Alexander Girard’s brightly colored textiles for Herman Miller earned him recognition, but it was his interiors for the flamboyant Latin-American restaurant La Fonda del Sol in 1961 that brought him international acclaim.
Located in mid-town Manhattan in the Time & Life building, Girard designed almost every aspect of La Fonda—from the menus to the matchbooks, tiles, murals—and even the uniforms.
Suns, a favorite motif of Girard’s, greeted guests at every turn. A large sun was the focal point of the restaurant’s entrance, a gilded sun of wood and mirrored glass was prominently displayed over the adobe-covered bar, and suns could be found on buttons, tablecloths, and incorporated in other graphics.
One of the few things that Girard didn’t design was the seating. For this, he turned to his friends Charles and Ray Eames, asking them to create a chair with a backrest that did not rise above the tabletop, giving the space uninterrupted sightlines. A variation of the Eameses’ popular molded plastic chair, the aptly named La Fonda chair sat on a special cast aluminum base. While designed for the restaurant, the chair was soon mass-produced and widely used in both offices and homes.