Client: Cindy Lu and Johnny Tam
Location: Marietta, Ga, United States
Completion date: 2015
Artwork budget: $4,300
Cassandra Buckalew Interiors
The goal of this project was to give a modern interpretation to an outdated Chinese restaurant. This second generation family run business had not been renovated in 17 years, when the first generation Lu family opened. Having both a Chinese and Vietnamese heritage, in addition to serving Chinese cuisine, the client was planning on introducing Vietnamese cuisine after the renovation. The interior needed to reflect both cultures. Trying to avoid the typical Asian décor (fans, jade, lanterns) previously seen in the space, the goal was to introduce both cultures in a modern, impactful and memorable way.
The overarching concept was for the restaurant to have simple shapes, strong geometry and a modern nod to both cultures. Designed around a circular bar with two circular soffits above and banquettes on each long wall, the dark grey wall color doesn’t compete with the murals but allows them to become the focal point and gives the eye a place to rest with such strong art. The dragon mural represents the family’s Chinese heritage, while the lady in front of Halong Bay represents their Vietnamese heritage. Without these murals the space would lack the strength and boldness it has now.
Collaborating closely with the client and the artist was exciting. With a strong graffiti style, the artist’s work seemed the perfect way to create the unexpected in an Asian restaurant. We looked at hundreds of Asian elements together and shared ideas back and forth about what would work on those long walls. We shared pictures of elements we loved and met several times to create both concepts and fine tune the details. We discussed color and how it needed to be balanced between both murals, so one side of the room, and one mural, didn’t overpower the other one.
During the renovation and mural painting process, people around town were so engaged in the murals, the different stages they were in, how far along the artist was, and many planned to visit just to see what was going on with the paintings. We posted pictures on facebook of the stages, and people popped in (or peeked in the window) to see how they were looking. The dragon mural was completed first, and everyone was curious if the second one would look as good. It was a remarkable experience to see how interested people were in design and art.