Restaurant Development & Design

MAR-APR 2018.

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3 8 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 8 ONCE UPON A RESTAURANT worn by Amelia Earhart. The designer's job is in part to inspire clients and help them shape their story as a multilayered, non-literal experience, Gapinski notes. Once an overall direction is agreed upon, she begins that process with a broad, concept-image presentation to share ideas about what can be done with the space and to suggest an overall design direction that speaks to their vision while steering clear of overt themes. For the Chantilly Mellow Mushroom, the team compiled and reviewed historical and iconic images of flight for inspiration. "We started pulling from elements that we saw in those images and discussing how we could create a space that looks like the interior of an airplane hangar without being too literal," Gapinski says. The Mellow Mushroom in Roanoke, Va., had a very different story to tell. There, the narrative is all about celebrat- ing the 1970s — the owners' favorite era and a natural tie-in with the time period in which the brand was born. That design features wood panel- ing on the walls, Panton-esque bubble mirrors on the ceiling, lots of color, and hand-painted psychedelic murals on the exterior and interior. The tables and chairs are plastic laminate, and there's lots of chrome. One feature wall displays a large '70s-style beer can collection. "When you walk in, you feel like you're in the '70s again," Gapinski says. That said, the team again took pains to not go too far. Many elements that would have clearly said '70s — such as shag carpeting, earth tones, avocado green and harvest gold, for example — were rejected in favor of a lighter touch and more up-to-date aesthetic. "Ulti- mately, while we wanted to convey the '70s story, we didn't want it to look just like the 70s," Gapinski says. "People do want to have updated spaces, not themey spaces." Sequels Need Fresh Creative While new restaurants with new owners' vi- sions present the opportunity to tell unique stories, designers are often challenged to create sequels. Such was the case for Maggie O'Neill and the team at Washing- ton, D.C.-based Swatchroom when asked to design Pennsylvania 6 in D.C. An offshoot of the original Pennsyl- vania 6 in New York City, an American brasserie and raw bar inspired by the city's historical Hotel Pennsylvania, the D.C. restaurant would carry the same brand narrative but with fresh design ele- ments to appeal to the D.C. market. "There are so many seemingly little things and layers that go into successful- ly telling a story through design," O'Neill says. "But the first challenge is figuring out whether the client really understands and can articulate their concept. Many times, they haven't thought about things like how the bar top will feel on your elbows or the sound that high heels will make on the floor, or even what combi- nations of materials they respond to. In such cases, we start very broad and work our way down to specific elements that will best help tell the story." Such was not the case with Penn- sylvania 6 D.C. Based on the first unit, its owners already had a clear vision. But its success depended on bringing a well- known brand with rich, historical ties to a famous hotel in New York to a new city with no nostalgic connections. "Why should Washingtonians care about that hotel or this concept? That was the big challenge," O'Neill says. To meet it, the team focused ini- tially on layout, ensuring that custom- ers get a clear sense of the concept's plotline immediately upon entering the 9,000-square-foot restaurant. Within view from the entry is a 70-foot central bar topped with marble and clad in oak paneling. Sightlines also lead to a large raw bar and open kitchen, communal tables and intimate booth seating in the bar, a signature red lacquered wine cabi- net, and multiple areas for both public and private dining. "The owners wanted it to be very clear to guests what's available to them within 30 seconds. They also wanted to emphasize major points of profitability and distinction — the bar, raw bar, wine program and private event capabilities," O'Neill says. "So form and function in that way established the foundation for the narrative. The layout drove much of what they wanted to communicate." From there, the design team focused on conveying the essence of the Pennsylvania 6 brand in ways that would resonate with the D.C. market while staying true to its DNA. Located on the ground floor of an iconic corner office building in the city's East End district, three blocks from the White House, it's ideally positioned to play host to politicos and power brokers as well as to The design narrative at Mellow Mushroom in Midlo- thian, Va., began with the owners' desire for a space with a warm, natural, organic look and feel. Image courtesy of Chris Cunningham Laminate furniture, Panton-esque mirrors on the ceiling and psychedelic murals create the 1970s- era story that the Roanoke, Va., Mellow Mushroom franchisee wanted to tell with his business. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Sauers

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