When we say there’s nothing much new about Vinatería in Harlem, New York, we mean it in the best possible way. Lead designer Jonsara Ruth and project manager Catherine Murphy’s concept was to re-use and restore as much as possible, and their Salty Labs collective certainly fulfilled that directive; upcycling like there was no tomorrow with the help of collaborators such as collector Fritz Karch, who thinks everything good has already been made. On this evidence it’s hard to disagree with that view; the 1940s bar, reconditioned chairs and table bases are all great examples of the wisdom of age. The odd chair left in its natural condition highlights the heritage of the venue and bridges the divide between the past and the present. Wall “tattoo” murals from Helen Quinn, and laser-cut aluminium door panels from James Scott ensured that modern elements did find their niche, however.
The environment within Vinatería was also a big factor in Salty Labs’ thinking. Ruth wanted air quality to be a prominent concern, the designers took a number of steps to keep things fresh, starting with plaster and lime paint to suck up moisture and odour from the dining area and trap any volatile organic compounds that might be floating around. Another thrifty solution was the use of felt – also an absorbent material. Although a relatively expensive commodity, Salty Labs picked up some rolls of waste from a factory that punches felt washers out of long strips, and made a whole wall from these offcuts, which looks much like the perforated metal sheeting en vogue with urban industrial designers at the moment. It also serves to damp down sound, cutting down echo.
Such clever thinking alone would be enough to recommend Vinatería without its super-stylish aesthetic, which raises the place far above worthy project and into the must-visit bracket.