Restaurant makeovers are always exciting endeavours, each one unique in its own way and offering its own rewards and challenges. Today, part 2 of our behind-the-scenes look at a restaurant makeover recently completed by Punch Inside, the design firm for which I am Founder and Creative Director.
Last week, I introduced you to Saint John, New Brunswick’s Opera Bistro, which was about to undergo a major transformation resulting in a fresh, new look.
We approached the new interior design for Opera Bistro with four main objectives:
- The materials used in the commercial design would involved lots of natural elements (after all, we New Brunswickers have a proud tradition as hewers of wood).
- The artwork would be entirely original, especially created for the Bistro by established, local visual artists.
- Other materials would be inexpensive, everyday materials, designed and used in creative ways.
- All of the purchased décor items would pay tribute to established and recognized industrial designers.
I should mention, parenthetically, that objective #4 proved a natural fit for Punch Inside: We are preparing to launch our own design and décor studio, TUCK, here in Saint John in June 2012. Opera Bistro features the work of many of the designers we carry, thus acting as a wonderful showcase for our new studio.
What We Did
- We repainted every available surface in the restaurant in three principal colours: black, white, charcoal (ceiling).
- We chose to use the existing light cord kits but varied the pattern of placement to subvert the linearity of the prior arrangement. Additionally, we changed the seating pattern to complement the less-rigid pattern of the lights.
- We used tattered and yellowed page sheets torn from old music books (purchased from the second-hand store Loyalist City Coins & Books); we found similar renewed purpose in paintings, frames, in the papier-mâché, and as parts of birch mobiles. It’s one of the makeover aspects we’re most pleased with, as it involves an element inspired by Opera Bistro’s name.
- Lampshades in various sizes (Normann Copenhagen Norm 06, through TUCK Studio), were installed to create warmth [images above].
- Wall-mounted chalkboards, corkboards and paintings act as complementary backdrops [images above].
Décor elements. Top left: bird hangers (iHanna), framed with hand-built corkboards; artwork by Punch Inside team members Amy Ash and Sarah Tapley; hand-built chalk board acts as backdrop for framed opera sheet; silver runner on table (Chilewich, through TUCK Studio); Top right: electric fireplace (Dimplex, at Alternatives) inside a yellow birch surround, fabricated on site; Bottom right: chalkboard (masonite, covered with Benjamin Moore latex chalkboard paint), with hand-drawn chalk script behind wooden sculptures (David Weeks) and Distortion Candlesticks for Areaware (Paul Loebach, through TUCK Studio); shelves (IKEA); Bottom left: artwork, chalkboards and corkboards in expanded detail (hanging shelf on corkboard by Brothers Dressler and bronze sculptures by Anna Karlin, both through TUCK Studio).
The new entrance. This updated space introduces customers to what they will experience on the inside. The yellow birch panel adds warmth to the drama of the black wall, against which the antique opera sheets in frames really pop. Sculptural-looking alder branches (found in our backyard!) were simply painted white, behind birch branches in basket. Two industrial design pieces — Longhorn ‘Tex’ from Cardboard Safari and “In the Right Light” (Rich, Brilliant, Willing for Artecnica, through TUCK Studio) — introduce a polished finish that acts as counterpoint to the rustic elements. Photo right: a close-up shot of wood papier-mâché with opera sheet music.
More décor elements. Tattered, yellowed music sheets in original-design birch mobiles serve as counterpoint to the modern, industrial, polished surface and shape of Rich, Brilliant, Willing’s “Bright Side Lights” series for Artecnica (TUCK Studio). Replacing the loud orange and green lamp shades allows the birch mobiles to be seen act as a ‘musical’ installation over the counters.
Highlighting the kitchen. We designed a new steel wall (installed by First Choice Ventilation to “frame” the chefs while they work. The treated galvanized steel brings an industrial feel to the work space. Chef/owner Axel Begner (right) appears to be in his own live cooking show.
A new piano? Remember the nondescript piano — that clot of brown? We simply painted it white and the bench black and structured its design by placing framed music sheets on the front, whimsical silver vases (Tord Boonjte “Thinking of You,” through TUCK Studio) and cut birch on the top, to tie in the colour and textures that flow through the new-look Bistro. Right: Original artwork created in resin and handmade frames accompanied by Cardboard Safari’s “Bucky” Deer Trophy, Normann Copenhagen Norm 06 lights and black lighthouse. Completing the look are Chilewich faux bois table runners (TUCK Studio).
Original artwork. Punch Inside’s Amy Ash and Sarah Tapley developed various mixed media pieces especially for Opera Bistro; their creations include stencils and cutouts of the letters ‘o’ and ‘b,’ using birch, drop clothes for canvas, and paper covered in epoxy resin.
More décor elements. Top left: “Bank in the form of a pig” by Harry Allen for Areaware (TUCK Studio); Top right: A Hand Hook “Offer” by Harry Allen for Areaware (TUCK Studio) holds a silver marker for guests to sign the wall on the pillar on the way out; Bottom right: detail of mixed media artwork; Bottom left: Tord Boontje’s “Thinking of You” vase sits in the window on a pressed “Dahlia” silver placemat by Chilewich (TUCK Studio).
Coming in May: DIY tips for how you can create inexpensive, impactful spaces in your home or office, based on the vignettes we created for Opera Bistro!
Special thanks to: Amy Ash, Sarah Tapley, Tom Walker, Bob Downey, Robyn Mackin, Robert Moore, Gillian Goldie, Mark Hemmings and Reynolds Electric — and, of course, Marget and Axel Begner for the design opportunity.