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Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie

by Garrett Fleming

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge

When Kate Rohrer and her all-female team at Rohe Creative initially began putting together a design for Philadelphia, PA’s Louie Louie in 2016, they aimed to replicate the feeling of a classical European cafe. “There is an elegance to this type of design, but it’s also operationally functional,” Kate says. “Plus, the spaces [are] timeless, and we were inspired by that.”

Pretty far into the process, however, Rohe Creative and their clients both felt the need to head back to the drawing board. The original concept just wasn’t vibing anymore, not only amongst themselves but with where the country stood politically. “We listened to our instinct(s) about the way the world felt, and we listened to our client,” the team tells us. “He was pushing us to do more and vice versa. We all wanted to create our best work for the concept.”

In order to craft a space that was optimistic, full of cheer and welcoming to all, Kate shifted focus to the fancy-free 1960s and 70s, a period of design when bright colors reigned supreme. “By taking a step back in time, we felt free to explore and create and had a lot of fun doing it,” she explains. Along the way they weren’t just replicating tried-and-true styles, though. They were updating them, crafting a look deemed “Retro Nouveau” for its layered combination of the old and new.

Amidst the eclectic Retro Nouveau touches basks an abundance of curves. Whether through lighting design or furniture, these undulations nod to fierce femininity and the excitement felt after 2017’s Women’s March. This purposeful touch paired with a vibrant color scheme has made Louie Louie one of the most memorable spaces I’ve ever covered. Scroll down to check it out, and enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Heidi’s Bridge. