You know times have changed when a new restaurant in Manhattan's swank Meatpacking District brags that its decor has been scavenged from junk yards, flea markets, and discarded packing materials. But that's exactly the shabby aesthetic that The Collective, which opens on St. Patrick's Day, aims to make chic for folks who don't mind eating burgers on sofas possibly found on curbs ("Totally reupholstered!" designers insist to the bed-bug-phobics among us.)
ICrave, the outfit that previously designed such tony venues as NYC clubs Tenjune and Crobar, the W Atlanta Hotel Midtown, and the markets at the T5 JetBlue Terminal at JFK, is behind the re-do of what formerly was One Little West 12th. "The owner wanted something new but didn't want something expensive," says lead designer Robert DelPazzo, echoing a mantra that many designers have been hearing from clients for the past, dismal year. "To renovate in this velvet ropey area for less than a million is unheard of. We basically did it for one tenth the cost."
To save money, ICrave recruited artists on Craigslist and Etsy, assembling a team that included a plumber who also worked designs lighting fixtures in styrofoam, a former Swiss goldsmith who recycles street signs, and a pair of women carpenters from Brooklyn who create dazzling floors from reclaimed wood.
Various columns in the space are covered with deflated balloons, old twist-ties, or junk jewelry. A wall of slot machines, unearthed in flea markets in upstate New York, will glow against one wall. There will be around 150 pieces of recycled furniture in the space, reborn in ICrave's workshop. "One sofa will be reupholstered in jeans, another in an ugly granny pattern, but stenciled with skulls," says DelPazzo. "Each piece is funny and unique in its own way." A drink named "Dirty Granny," will honor the old dames.
Remnants of New York City will abound, from old subway doors to parking meters seeing new life as lamps. There will be a swarm of butterflies crafted from old LPs, and a flock of birds made from old steel license plates —- two from every state. The bar is embellished with battered muffin tins from a defunct bakery, and the hostess stand is a repurposed jet engine. "Every object represents layers and layers of found things," he says.
The menu will forgo the neighborhood's precious vittles in favor of small plates of upscale comfort food—mac 'n cheese, burgers, pizzas. "The owner wanted something not glitzy, something approachable," says DelPazzo.
In a nod to our recent economic doldrums, Icrave has even resurrected the Depression Era folkart custom of the Memory Pot—a pot with small mementoes affixed to it that remind one of a lost loved one—Grampa's watch, Auntie's buttons and thimble. But this is Manhattan, not Mayberry, so this tradition naturally has a twist. "We have one with a doll's head glued on it," says DelPazzo. "It's a little creepy."