Introducing Elberta Part 1

Elberta Restaurant sneak peak 1; Niya Bascom Photography
A few months ago, we were tapped by a progressive Brooklyn couple to transform their existing cafe on Flatbush Avenue into a restaurant and bar serving night-time eaters and the hipster brunch crowd.  Psyched, pumped, amped, we were at once excited and crazed, as we had just signed 2 other major contracts with similar timelines.  With serious confidence in our list making skills and a burning desire to accomplish anything, we jumped right in with both feet.  Reflecting back on the past few months of sleepless nights, constant sketching on the fly, a ridiculous number of on-site visits, a CAD crash, and sweating bullets we are pleased to have reached the point where 2 of the newly signed projects are complete and ready for their world debuts.
Many a late night...
So let's start with the unveiling of "Elberta", the newest Southern restaurant in Brooklyn, NY.  After our first couple of discovery meetings with the clients, we decided that for the kind of impactful change that they were seeking, everything had to go including the name/logo, color palette and the association with cafes and words like peach.  Wouldn't you agree?
Site exterior before.  Elberta was once Velvet Peach Cafe - a day time cafe catering primarily to an early morning crowd, work-from-"home" individuals and those waiting on the bus.
Site interior before.  The once happy yellow and pink interior was overwhelmed by heavy panelling, yucky floors and an uninspired mis-match of furnishings and ad-hoc displays.
Site interior before.  Another shot of the dining area,
With the greenlight for a complete identity overhaul we now had to build the "story".  After days of back and forth with client and The Blue Griffin, our graphics consultant, Elberta (named by the client and personified by IDI) became a realistic character inspiring the look and feel of the restaurant.  So who is she?
Sneak Peak 2; Niya Bascom Photography
- "It is the height of the prohibition period and Elberta, a beautiful blues singer from the south has arrived in New York making waves on the speakeasy circuit.  Her difficult passage north developed her forward thinking free-spirited ways which were only softly tempered by her very feminine and southern charm.  Preferring the hours of dusk through dawn, Elberta is a riveting sensual woman both on-stage and off" -  
Translating to...
Ishka Designs Programming - New Logo designed by our favourite graphics team, The Blue Griffin Inc.
Ishka Designs Programming - Inspiration Board (images taken from various sources on the web - Getty images, etc.)
Ishka Designs Programming - Inspiration board
The design program therefore became a modern mash-up of the South and our interpretation of a post-industrial New York.  What that simply means is that we would honor the existing exposed beams and brick wall with various metals, screws, etc., while layering in southern ideas and sophisticatedly soft elements.  While the design is quite layered, we needed it to appear simplistic and understated - to reflect a vibe that is uniquely Brooklyn.  With concept in place, we spent less than two very precious weeks working through a myriad of floor plans focused primarily on the kitchen layout.  We settled in on a slightly modified footprint with a high-efficiency kitchen and compact bar solution.  It was now time for the fun to begin with contractor, Unique 1 Construction:  

Clockwise from top left: 1. Wainscot removed to reveal floor to ceiling brick wall - 2. Displays, etc pulled down and sold - 3. Kitchen area gutted and 4. Dining area emptied
Starting at top: 1. Construction begins and the new kitchen walls get framed out by Darrin and his team;  2. Our featured kitchen wall got taller to hide mechanicals and deeper to act as a wait station; 3 and 4. Another HVAC was added by the time we got back from overseas. Instead of having yet another ceiling fixture on display we chose to tuck it behind a soffit; and 5.  A few days in, the space begins to take shape.
The beauty about commercial design is the need to get the job done in as short a time as possible with pretty tight budgets.  While this can create limitations, it forces decisions to be made and triggers to be pulled quickly.  The team has to know how to be pro-active as well as reactive.  Like any project, unforeseen site conditions always impact the final design.  This project definitely had it's fair share.  Fortunately, the results worked very much in our favor.  In our next POST we will reveal Elberta.  In the meantime, we leave you with this last sneak peak:
Adding the final touches.  Niya Bascom Photography