MILA by The White Apron

Exeter, NH

A dream becomes reality through our innovative architecture and elevated interior design approach

After years growing their high-end catering business, Jay and Liz Curio, chef owners of the acclaimed White Apron, dreamed of finding a space where they could host their signature events and lavish weddings without having to operate from an off-site kitchen.

The space would need to comfortably welcome parties of up to 200 and, because special events by nature are so personal, it needed to be beautiful but also customizable for any occasion. A stunning but simply elegant venue that people could make their own with florals, linens, decor—the focus being on the bride, people, and food, rather than a wall color. They wanted each event to define the space, not the other way around.

Around this time, a private social club in historic downtown Exeter became available. Despite being a fantastic location, stylistically it was a dramatic contrast to the Curio’s vision. The visually vivacious members-only club, with its numerous small gathering rooms, rich colorful wallpapers, and intimate pink grapefruit cocktail bar, was fascinating and fun—but all wrong for our clients.

Well-versed in adaptive reuse design and involved in several other projects in the southern New Hampshire town, Winter Holben was the obvious choice to help turn the former club into the open, elegant, “sexy” destination the Curio’s were craving. With a clear vision of the quality and atmosphere they wanted, we helped make their dream a reality through our innovative architecture and elevated interior design approach.

Our challenge wasn’t limited to opening up the interior space to accommodate large groups or reconfiguring the floor plan to accommodate their state-of-the-art kitchen. It was also the more nuanced task of ensuring that the couple’s warmth and exquisite hospitality was infused into the large function rooms which might otherwise feel cold and cavernous.

With this in mind, lighting, paint colors and fixture details became critically important. Thoughtfully positioned tubular pendant lights, reminiscent of paper lanterns along a romantic evening path, intersperse geometric ceiling panels and beautifully illuminate the room. A modern black and crystal chandelier for the formal entry adds sophistication and just a hint of whimsy. Sculptural sound panels soften the acoustics and masterfully frame the rooms.

Softly glowing light fixtures and neutral paint in shades of warm gray, the palest rose, and warm golden white exude calm and become undeniably chic when contrasted against the sharp black trim around the expanse of windows. All lighting throughout the building is intentionally diffused and set at the same color temperature to further enhance the cohesive environment. A 20-by-25-foot feature wall with a shimmering finish was hand painted by a Venetian plaster artist, and just beyond the expanse of windows and French doors which lead to the patio stands a candlelit stone wall to compliment the scene.

The Bridal Suite luxuriates in soothing colors and fixtures inviting guests to relax, get ready, or share a quiet, spa-inspired moment. Generously sized backlit mirrors add glamour and airiness while softly draped windows allow the option of natural light. A nearby bath suite includes a spacious powder room area, white tiled walls, and a shower. In the entryway, visitors pass a welcoming, oval windowed coat room, complete with a dutch door for occasions when an attendant is requested.

The exterior stayed largely the same with the exception of a stately custom iron pergola—an edgy contrast to the gabled structure and sure to deliver dramatic arrival moments. The entryway feature is not just for fabulous photo opportunities - it also provides privacy for residential units above. Artfully placed slats allow sunlight and views, but ensure a definite separation between second floor tenants and first floor guests.

There is nothing quite like MILA by The White Apron, a space that reflects what is important to our clients and what they offer: amazing food, warm hospitality, flexibility and a great party!

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Project Team

  • Client MILA by The White Apron 
  • Project Architect Brandon Holben, AIA | LEED
  • Construction Manager Martini Northern
MILA Image template 2023 v3

Welcome to MILA by The White Apron
Photo courtesy MILA by The White Apron, Melissa Koren Photography

WINTER HOLBEN MILA Image template 2023 3 v3

Jay and Liz Curio
Photo courtesy MILA by The White Apron, Melissa Koren Photography

WINTER HOLBEN MILA Image template 2023 2 v2

Dining Room detail
Photo courtesy MILA by The White Apron, Melissa Koren Photography

MILA Rendering 1

Bridal Suite (left), Main Dining Room (right)
Photo courtesy MILA by The White Apron, Melissa Koren Photography

MILA Rendering 2