Centsational Style: Restaurant Redo
August 10, 2009
We have a row of fine dining restaurants in the downtown area of my hometown. Years ago, we made friends with Marco, the owner of a Zagat rated Italian restaurant called Risibisi (meaning ‘rice and peas’ in Italian). A few weeks ago, Marco hired me redo his front window. My task was to inject some style, texture, and romance into his window display without spending a fortune. I was delighted to be entrusted with the task.
Let me give you a brief tour of the inside of the restaurant before I show you the upgraded window decor. His menu features rustic Italian cuisine, with an elegant presentation. Handmade gnocchi, risotto, beef carpaccio, osso bucco, cioppino, seasonal specials, with wines from Italy – and all made with fresh, local, sustainable products. Our meals are simply scrumptious every time we dine.
My favorite thing about dining in this restaurant is not only the food, but the ambiance. Dim lighting, paired with mandolin guitar and Italian vocals transport you to a place far away. Take a look at some daytime photographs of the interior, and you’ll get the feel for the mood of this restaurant.
Entrance with brick wall, rope divider, iron candle sconces, and art displayed in carved wood frames:
Bar Seating Area:
Wine Bar, surround designed with salvaged wood shingles:
The Onyx Bar where we’ve shared many a glass of Super Tuscan – it has an intoxicating glow by night:
Stunning globe chandeliers:
Floor to ceiling linen curtains, hanging rope divider:
Vase in Entry:
My first project was to upgrade the look of the floral display in his beloved Murano glass vase. He had been paying a florist for weekly arrangements, and was dissatisfied with the quality and the cost. He definitely wanted to keep the vase, but he wanted branches instead of flowers – ones he didn’t want to have to replace every week. I chose two kinds of willow, forsythia branches, and sage cassia to complete the airy display.
The light travels beautifully through the wispy tall branches. This look is much better than those expired lilies! At Christmastime, I’m going to hang miniature metallic bulbs from a few of the branches.
As for the restaurant, you can see from the first set of photos that there are a lot of warm tones in this space. It is rugged with its brick wall and rope detail, but a softer balance is achieved through the globe chandeliers and the linen fabrics. Marco loves rich reds and golds, so I used those deep warm tones to transform his front window.
It was an odd shaped window, very little depth on one side, greater depth toward at the other end, so achieving balance with this asymmetrical layout was a challenge.
The only decor in existence was some terra cotta pots filled with succulents sitting on top of some decorative rocks. Nice, but not nice enough.
Here’s what I did with my budget. I purchased three planters in deep red and mustard gold. Then I invested in two 38” silk olive tree topiaries to sit in the window divide and provide height and a natural element without blocking the view. Originally, I wanted real olive trees in the window, but I learned in a west facing window they’d never survive, especially next to vents.
Playing off of the globe chandeliers, I purchased some rustic iron orbs from a local nursery. I also bought two candleholders I found at Marshalls, and some red glass votives from Pier One.
I love the sculptural element of the orbs inside of this planter pictured below. How rich is the color of of this urn? I plan to light it up during the holidays with twinkle lights.
The orbs are repeated in smaller sizes, moving to the other side of the window space.
Instead of buying new planters for all of his succulents, I saved him some money by simply priming and painting his terra cotta pots with two shades by Ralph Lauren: Orchard Yellow and Village Red.
Finally, I added some patterned pillows for his window bench seating.
I am just loving this rich and romantic red.
Window, by night:
From the outside, the candlelight provides greater ambiance and draws evening strollers into the romantic space:
So for about $500 dollars, we upgraded the vase and the window with rich color, texture, varying height, and greater style than existed before. I especially like how the iron spheres in varying sizes add a hint of modern whimsy and a rustic element as well.
Next time you’re in the Wine Country, stop on by and visit Marco, and my window display. I’ll meet you at The Onyx Bar for a glass of red.