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Avroko

This New York City design team can make anything from an old library card catalog to a Formica counter seem modern and sexy. Here, as they prepare for the opening of their latest Manhattan restaurant project, Quality Meats, they discuss what inspires them.

What was Avroko's first project?
The restaurant Public in Manhattan. We own it and we designed it; the chef is our partner Adam Farmerie's brother, Brad. The design is inspired by old municipal buildings, with mechanized pulleys and walnut wood—a reference to the paneling in courthouses and police buildings of the '30s and '40s. A library section with an old card catalog stocks books from the '40s and '50s that promote "good living" concepts. Classic bronze post-office boxes hold wine bottles. Regulars who pay a $50 monthly fee get a key for their personal wine box (210 Elizabeth St.; 212-343-7011).

What kind of lighting do you like?
We often use candles, since flames move and make a space come alive. As for lights for the home, we like Niche Modern's collection (nichemodern.com).

What makes a great dining chair?
In restaurants you want chairs to be comfortable for at least an hour or two. For Public, we imported a customized Flyt Chair in walnut with black leather seat pads from the British company Channels ($387; channelsdesign.com). We also bought classic wooden library chairs ($70 from Chair Up Inc.; 212-353-0056).

Which fabrics do you use for chairs?
Vinyl is the new black. You say the word vinyl and people think, "Eww," but most vinyl these days feels as good as leather. We like Valley Forge Fabric's vinyl (800-223-7979).

Which wineglasses are the best?
Schott Zweisel's "Forté" glasses, in its Tritan crystal line, have tempered rims. Wineglasses tend to break at the points where the bowl hits the stem and the stem hits the base. Schott Zweisel is turning those fragile places into the strongest parts ($12; fortessa.com).

What inspired your design for the Stanton Social restaurant?
Part of it was the location on Manhattan's Lower East Side, which was full of tailors and clothiers in the early 20th century. The round banquettes have cushions made of shiny lizard skin, like on a man's loafer. We also looked at vintage kimono patterns, which inspired the wall panels (99 Stanton St.; 212-995-0099).

How does restaurant design compare with residential design?
In a restaurant, you want to be able to expand a small dining room for a larger party, or block off certain areas. Apartment spaces should be just as versatile. In the smart.space lofts we designed, you can create a guest bedroom by dividing the kitchen space with a movable wall.

What exactly is smart.space? We transformed two apartments into spaces that could metamorphose easily, and we used them as a showcase for our residential-design concepts and our new furniture line. Our "Rollie Stool" has detailing that references classic motorcycle design ($1,700; avroko.com).

What can people designing a home kitchen learn from restaurants?
Choose cabinetry that's easy to wipe down, like white Formica. That may sound funny, but it looks great.

What do you consider the best-designed restaurants in the world?
The patisserie at Sketch in London is one. The space is a bit of a sensory overload, but it's well-balanced. The ornate wallpaper and decadent light fixtures set off clean, modern jewel cases filled with pastries, beautiful objects in themselves (9 Conduit St.; 011-44-870-777-4488).

What inspired your design of the setting for "Feeding Desire," the new historical-cutlery exhibit at Manhattan's Cooper-Hewitt museum?
We decided to think of the display area as if it were a dining room rather than a museum exhibition. We used our go-to design strategies, like warm lighting to soften an experience that tends to be sterile. Our favorite items in the exhibit are the traveling sets from the 1500s, designed to carry a fork, knife and spoon (through October 29; 2 E. 91st St.; 212-849-8400 or ndm.si.edu).

What are your next projects?
We designed the new midtown Manhattan restaurant Quality Meats, owned by the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group (57 W. 58th St.; 212-371-7777). And we have a design book called Best Ugly coming out in 2007.

Published June 2006
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