Is playing it safe in terms of design the way to beat out the competition? Does comfort rule over originality?
I have to preface this blog by saying that hands-down Janet Kim was my favorite chef on this season of Rocco’s Dinner Party. I think she might have read my book, Party Like a Rock Star!
You may be surprised that I am saying this, but Janet was the only chef that inspired me as a designer to go full throttle into her room without any fear or restrictions. She also mixed the inspiration of music with her design, instead of being so incredibly literal, like many of the chefs have been so far, in terms of props and measurements. She was also not food-oriented in terms of her design at all, which was certainly a pleasant change for me. Janet and I didn’t even discuss her dining table much in our consultation, or her food really. She was more intrigued by the entire room experience, which to me, makes up a true environmental design.
As I sat next to this chill lady, I didn’t expect her to pull out terms like punk rock, Sid Vicious, Vivienne Westwood (one of my favorite fashion designers), and awesome distressed tartan plaid curtains!I was so happy I almost fell off of my seat, no joke! So far it has been a season of chefs describing yet again a long table, measured flower arrangement,s and really literal props concerning their designs…. I talk about keeping it fun and not so literal in my book. Have some fun, people.
I love that Janet took the original gastro-pub concept, which was derived from the original pubs in England that served up “pub grub" of high quality with a casual and celebratory atmosphere, into another era of England, which celebrated the huge movement of punk rock, and the high fashion that was born out of it. To me, this was unexpected, but completely genuine and absolutely held just as much merit as the more literal gastro-pub atmosphere that Kevin wanted for his dining room.
Rocco often mentioned that Janet’s intellect got in the way of her cooking; it was exactly the opposite in terms of her design! Janet’s ambition and love for several components going on at once were essential to allowing me to create a room that folks would talk about long after the dinner party was over.
Was Janet’s room really any less comfortable because her design was more controversial? Did her room express an individual’s taste in décor and atmosphere that differs from anyone else? You bet it did. I speak of this in my book -- you have to make it personal, and express yourself. It is not only about the food!
Its rare that after 25 years of designing and managing full experiential atmospheres that I haven’t “been there, done that” in some form or another, but Janet’s room was not a repeat performance for me in any way. What a joy!
Lets list out some of the awesome elements that made up Janet’s multicultural and dimensional ambiance:
One of the wow factors of Janet’s room was the “Dog Save the Queen” Union Jack on the wall.
The use of tartan plaid distressed curtains tied back with gold chains added fun texture to the room.
The black Louis “comfortable” chairs with the Vivienne Westwood style sashes were very tailored and handsome.
The country flowers and the use of hot pink mixed with black was really country and rock 'n' roll and punk!
I used a lucite tabletop that was painted with a wood grain pattern so the table looked antique, but was in fact made out of a very modern substance!
How about that huge dart board?? Lots of pubs have games like chess and darts, so I wanted to bring in a real “statement-making” dart board.
Every pub needs a fireplace and, of course, a huge pig (table by Moooi) somewhere in wells rain boots (it always rains in England)
Each person got a huge safety pin name tag at their seats to bring in some more punk glamour elements.
The lighting was hot pink with interesting touches of punk green. I normally would never light a room with any green tones simply because it makes people look sick, but using accents of the green really made Janet’s room distinctive.
The chandelier was one of a kind, and there are no words that can even describe it. I think Christopher might have tried to steal it at the end of the night, but I can't prove it!
OK, well Kevin’s room was nothing to laugh at either. I adored Kevin, and his unpretentious approach to everything. What a lovely guy…. Kevin just wanted a big table with butcher paper and crayons and then he left the rest up to me which was awesome!!!
I thought the table was a little bare, so I brought in some sunflowers in copper pots and lots of candles. I love using amber glass so it creates a flame-like glow throughout the room. In my book, I speak a lot about how amber coloring makes everyone look like a rock star!
When I hang out in pubs I love reading, playing games, getting comfortable, and petting all of the dogs that are somehow allowed in these places!!
I covered some of Rocco’s formal dining room walls in copper tiles to really make the room look and feel authentic, and to continue that amber and moody glow. I wanted the room to scream comfort, so I brought in some fabulous chesterfield sofas and ottomans and wing chairs complete with soft plaid blankets, and very soft doggy beds to match!! Also by adding that old English alleyway type of lighting, a ton of gorgeous stained glass sconces and overhead lights and reading lamps completed the ambiance.
Ken Oringer said that no gastro-pub is complete without a cock, so there you go!! Cat Deeley felt like she was home, which definitely brought a smile to my face big time. This is what makes me tick often in my career, is when folks walk into a room and the “ahhhh” stays throughout the evening as they discover special little elements throughout the environment, much like a treasure hunt for the eyes to enjoy.
I installed an old-school armoire, and filled it with old trophies and beer mugs from all over the world and graced the walls with a ton of ship paintings that reminded me of a lot of the port area pubs that sailors would come and drink at before sailing off again.
I wanted to express Kevin’s easy going and masculine attitude throughout the room, so I packed a lot in there!! There were chessboards and mountains of books, clocks and vintage food, and beer signs too. To me Kevin was a lot like a really laid back quarterback that had a great play in mind, and his focus was determined and genuine. I wanted his ambiance to mirror that for sure. To me, Kevin's room was a perfect balance between a man cave and gastro-pub!
The main focal point in the room was the huge chalkboard that expressed the menu items that Rocco’s guests were going to feast upon during the evening….
Was Kevin’s room more “digestible” than Janet’s? I would love to know your thoughts….
Congrats to the great talents Janet and Kevin!
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