Did the Rustic Root ownership have a clearly defined vision for the restaurant design?
Their vision was based more on the food and showcasing the fine talents of Chef Antonio Friscia. The food concept was based on home style comfort food re-imagined with a creative twist. Therefore our goal was to create a space that would be warm, inviting, and with a living room feel. But at the same time, we wanted to create a space was funky where you can sit for a while and discover new things every time.
How much creative leeway were you and your team given on the RR project?
We have been working with RMD for a very long time. They are masters at operational and functional design, and we have created a relationship where we have flexibility and creative freedom that compliments what their team has to offer. We are kind of like the left and right brain couple that has fallen in love.
Where there any design elements that you had to “sell” to the client?
We had to convince our clients that hanging hundreds of industrial colanders from the ceiling and turning them into a light fixture would be possible and at the same time functional for lighting the tables.
Who did what on your team?
At Davis Ink, we all work together equally sharing ideas, concepts, and solutions. We like to think of ourselves as a family that is just having fun coming up with great ideas.
What were your major sources of inspiration for the look of RR?
The menu consisted of a variety of game meats as well as farm fresh foods, this created an interesting juxtaposition and opportunity for our design. How do you relate a cow to a forest, or an elk to a farm? This became our creative narrative. We therefore made the space filled with funny surprises that are not immediately noticeable. For example, the custom staircase mural transitioning from the downstairs restaurant to the rooftop has a mix of random farm animals placed throughout a mossy forest.
What were some things you tried to avoid in your design?
We wanted to avoid predictability and we wanted to avoid a one-dimensional space where everything would be experienced immediately, leaving nothing for future visits.
Tell me about some of the more unique/unusual elements and materials you used.
We tried to use food-related objects, the kind of things you would find in grandma’s house and transformed them into architectural elements such as lighting, table bases and dividers. For example, we have a community table made of live edge wood slab and a custom rolling pin base. We also used dinner plates to create a custom art installation screen divider between the restaurant and the rooftop. Last but not least, found industrial sized colanders, painted them, and hung them in a biomorphic undulating shape to create the central light feature.
What were some challenges in the RR project (from a design/construction standpoint)
One of the biggest challenges from a construction standpoint was to create a rooftop ontop of the restaurant, open up the two spaces, and tie them both together design-wise. The client also wanted to re-use existing bar and plumbing locations, so we had to create an entirely new experience without making major structural changes, and within a tight budget.
Any “a-ha!” moments? Any “nightmare” moments?
By no intention of ours, the elevator walls were built out of concrete block and much to our delight this was the perfect material to compliment the rest of the project. Another a-ha moment was when we came to the realization that we could entirely change the space by fully opening up the front façade, creating an indoor/outdoor space. Our biggest nightmare moment was having to have the elevator and rooftop expansion approved by the city. After finishing the design, we had to completely re-work the plan to accommodate a new elevator location due to city comments.
What would you consider to be the “signature” elements at RR?
Signature elements include the custom colander light fixture, word-search brick wall with hidden messages, custom pop-art 3 dimensional water fountain, and two deer grazing within a recessed niche clad with custom rooted tree mural.
Are there any “easter eggs” or other “hidden” features that aren’t immediately obvious to the customer, but which make the RR experience visually or tactilely better?
While heading upstairs to the rooftop, you will find yourself immersed in a lush forest with evergreen trees and moss. Upon closer observation, you will notice bunnies roaming throughout, a resting sheep high up in a tree, and a bull looking you square in the eye. Another hidden feature is the Kelly green moulding detail that wraps up onto the ceiling, creating an optical illusion which can also be found in the custom hostess fixture. Or it could be the butterflies flying on the ceiling in the women’s restroom.
Any RR design takeaways a diner might try to emulate for his/her own home?
Having fun with things that don’t normally go together, traditional combined with contemporary and industrial combined with rustic. Another take-away that diners can emulate for their own homes is taking found objects and turning them into art and functional pieces.