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Take-out design

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Posted: Saturday, May 22, 2004 8:15 am | Updated: 4:34 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The restaurants Fiamma Trattoria at The James Hotel in Scottsdale and Rancho de Tia Rosa in Mesa have two very distinct — and dissimilar — looks: The former is modern with a punch of bold fabric, the latter is a colorful, eclectic tribute to old Mexico.

But how does one go about translating restaurant interior design, which caters to the masses, into something palatable for your home?

Take tips from the designers. According to Stephen Brockman, senior designer at Deborah Berke & Partners Architects in New York City and project designer for Fiamma Trattoria, much is to be said for "great lighting," which at Fiamma comes by way of modern, multi-directional chandeliers by David Weeks Lighting and the soft glow of backlit walls behind booth seating.

"A lot of people think of (lighting) as a utilitarian thing, but I think lighting is also about creating ambiance. It shouldn’t come from one place."

Perhaps more accessible is Brockman’s use of color in Fiamma, where a neutral palate of dark wood, silver, and tan leather seating is accompanied — or, rather, dominated — by a red and taupe patterned "swirl" fabric from the Scalamandre Island cloth collection.

"It was one of these epiphanies. It was a perfect fit for what we’re we doing," Brockman said. "It has a modern feel to it, but it also has this kind of playfulness."

The lesson, he added, is "don’t be afraid of color. Be bold. Trust your instincts. Try something different."

The same words could very well come from Lizabeth Sirrine, who owns Rancho de Tia Rosa with husband Dennis Sirrine, and is responsible for much of the restaurant’s interior design. She struggled to find the primary colors she was looking for when scouring Valley paint stores, but eventually found them — including a bright, canary yellow that appears on the walls of one small dining room and bubble gum pink for another.

"We wanted to make it feel like an old hacienda. You need lots of bright color," she said.

But the wall colors — which, at this intensity, would require a huge amount of fortitude on the part of the homeowner and will likely overwhelm a small space — is only one of many elements that make Tia Rosa, Tia Rosa. "Hundreds" of trips to Mexico have resulted in a vast collection of trinkets, paintings, and furniture that decorate walls, shelves, and ceilings. Her advice: Schedule a shopping trip to Nogales (or, if short on time, Guadalupe) and if you like it, buy it.

"There will be a place for it," said Sirrine, who was assisted in the arrangement of pieces by her mother-inlaw Nola Sirrine, an interior designer.

Another essential ingredient to Tia Rosa’s look is the detailed (yet easygoing) tile work on walls and floors, which often features pieces of wood and straw tucked in the grout. It is the kind of handiwork that’s simple to do if installing the tile yourself and will help create a more authentic decor.

No matter what restaurant a homeowner is inspired by, however, it is usually necessary to temper colors and scale back on accessories, said Teri Mulmed, owner of Do Daz, a Scottsdale interior design company. Deep or bright colors should be lightened and toned down. Accessories should be kept to a minimum.

"You’re dealing with a much smaller scale," said Mulmed, who designs for both residential and commercial spaces. "Something that’s really got a lot of things — eye candy — you want to think about how it would be to live with that. Never really try to copy the look exactly and really just take those pieces that feel really good to you."

Design tip

If you don’t trust your instincts enough to copy restaurant design on your own, go straight to the source. Restaurant managers can often provide information about where items were bought or who designed the interior (some commercial designers work with homeowners as well).

The James Hotel in Scottsdale sells the place mats that appear on tables at Fiamma Trattoria, and some restaurant owners might even be willing to part with items. Lizabeth Sirrine, who with husband Dennis owns Rancho de Tia Rosa restaurant in Mesa, often sells artwork and other accessories to customers and in response to demand, has even begun stocking strings of lighted grapes that hang from a wine rack.

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