My third project for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group really became an almost year long labor of love. After finishing Churchkey, the owner, Michael Babin, and the lead designer, Catherine Hailey, asked me to work with them on the Ballston location of their wildly popular restaurant, Rustico. It isn't often that clients give an artist free reign to experiment with different concepts all in the same space, but that is exactly what happened in this case. It was the first large scale project where all I designed the lighting for all the public spaces, and it challenged me to design distinct pieces for each room while maintaining cohesion in the space.
The first fixtures I worked on were the Steampunk fixtures for the entry foyer and the bar area, where my love for industrial design was allowed to flourish. For the 6 bar fixtures I started with stainless steel balls at the top, and then used a collection of vintage aluminum and nickel thermoses that I had collected over the years to build the main stem. I installed sockets on some of the thermoses, as well as on some old movie reels. To soften the light from below, I sandblasted some reclaimed glass lenses that had been used in light fixtures at an old factory in NY.
Over the bar I attached cylindrical fixtures onto curved brass rods. The cylinders have amber lucite rods threaded through them that cover the same long tubular filament bulbs used in the hanging fixtures, the idea being "Art Deco meets Steampunk". The booth and wall lighting when complete will have a similar aesthetic and use the amber rods, but will be constructed differently.
For the main dining room, Catherine and I wanted to create more of an "installation" than a single fixture and so I designed 41 brass and steel minimalist rod armatures, decorated with some vintage erector set wheels. After working with the exposed filament bulbs in the bar lights, I wanted to carry that theme through to the dining rooms to provide some design continuity, so in this room I used 11 inch tubular bulbs. Scattering the alignment of the rows afforded some optical interest depending on the angle of the viewer.
In the middle room, I used a reclaimed floor candlestick as the body, with 6 brass arms, capped with opposing recycled beer bottles (from some of Michael's other restaurants). The original Rustico restaurant in Alexandria has done some playful things with bottle lights so I wanted to create a piece that paid homage to that. Michael, Catherine and I also spent some late nights creating the bottle and mirror wall at the front of the restaurant.
The back room is a private and organic space with wood and cork dominating the design. For this area I wanted a more subtle, almost celestial feel and designed "exoskeleton" orbs out of various topiary frames, connected them with aged chain, and designed a sputnik fixture to float in the middle, again using the exposed filament bulbs which look beautiful when they are dimmed.