Campy Maximalism, Please: How the Trash-Glam Aesthetic Makes Bay Area Restaurants Fun Again

Bright parrot. Green babe. Golden torch. These are the paint colors that coat the walls at Shuggie’s Trash Pie & Natural Wine in San Francisco, creating an eclectic, monochromatic experience designed to align with the food and the restaurant’s mission of sustainability. From top to bottom, Shuggie’s rooms are covered in color, from shades of yellow in the front room that take over the walls, tables, chairs, and floor to the green room filled with marble table tops to the sparkling booths and patterned floors that dominate the space. (Even the dishes are fun, with the dip served in mouth-shaped bowls.) descriptive phrases from the press release announcing Shuggie’s deviation from “trashy-glam” to “Hollywood Regency meets drum disco”; On a recent occasion, owners Kayla Abbey and David Murphy called the decor—which the couple designed together—more “70s dinner ahead.”

“We didn’t just want the same aesthetic that four or five San Francisco design firms seem to do, really clean spaces with white marble countertops and bamboo floors and everything Nordic that’s been around for 15 years,” Murphy says. Really extreme, and more.” Whatever one wants, it’s just plain fun.

This sense of extremism seems poised for the long march out of the pandemic — an anti-Marie Kondo approach to decor, if you will — and it’s expanding outside of homes and into the world of dining. Instead of the calculated, spa-like venues that permeated so much pre-2020 hospitality, restaurants and bars now seem to be exploring more playful and cheerful expressions in their spaces. Alison Cook, director of architectural design firm Core, links this aesthetic to the pandemic, saying that some restaurants are now expanding their spaces to become an experimental overload. “I’ve prescribed this to a few clients recently in the past; it’s like being on the inside wizard of oz And there’s the black and white scenes, and all of a sudden I’m in Oz and everything is that crazy artistic color,” Cook says. “And I think people are just here for it now with the takeout, like, ‘Take me and move me’ more than before.”

For Murphy and Abby, the restaurant scene has been taking itself seriously for far too long, ignoring the fact that when people go out, they want to have a good time. The couple wanted a wild, exotic, and funky space. “I think the pandemic has given me a perspective, what’s the most important thing in a restaurant? What’s the most important thing in a gathering?” Murphy says. “It’s like, let’s have some fucking fun again. We’ve been locked in our homes for two years, let’s turn up the volume and have a party.”

Along these elegance lines, there’s the campground aesthetic at Hi Felicia in Auckland. There, Owner Chef Iman, who uses only her first name, heads into restaurant decor trends, specifically the stark white linens of the fine dining world she once worked in, which she describes as “bleak and unpleasant.” Given that in fine dining, one might spend three to four hours somewhere, Iman says she wants a place where diners feel “motivated all the time,” whether through good music, cool server clothes, or something fun. visually in space.

Patricia Chang

Hi Felicia

Patricia Chang

Hi Felicia

Patricia Chang

At Hi Felicia, Imana wanted to do “the opposite of what you would expect when going out to a fine dining restaurant,” rather than designing her own high-energy, bright green space on the outside, making room for an all-black interior adorned with what Camp Faith calls whimsical ceramic vases, And eye-catching white bubble graffiti on the darkened walls, fake clown paintings, dripping candles, you name it. “The camp is really fun and reflects my personal style a lot,” Iman says. “I love peacocks, I love patterns and crazy things that all collide but somehow still go together — which is always great for me. I think I have a really good eye, so I feel really good because I executed it the way I wanted.”

Cook points out that this sense of independence is another factor that contributes to the design spreading to your face. Although restaurant owners have always been interested in telling their personal stories through restaurant design, Cook says that has “really ramped up” since 2020, especially after dealing with the demands of keeping their businesses open. “Everyone during the pandemic was like, ‘What’s basically important to me? What are my values? Restaurants [now] Saying, “I’ve learned that I only need to do what I do well, and the client has to accept that or not, I’m tired of trying to meet [to others]Even with the restaurant’s design, they pose, ‘Here’s who I am.’ While Cook acknowledges a return to the quiet, spa-like spaces of some restaurants, she sees them alongside these hotter, more colorful spaces.

