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Web Exclusive: Mad Meals

(January 2013) posted on Wed Jan 30, 2013

Gruskin Group powers up 50's auto theming for Pittsburgh's Double Wide Grill.


By Mary Scoviak

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With a hit TV show, endless midcentury style references in both fashion and design and retro-themed offerings everywhere you turn, it’s safe to say that the middle of the last century is enjoying a comeback moment. So, when Gruskin Group was hired by Double Wide Grill’s proprietors, Steve Zumoff and Scott Kramer, to design the 6,700 sq.ft. Pittsburgh-area eatery, principal Kenneth Gruskin and principal of architecture Joel Shulman knew that they would have to find a fresh take on the era. They also knew that they needed to find some inspiration beyond a literal update on the pastel-laden diner or ice cream parlor.

So, Gruskin and Shulman decided to dig deeper to find a concept that embodied the era in a less feminine or midcentury modern way. Instead of just looking at the furniture and interior design, they decided to see what 50’s lifestyle concepts they could work with. They knew they wanted a theme that would have a grown-up vibe, but still allow them to give diners an immersive experience. Route 66-style road tripping fit the bill. Besides playing into the nostalgic affection for what the designers call “motorabilia,” the idea provided the spark for a design narrative that gave the team free reign to play with the FF&E and bring in very modern ideas like found objects and unexpected reuse.

The team decided to treat the restaurant as though it had been a gas station back in the day. Beyond the obvious references—gas pump nozzles serve as wall décor—the garage atmosphere carries through the space, from hubcaps that decorate the ceiling to road signs and garage doors that let diners eat on the terrace in the summer.

The eclectic nature of a gas station or auto repair shop also gave Gruskin and Shulman the opportunity to add some signature touches of their own. A rusted-out pickup truck stands atop a garage lift in the front of the restaurant. Two vintage trailers make up the family-friendly back dining area. And, the proprietors’ designs for lighting feature beer bottles and car part chandeliers.

One part nostalgia, one part camp and one part industrial, venues like Double Wide are shaping a new kind of Americana in design. Using a car chassis as a support for the sound system might be an extreme take on the idea, but it’s reflective of the iconoclastic vibe designers are using. So, what do you think? How do you see the “American” look evolving in a global design marketplace?
 

 


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