Food & Culture

Best New Restaurant Decor

Our new crop of restaurants is reversing the overdone Ikea-meets-thrift-store trend with eye-catchin

By Allecia Vermillion October 17, 2011


This article originally appeared in the November 2011 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Staple & Fancy’s wall with an old cigar advertisement (see photo above): When crews were renovating Ballard’s historic Kolstrand Building, they unearthed a painted sign proclaiming a former tenant as a “dealer in Staple & Fancy.” Though those words are on the second floor of the building, Ethan Stowell named his newest restaurant after the phrase and moved in downstairs (where a cigar ad remains).

The Walrus and the Carpenter’s chandelier: Chef/owner Renee Erickson found the dining room’s enormous 1950s-era fixture at a Los Angeles antique shop. It reminded her of coral—perfect for her seafaring Ballard oyster bar. When the mass of artfully corroded enameled steel arrived in Seattle, Erickson gave it a cleaning by placing it in the back of a pickup truck and running it through a Brown Bear car wash.

Pop art at Revel: Owner Rachel Yang (Joule) describes Revel’s interior as “a big box,” livened up with both permanent and rotating works from local artist Justin Kane Elder. The pieces are large in scale, often three-dimensional (think Mister Rogers with an actual shoe jutting out of the portrait), and add bold pops of color in an otherwise neutral, industrial dining room in Fremont.

RN74 Seattle’s train board wine list (in the back on the right): An antique-style train board from Italian manufacturer Solari spells out the names of “last bottles”—often screaming deals—on the wine list at Michael Mina’s new downtown restaurant, RN74 Seattle, just like its San Francisco sibling. Order an item off the board and watch the little black-and-white plaques flip over to spell out a new vintage. 1433 Fourth Ave.;

Salvaged bar at Grim’s: Almost every surface in Laura Olson’s steampunk-designed Capitol Hill bar is covered in salvaged materials. The bar is fronted with old mailboxes from a University of Washington dorm; library-style drawer faces from Garfield High School.

Greenhouse at Book Bindery: Inspired by the owners Mike and Sumi Almquist’s visits to New York restaurants with glassed-in dining areas, a greenhouse by Canada’s BC Greenhouse Builders adds 30 seats to the restaurant and takes advantage of the building’s location on the bank of the Ship Canal. The floor is heated, but in warm weather, the walls and roof retract for a magical, almost al fresco dining experience.

Little Water Cantina’s gramophone lighting: Shannon and Laura Wilkinson’s decision to open a Mexican restaurant in Eastlake created an unexpected opportunity to showcase Shannon’s growing collection of antique gramophone horns. A custom paint job added elements such as apples, hazelnuts and juniper berries, reflecting ingredients used in the kitchen; and Antique Lighting Company in Greenwood wired the horns as lamps that hang over the burled wood bar.

Courtyard at Momiji: The secluded courtyard is the focal point of Kushibar and Umi Sake House owner Steven Han’s new Japanese restaurant, Momiji. A U-shaped dining room with tall windows and a tiled roof wraps around a traditional Japanese garden, designed and maintained by local landscaper Junji Miki of Zen Japanese Landscape Design. Inside, tables are the custom work of Whidbey Island woodworker Craig Yamamoto.



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