December 1, 2008
A restaurant in old-town Alexandria, Virginia, pays homage to village taverns of yore.
King Street—the main thoroughfare of the old-town district in Alexandria, Virginia—is a picturesque trove of colonial architecture that stretches west from the Potomac River. Though fortunate enough to have a tony address, the Hotel Monaco, built in 1974, lacks the historic cachet of its neighbors. So when Puccini Group was brought in to design a street-front restaurant, the San Francisco–based office wanted to create something befitting the area. “The first things that come to mind with old-town Alexandria are butchers, coopers, cobblers, and bakers,” says Rob Polacek, the principal designer for the project. “We asked where they all would have eaten—they would have eaten at the local tavern.” Thus, Jackson 20, a modern homage to the village tavern, features foods sourced locally, just as they were 250 years ago. The goal with the interior, as Polacek details above, was to evoke a bygone era without being stuck in the past.
Jackson 20, 480 King St., Alexandria, Virginia, (203) 842-2790
SCHUMACHER’S GO BAROQUE WALL-COVERING IN NOIR AND BLANC
The textile in the back with frames on it is a throwback to the fact that people weren’t likely to have many decorative things at that time. What they did have was probably going to be family memorabilia, so the wallpaper was a way of capturing that feeling without actually putting up old pictures.
When we named the restaurant, we were looking for something that had a historical tie but wasn’t so straightforward. Andrew Jackson is on the twenty-dollar bill: we just threw Jackson 20 out there, and it stuck. Later, when we were trying to give the place some recognizable feature, we considered using Jackson’s horse but went with a pig instead. Virginia is known for ham. Jackson was pompous. The pig has different meanings, depending on where you want to take it.
We wanted to keep it really neutral but not necessarily cold. There’s the walnut wood and the deep-graphite stone, and the fabric has grays, browns, and taupes. Colored dyes were expensive at the time, so we kept things as neutral as possible for that feeling of authenticity. The military colors then also had those blues and grays.
HELLA JONGERIUS’S REPEAT TEXTILE FOR MAHARAM
Beautiful old American quilts are made from pieces of fabric that have been sewn together. They were heirlooms that got handed down through families. Repeat is reminiscent of the beauty and craftsmanship of those quilts. Using it on the banquet really shows off how the pattern changes.
GRANITE FLOORING FROM STONE SOURCE
This beautiful chiseled granite is heavy, grounded. It feels like it has been there for as long as the building and gives the space a nice warm patina. It also creates the kind of noise level you would expect in one of those old taverns.
PENDANT LAMPS FABRICATED BY OWEN ADAM GLASS STUDIO
We love the oil lamps with hurricane glass that were used back then, so we began with that idea but flipped the glass upside down and hung it over lightbulbs. We then used a series of them inside mesh cages. We’ve worked with Josh Raskob, who made the lamps, quite a lot, and we thought it was perfect to have a craftsman on the project.