An Eclectic Bar/Restaurant Provides an Idyllic Setting for Austin’s Creative Types

Can a salvaged mahogany bar inspire the design of a new bar/restaurant? In the case of Eberly, a vibrant meeting spot housed in what once was a print shop in Austin, Texas, the answer is yes. The impressive 30-foot-long by 10-foot-tall, 150-year-old hand-carved mahogany bar formerly presided over the storied Cedar Tavern in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Eberly’s owner sought to give new life to the bar, continuing its story by adding the diverse influences for which the city of Austin is known.
Eberly’s owner sought to give new life to the bar, continuing its story by adding the diverse influences for which the city of Austin is known.

Today, the bar top creates an atmosphere in Eberly worthy of the time when notable artists, such as Jackson Pollock, Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan, pulled up their stools to it for a drink. Eberly’s owner sought to give new life to the venerable bar, continuing its story by adding the diverse influences for which the city of Austin is known.

Situated just south of the Colorado River on the edge of downtown, Eberly is within walking distance of Austin’s beloved Ladybird Lake, its hike and bike trails, as well as numerous retail spots and other commercial buildings. The establishment marries the raw concrete and glass of the nondescript print shop with the warmth of the restored bar. To promote an artistic atmosphere, the design team at Clayton & Little, which has offices in Austin and San Antonio, divided the vast space into three distinct settings: a “restored” Cedar Tavern, mod Dining Room and book-filled Study.

Visually Layered Spaces

Rather than demolishing the utilitarian 1970s print shop, the design team took advantage of the concrete structure’s gritty vibe by juxtaposing it against the refined material palette selected for Eberly. From a practical standpoint, demolishing a building that was built like a bunker did not make sense. Early in the design process, a rooftop function space was envisioned and the massive concrete- framed structure allowed that design with minimal structural additions. Not only would the cost of a new structure have been prohibitive, it would have resulted in a different design solution altogether. The large open expanses retained from the print shop’s original shell provided a blank canvas to create a sprawling interwoven series of spaces that result in rich, layered and varied experiences.

The establishment’s visually layered spaces produce an exchange of creative energies that feed off each other. For example, as patrons enter the Dining Room, a dark, almost brooding atmosphere defines the space. The moody darkness is contrasted by the light-filled Study immediately adjacent to the entry, which draws the eye to and through toward the historic Cedar Tavern.

Creating a spatial flow to result in a memorable experience necessitated reworking the organization of the 10,000-square-foot building. Given the size of the building’s footprint, the newly configured space had to be broken into smaller areas to bring it down to human scale. “Eberly could have ended up as separate rooms, though a segmented solution would not have spoken to the tapestry of cultures, thoughts and experiences that make Austin such a beloved city,” notes Paul Clayton, principal with Clayton & Little.

A 150-year-old handcarved mahogany bar is key to Eberly's warm atmosphere.
A 150-year-old handcarved mahogany bar is key to Eberly’s warm atmosphere.

The existing building’s open layout featured a regular column grid and concrete masonry unit walls that largely drove the new spatial division. The dividing wall between the Dining Room and Study shares a line that previously separated the former print shop front offices from the rear floor production. A glass wall connects the Cedar Tavern to the Study. The design works within the existing structural module to create a series of balanced, proportionate spaces.

Circulation and flow dictated the secondary organizing principle. The Study and kitchen hallway serve as the central spine connecting the Dining Room back to the Cedar Tavern. Rich interiors deftly mix and match styles from the mid-mod Eberly Dining Room to the industrial Study to the refined yet gritty Cedar Tavern. These stylistically distinct yet complementary interiors serve as an invitation for patrons to explore all spaces.

PHOTOS: MERRICK ALES

About the Author

Sam Manning
Sam Manning, a partner with Clayton & Little, served as project architect on Eberly, an eclectic bar and restaurant in Austin, Texas. Manning says he enjoys creating meaningful experiences, memorable spaces and purpose-driven architecture.

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