Monochromatic style reappears inside Thee Stork Club, the music venue and bar that opened in Auckland in July, with one part of the space wrapped in a blood red design and a green room that will be an actual green room. Already, bonds with all things camp have been forged, thanks to Stork Club co-owner Mark Ryback’s friendship with film director John Waters, known for his campers and trashy vibes. Ribak runs the annual Mosswood Meltdown Music Festival hosted by Waters, and Ribak says he and his wife Amy Carver at Thee Stork Club are partly inspired by the way they run Mosswood. “I have a similar style to club design as we do to garden concerts: it’s really whimsical and everything is done in an exaggerated and outrageous way,” Ryback says. “It’s just about having a cool factor. It’s almost like, ‘Why do people go to places like Egypt or New York or Las Vegas or Hearst Castle or Madonna’s Inn? People go to these places because they are interesting places.”

Stork Club’s blood-red walls stretch from floor to ceiling, with red-upholstered booths and heavy red-velvet curtains on stage; It’s partly a homage to Waters and Camp, but more an expression of two areas of Ryback’s life. Both he and Carver are fans of horror films and directors in the ’60s and ’70s like Herschel Gordon Lewis and Kenneth Unger, but for Ryback, The Room is also inspired by a sense of nostalgia. His grandmother had a high sense of design—she was a lampshade designer at one point in her life, Ryback shares with her—and decorated her 1950s living room with a dramatic all-red design. “It’s totally outrageous,” he says. In fact, one of the items he salvaged from her home was a high-back chair he called the Vampire Chair: It was brought from Southern California, used in every Mosswood Meltdown show, and would find a home in Thee Stork Club’s green room (despite the fact that The chair so beloved these days is upholstered in black patent leather.)

Beyond the entire red room there will be other fun design elements: flashy gold lamps in the “Liberace style” oil type; The dollhouse was renovated by artist friend Ali Rose, who decorated each room with horror films with slogans like six-inch Elvira and John Waters statues; installation of an infinity mirror; Wood paneling, rock-like walls, a gold disco ball, and a backyard that’s supposed to look like a ’60s Beverly Hills hotel. Stork co-owner Billy Agan described the club’s aesthetic recently in a Berkleeside article as “part” primal fern bar, “part” 1970s dive bar, and part “Madonna’s Inn trash.”

“It’s supposed to be intentionally silly,” Ryback said in the script, sharing early photos of the unfinished space. “It’s just more fun like that, but it has to be done with a certain class in mind. If it wasn’t, it would look turbulent.”

The other common denominator of these spaces is the basic DIY aesthetic. They are all designed by the owners and have a personal feel, whether that comes from painting every mural and wall as Abby did at Shuggie’s, Imana Antiquing, or Ribak up-to-date. It doesn’t feel a particular design firm or aesthetic; Rather, it is a unique style and taste for each person. Abby says Shuggie’s space comes from her and Murphy’s involvement in every aspect of the restaurant. “I think each of us couldn’t have come up with this space, but together we built and built,” she says. “It’s always a ‘yes,’ situation where it evolves and evolves — and it really feels like that space is what we’re spitting out of our brains.”

Because of this aspect of DIY, both Shuggie and Hi Felicia will remain a living and changing piece of art. When asked, Abe and Murphy acknowledge that they feel the space never gets done, there’s always something to tweak, update, or change, as they each name a few projects that remain on their to-do lists. Eman feels the same way, but is looking forward to getting updates as she (and her restaurant) continues to grow.

“This is the first form of Hi Felicia and I just want it to grow and develop with me over time,” says Imana. “That’s the whole fun in it; it really is forever changing and there is no chest for me. I literally do whatever I want.”

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