It’s all the rage downtown, though many people have spent many years and piles of money to eliminate it. It’s the converted-warehouse look, and it’s taking off as “the way to be” in the new downtown restaurants.
Back when we lived in Greenville, South Carolina, our family’s absolute favorite restaurant was The Spaghetti Warehouse. It truly was a converted warehouse, one of many in the area, and the exposed ductwork was quite a novelty. Sadly, it didn’t last in that location (maybe the heating bills were too high…), but while it was there, I think we must have eaten out more than at any other time in my life. That restaurant was where my brother discovered that he really likes spumoni, and that was where I discovered that I really don’t.
Part of the atmosphere at The Spaghetti Warehouse was created by all kinds of industrial fixtures, and the wire baskets used for all kinds of purposes, from organization to processing, in functional warehouses were repurposed as light fixtures and shelving, among many other things. There was something cozily attractive about the whole set up, and it seems to have caught on. More and more, the open and exposed look is showing up in new construction as much as in the old repurposed buildings and remodeling projects. It’s amazing how much a coat of paint can change the look of a place.
A college friend used the same method for a simple yet effective remodel in his studio. The studio space was rented, so he was limited in his options, but a coat of paint tied the high ceilings into a very small space and seemed to absorb the ductwork right into the background. The colors he chose were perfect for his purpose—making the mechanicals very un-noticeable, so all eyes were drawn to the sculptures displayed around the studio, rather than to the pipes and ducts overhead.
One of the more recent jobs that my husband has been doing is work in a restaurant being pulled together in another repurposed building. It’s one of the downtown projects, turning a “why hasn’t it been torn down” building into a high-end restaurant and a few apartments, with a coffee shop below. The restaurant is the first to be finished, and it’s done entirely in the industrial style, with the wire mesh light fixtures, the industrial metal chairs and tables, and vintage colors in the vinyl upholstery. What amazes my husband is that the mechanicals that he installs and services are intentionally left exposed, viewed as a design element, in this case, rather than as something that must be hidden, which is the normal state of affairs. Although he’s perfectly content to have easy access to everything, it does take some getting used to, to have a restaurant, and a high-end one, at that, with this kind of mind set…feels more warehouse than residential or culinary.
It’s amazing how wire racks and industrial metal baskets can be the perfect finishing touch for a space. Rugged, industrial purposed wire baskets and racks…they’re not just utilitarian—they’re works of art.