By Annette M. Callari, Allied ASID; CMG
I am on the road again–this time traveling on the East Coast to Rochester, New York. A cousin of mine just opened a new upscale wine bar in Rochester and invited me to come see it while I was in town. Of course, I said yes, wanting to see how the interiors turned out. I was praying it would be a good design, because as a professional designer, I cannot lie. I might be courteously quiet, but I cannot lie about design. Here’s the good news. I didn’t have to be conspicuously quiet because it was very well done. Let me share some of the elements with you and tell you why they worked.
INTERIOR DESIGN SHOULD BE RESPECTFUL OF THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE BUILDING
This beautiful building was originally purposed as a bank, dating back to the early 1920’s. The exterior had beautiful Palladian (arched) windows, set into the original red-brick façade. Cousin Louie settled on turning the interior into an elegant Art Deco space. Art Deco was high-fashion for interiors of the 1920’s through the 1930’s, so a great choice!
RESEARCH THE ERA OF DESIGN YOU ARE STRIVING TO REPLICATE
If you can’t make the interior look authentic to the period of design you’ve chosen, hire a professional to help. Especially if you are investing heavily in transforming a space (whether residential or retail), authenticity is important. Art Deco was a glamorous design mode. Lavish fabrics, with elaborate trims were important. Our subject wine bar (called “Brass”) brought this element to life with floor to ceiling midnight-blue velvet draperies trimmed with custom fringe. The panels were tied back to give a cozy feel to the interior and let in lamplight from the East Avenue street lamps outside.
Also a trademark of the era, bold geometric patterns helped defined Art Deco. The broadloom carpet chosen for the space was gray, blue and black in a large grid pattern. It looked like carpet tiles, but I was assured it was commercial grade broadloom, specifically chosen for this design. Not every family member approved of the bold zigzag upholstery paired with black leather for the booth seating, but this was a “home run” choice. Again true to the Deco era, a bit of shock value was always a good thing. The colors reflected what was in the carpet, but on a much bolder scale. Nice!
LIGHTING NEEDS TO SUIT THE TASK
As you might guess, the lighting for a wine bar (craft beers and cocktails too of course) would be especially important. The lighting system was complex, adjustable by multiple switches. Several levels of lighting were all on dimmer switches to allow for mood lighting. Add to the ambient lighting this special touch: electric blue LED rope lighting highlighted the interior architecture. Picture each of the grand arched windows outlined with recessed blue lights. It draws you in and creates a luxurious blueaura at the same time. From the outside, you are drawn to the building as it appears to have an inviting glow. Color and lighting are powerful! Use it to your best advantage as you redesign your own setting. By the way, this lighting system was programmed to be multi-chromatic. Color can be changed to suit the occasion.
More than I can say, accessories can transform a space. I already mentioned the eight high-arched windows in this space. EACH was complemented with a low table (sill height) with an art-deco shaded lamp on each table. The result was amazing. Homey, warm, yet elegant was the goal and it was accomplished. One signature of the Art Deco style was use of decorative mirrors. Needless to say, the classical style mahogany bar was bejeweled with beautiful etched and beveled mirrors the entire length of the bar. Reflecting the soft glow of the blue lights around the windows was an added advantage. A stunning touch: the entire ceiling was clad in beveled mirrored tiles.
HIGH TRAFFIC AREAS NEED SPECIAL ATTENTION
The carpeted area beneath the low tables and bench seating was perfect. Acoustics are especially important in a gathering place like Brass, and the carpet helps absorb sound. Especially if you have high ceilings (these were 20 foot high beveled-mirrored ceilings), sound will bounce and distract from easyconversation if you don’t take steps to neutralize it.
Travertine-look porcelain tiles were chosen to run the length of the bar from the front portal to the back exit. Spills are inevitable if serving food and drinks, so again, a good choice. With such a high-end ambience, you might ask why Louie didn’t use real travertine. It’s expensive, it’s very porous and will stain easily, and he needed something easily cleaned. Porcelain tile was the perfect choice.
EXTERIOR DESIGN EQUATES TO ‘CURB APPEAL’
Roped stanchions, a plush red carpet, lamplight shining out onto the street, all read, “you are welcome here”. Art Deco was synonymous with Hollywood glamour, and to complete the setting, these special touches were pure Hollywood. Louie thought he might keep the props only for the grand opening, but this designer highly recommended he make it a weekly occurrence on the weekends. Exciting interiors are announced by what your exterior says. Curb appeal is a reality not only for homes but businesses as well.
I think I have highlighted the major elements that offer some sound design “take-aways” for you. In this world where there is not enough attention paid to fine interior design, it’s refreshing to see an establishment proudly dressed in high fashion. Nothing left to say except “well done”!