As Genevieve Legg, founder and owner of Formed 4 Design, set out to transform a 108-year-old commercial space into a modern eatery and cocktail bar, chef Christopher Lam didn’t give her too much direction. “His main thing is nose-to-tail dining,” says Legg, “so I wanted to complement that concept visually... and the only other thing I got from him was ‘steampunk.’” Food and retrofuturism were her only guidelines. Beyond that, the restaurateur simply told her, “You know what I like.”

straight and marrowAdam Blasberg

It was an exciting—and earned—freedom: Straight and Marrow would be Legg’s fourth design project for Lam (over the past decade, she’s worked on Provence Mediterranean Grill, TWB–The Wine Bar and Lam’s own home). This restaurant would have its own, unprecedented challenges. First was the century-old floor that “went in about five different directions.” Second was the COVID-19 pandemic, of course. And third, while Legg was partway through the reno (painting the once-white walls a fresh, dark green) she got a call telling her that her condo was on fire. She lost everything. “All I had was my painting pants!” she remembers.

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Despite it all, Straight and Marrow was completed—and the restaurant is rich in furnishings and details that, in true 2020 fashion, have seen it all. For example: Legg and design colleague Leah Bradley “updated” the original mahogany tables by scorching them with a Tiger torch, then whipping them with chains and hammers. Wood panelling around the zinc bar top was switched out for a vintage metal wrap. The chairs were reupholstered in stitched, soft brown vinyl, and the spherical pendant lights were given a metal makeover with hand-bent copper that Legg and Bradley salvaged from a local scrapyard. Behind the zinc bar, old barn wood was jigsawed to create shelving.

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The scrap-metal and recycling yards also came in handy when bringing to life Lam’s steampunk dream. “I thought: what a great opportunity to complement Chris’s culinary focus by repurposing and reusing discarded items in a feature wall,” says Legg. She and Bradley searched for items that would look mechanical but polished, sometimes digging through mud to find the perfect piece. The 23-foot feature wall is artfully crafted with BX electrical cable, conveyor belt wheels, gears and cogs (all primed and painted gold) and geometric copper and bronze panelling.

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The end result is an elegant machine powered by recycled materials, resourceful thinking and a very resilient team. “We didn’t want it to be pretentious; it has a very cozy, warm feeling with a bit of whimsy thrown into it,” says Legg. “It’s not too serious, and extremely original.”