Nestled in a cozy wood-clad interior above a nondescript liquor store on Avenue B, Pouring Ribbons is not trying to be a speakeasy. In fact, its oversized reclaimed brass door boasts a prominent sign that announces the drinking room’s presence proudly. Designed by interior and branding team Warren Red, the plush bar fuses reclaimed materials with modern perks including custom modular tables made exclusively for the East Village haunt.
Interior designer Dieter Cartwright and brand manager Jonathan McElroy worked together as Warren Red to create a bar that combines “whimsy and seriousness, precision and flamboyance.” Vintage dining chairs were revamped with rich velvet upholstery and decorative wrought iron pieces were salvaged from exterior fences to create room dividers, while much of the building’s furnishings were restored and preserved, rather than buying new. The resulting interior is both cozy and warm, with a vintage feel that complements the cocktail menu crafted by Joaquín Simó, American Bartender of the Year of 2012.
We recently spoke with the masterminds behind Warren Red about infusing reclaimed materials into projects, the importance of preserving existing elements of a building site and incorporating custom-made pieces that save clients time and space.
Inhabitat: Pouring Ribbons has taken over a previous space, transforming it into a cozy bar where the cocktails are given the highest attention. Can you tell us what elements from its former use were recycled into the current space?
Warren Red: We retained the original narrow plank wooden floor. To bring its character into the project we had to pull up the ancient, brittle linoleum which covered it, as well as a raised plywood platform which covered about a third of the space. Also completely covered over was the large window along the street. We opened this up, flooding the space in natural light. It seems that the best qualities of the space, as we found it, were hidden.
We also worked the design around existing infrastructure, tying into existing plumbing stacks, leaving bathroom configuration as it was, as well as maintaining the existing mechanical system. The air handler was thoroughly serviced to improve efficiency. Bathroom fixtures were retained, and the new bar sat in place of the old.
Inhabitat: We love your solution for keeping the menus tableside, can you describe to our viewers the innovative modular solution you came up with?
Warren Red: We worked very closely with our client to understand in great detail their service model – they had considered everything. A problem our client identified early on in the design process was that often in a cocktail bar the menu is taken from a customer after they order. So there should be a convenient way for a customer to peruse the menu without a server having to bring one. We tested many different ways – some very complex – to store menus at the table without them cluttering up what were already small tables. The slots we created in the edge of the table served this purpose well, and it was quite simple in the end. The photos show well how the layer of material which houses the slots is set back, but the menu protrudes just enough for a customer to grab it easily without it also being in the way (by protruding beyond the edge of table).
Sounds simple enough, but having to coordinate the design of a custom table with the exact size of the menu isn’t that common. It helps that we also designed the menus.
Inhabitat: Unlike other speakeasy style places that have become trendy in New York, Pouring Ribbons is clearly marked, with a spectacular and upcycled door at that. Where did it come from?
Warren Red: The door came from Olde Good Things. We’ve developed a close relationship with them over the past couple of years. For the American Trade Hotel, our boutique hotel project in Panama, our client bought all but a couple of the guest bathroom doors from Olde Good Things. These originally came from The Plaza Hotel here in New York, which makes for a nice story.
The door for Pouring Ribbons was an old fire-rated door from some old laboratories. It weighs a ton and is very solid, to the chagrin of the locksmith. We had it sand-blasted and painted here in New York .
Demi Monde, the Elias Arts Reception project, and now Pouring Ribbons, all have items from Olde Good Things.
Inhabitat:The interior feels vintage and timeless at the same, do you often fuse second hand pieces with modern?
Warren Red: Yes, as long as it’s right for the project, and not just for the sake of it. The Gaston Poisson chairs are a timeless design, and the choice of those chairs in particular – sourced in a vintage store in Paris – actually influenced the colour scheme throughout. They also worked very well with other key design elements, such as the lights.
Inhabitat: Do you often look to salvaged materials (like the gorgeous wrought iron divider in Pouring Ribbons) for inspiration?
Warren Red: Salvaged materials are hard to work with, as you have to be prepared to embrace the defects, and to do a lot more leg-work to see it executed well. Our client and I spent half a day clambering over twisted, rusted metal in a scrap yard to find those wrought iron window guards. Sandblasting revealed that the pitting from the rust was only superficial. We used a colour and finish not ordinarily associated with wrought iron to give the salvaged items new meaning.
Inhabitat: Has the influence of sustainability and green design changed how you design spaces?
Warren Red: Sustainability should be regarded from a social and cultural point of view, not just with regards to energy, physical resources and natural habitat. I’ve always felt that way, but it was really reinforced by working with our client in Panama. They won a global vision award for urban renewal last year, and that was due to not only the great work preserving the historical quarter of Panama City, but also for their work empowering the local community to become economically sustainable through tourism and local industry. I’d really like to draw attention to some big changes going on down there, but that is for another time perhaps.
Every architect and interior designer in New York has to become an expert in adaptive re-use. In the city that has it all there are actually a magnitude of limitations to new construction. Our project in The Carlyle, the Yves Durif Salon expansion, which we finished this May, provides a good example of the care you have to take to preserve the integrity of the existing infrastructure. We converted a guest room to Yves’s new cutting room, and it was thanks to the hotel engineer’s intimate knowledge of the workings of the building’s systems that were able to effectively integrate a new use with the old
At Pouring Ribbons we worked hard to use the resources that the site offered while at the same time making it much, much better for the next user. Because there is always a next user.