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Matt and Caroline Corrente bought the defunct Lobby restaurant in Middlebury, Vermont, and wanted to transform it into a multi-function space to combine their culinary passions. In the mornings, Haymaker Bun Co. would offer coffee and baked goods, and in the evenings, the space would become The Arcadian, a modern Italian bar and restaurant. The primary challenge was to design an interior that could house two different businesses at different times of day. We didn’t want to simply create a backdrop that would suit both businesses. We wanted to go beyond that and design elements that would enhance each of the two operations and show how they complement each other.
At the entrance, the space opens up to a bar area with dramatic 16 foot ceilings, and a clear view of the unique, three-level layout. It became immediately clear that this was an opportunity to create an impactful first impression, and facilitate a seamless transition from day to night. We started with the tall, open back bar wall with five large windows. The previous restaurant had covered the windows with heavy curtains to block light and maintain privacy for customers sitting on the deck in view of the windows. Wanting to maintain that privacy, we considered shades and different types of glass, before finally deciding to eliminate the windows altogether in favor of something more unconventional. We designed a custom light fixture that would brighten the space, fix the privacy issue, and draw the focus of people entering from the front. We loved the idea of backlit stone, but custom panels the size we needed were out of our client’s budget. We finally found 12” x 24” white onyx floor tiles that were affordable, and could be set in front of large LED light panels that are more commonly found in drop ceilings.
The back bar had initially felt like our biggest obstacle, but with some innovative thinking, we made it the highlight of the space. Our building experience allowed us to transform ordinary materials into a high-end element that was striking, functional, and reflected the day-to-night concept guiding our design. To complete the look, we tiled the entire back wall to create an effect distinct from the rest of the space without overshadowing the onyx light fixture. We used 3×12 white tile with grey shading that has more depth than standard subway tile. During the day, the onyx appears white, and combined with the tile, gives a clean, fresh feel, perfect for a daytime cafe. When lit at night, the fixture creates a dramatic effect that draws people in from the moment they step into the room.
When we chose the white subway tile for the back bar, we had envisioned that it would pop against a colored wall. When the client decided to paint the walls white, we had to adapt and introduce color in ways that would help balance the onyx and wouldn’t be at odds with the black and white pallet. We first painted the cabinets on the back bar a dark, forest green. In the daytime, this would bring in some much-needed color, and in the evenings, the dark green would fade against the white onyx light fixture and read closer to black. To add additional warmth, we placed plants on wooden shelves below the windows, creating a sill with vines hanging down. With the addition of the plants, the tile even more resembled brick, and combined they give the impression of bringing the exterior in, and breaks up the monotony of the white walls. Looking ahead, the effect will be heightened with the use of the outdoor deck in the warmer months. For North-facing windows, hardy, low-light plants such as philodendrons and pothos were the most suitable, and over time they’ll grow vines that trail down the tiled wall. The end result is clean, and minimal, with the white onyx light fixture becoming the focus, drawing customers into the bar.
The ample wall space throughout the restaurant provided an opportunity to create custom artwork that would reflect elements of both the bakery and the restaurant. We started by brainstorming with our clients for a list of ingredients that they would be using in the food on their menus, primarily focusing on locally sourced Vermont food. Olivia used Adobe Illustrator to create vector icons of the listed ingredients. Knowing that there would be three murals, she made over 40 icons to be arranged into a relatively symmetrical pattern to make up a shape that would best suit the individual wall. We had initially planned to create stencils by cutting shapes out of chipboard with a laser cutter, but the material costs and the time it would have taken forced us to consider other options. A ceiling projector above the main dining room had been used to project movies onto the wall, and this inspired us to use a similar method to create the mural. We took the projector down and hooked it up to a laptop to project the mural .png image onto the wall. We had to experiment and adjust a few times to get a clear image that wasn’t warped by the distance or the angle of the light, but still took a lot less time than creating stencils would have. Olivia then traced the projected images on the wall in pencil, adjusting for warping or spacing miscalculations. And then painting! The client agreed that black on the white walls would work best with the design of the rest of the space. We were initially concerned about translating the intricacies from the original graphic onto the wall, but the latex wall paint was easier to work with than expected. The level of detail was achieved by using fine artists brushes, and careful work to create clean, sweeping lines. Each icon took about two coats of black paint, and occasional touch-ups with white.
The challenge for this job was unique, but we think we rose to meet it with equally unique solutions. Our design helps facilitate the transition between Haymaker in the morning and The Arcadian in the evening, and the custom, multi-functional elements we created enhance their customers’ experiences, no matter the time of day— or night.