Publication: Sources+Design Magazine
Date: November / December 2004

The challenge was to convert what previously was a tucked away Chinese, take-out joint into an upscale, signature restaurant emphasizing wine and seasonal foods for a young female chef/owner. Architect Terry Carpenter, AIA, and designer Jeff Metheney, partners in the Edwards, Colorado firm Atlantis, took on the challenge, right down to the menus and custom charger plates.

"Kelly Liken is a 27-year-old chef who graduated first in her class from the Culinary Institute of America," Carpenter explains. "She came back to Colorado wanting to open her own restaurant in Vail." Liken had looked into using a firm from New York to do her eponymous restaurant, but found out about Atlantis, a firm specializing in hospitality and retail design, via the internet. "It pays to have a Website," Metheney quips.

Metheney and Carpenter, aided by Atlantis team members Mark Rogers, an interior designer, and Wendy Herbers, a graphic designer, had a series of meetings with Liken to get to know her concept for the restaurant. "She had an initial menu that emphasized regional, seasonal cuisine," Carpenter explains. "Kelly also favored equal emphasis on the wine, wanting a wine bar and a room for wine storage."

Among Liken's other interests for her restaurant was to make it sophisticated and metropolitan, fun and not quiet, and a place a customer could come wearing hiking boots or stilettos for fine food and wine.

While the thematic elements fueled the team's creative juices, the 2,300-square-foot space presented its own set of problems. The space, part of a commercial building on a busy street corner, didn't work well with a doorway straight out on the street. Instead, the restaurant's entrance was relocated to an interior lobby and marked by a sliding glass panel with the Kelly Liken logo. The former exterior doorway was replaced with a window, creating a bay that became a home to a new community table. The designers also created a canopy with the Kelly liken logo for the building's exterior for streetside recognition.

The rest of the interior space was gutted, with low ceilings reworked to accommodate new ductwork. The designers opted to keep the kitchen in the same location, and worked with kitchen consultant Jeff Katz of Carbondale to create a workable space for Liken. "We worked on the aesthetics of the kitchen for Kelly," Metheney recalls. "It's visible from the back dining area. She told us she wanted a happy space if she was going to spend 14 hours a day in there.

The newly built interior includes a 12 -seat wine bar and restaurant seating for some 70 people. "It's theme, says Metheney, was inspired by the deep red and golden colors of wine, and the recurring circular and spiral forms are like stains left by wine bottles and glasses. Against a backdrop of honed slate flooring, inset with glass tiles, and cherry-stained quarter-sawn maple millwork, the design team utilized comfortable seating and simple tables in traditional lines. Pendant lighting and a hand blown glass chandelier add a soft glow to the setting, which is sparked by a scroll-shaped metalwork for door pulls, glass frames and partitions. Sheer metallic mesh draperies hang at either end of the banquette to provide a sense of separation between the bar and dining area. Liken picked out the artwork, purchasing some from local galleries and commissioning other pieces directly from the artists.

The Atlantis team's work extended into incorporating her signature into printed collateral, window graphics and signage; they even designed a custom charger plate for the place settings. "There's a high level of detail in this project," Metheney says. "People do notice it."

Kelly Liken opened in May, giving Liken and her culinary team time to get up and running before the start of Vail's ski season. "She's in a great location," Carpenter says. "There's a Four Seasons resort opening soon next door."