fourteen, used to serve.

On the eve of the opening of the Stutz location, Hoover met with us in the cafe’s private dining room—a first for a Patachou restaurant—and discussed the design intention behind each of her eateries.

Cafe Patachou, 49th and Penn

Photo courtesy Cafe Patachou

The original Patachou, opened in 1989 in a different space in the same building, moved a few doors down when Hamaker Pharmacy moved out. Hoover always loved the corner doors and large windows. Most Patachou locations are in a building with some history, which always informs the design. Here, the timeless black and white color scheme speaks to the building’s vintage charm.

Cafe Patachou, Zionsville

Photo courtesy Cafe Patachou

The palette is similar to the Stutz location with Halcyon Green, black, and cream, but it’s more intimate and leans into the village feel, Hoover says. The brown overhead lamps are made from saddle leather, a nod to the area’s equestrian culture.

Cafe Patachou, River Crossing

One of the older locations, this design is due for a facelift soon. One item that will always remain in every Patachou is the coffee mug tree—actually a rack for drying champagne bottles, part of the company’s French influence from day one. “That’s an example of threading the needle with something familiar,” Hoover says. They are hard to find. She snaps them up on antiquing websites and plans to start having them made for the restaurants.

Cafe Patachou, Stutz Building

Photo courtesy Cafe Patachou

Hoover loved the direction that redevelopers took with the Stutz Building honoring its history as a car factory and wanted to be part of it. Full-height velvet curtains and oversized florals set an elegant tone against the industrial column, and Hoover chose the light fixtures because they felt consistent with the 1912 building’s period—like they could be gaslit. And she loves the glow. “They throw this gold light that makes everyone look beautiful,” she says.

Bar One Fourteen

Photo courtesy Cafe Patachou

The private event space has the moodiest atmosphere of the Patachou family. The sexy 350-square-foot hideout was Hoover’s favorite place to design, and she wanted the dark den to feel like “a bat cave,” creating mystery when you enter. Once your eyes adjust to the darkness, the space reveals itself and transports you to another place. The banquettes are upholstered in mohair, and the cabinetry feels residential. “It feels to me like you might not want to leave for a very long time,” Hoover says.

Petite Chou Bistro and Champagne Bar, Broad Ripple

Photo courtesy Cafe Patachou

The colorful interior captures the verve and panache of a French bistro. “You can sink into it and feel transported,” Hoover says. “I bought the graphic prints on the wall in Paris. The antiquey tables wouldn’t work in a Patachou. Customers notice details like that.”

Napolese Pizzeria, 49th and Penn

Photo courtesy Cafe Patachou

A redesign introduces dramatic, Rembrandt-esque floral wallcoverings. “There’s no reason to eat pizza in an ugly space,” Hoover says. “Pizza and salad deserve the same respect [that high-end food does].”

Apocalypse Burger

Photo courtesy Cafe Patachou

“Snarky, fun, good. Just clean, modern design,” Hoover says.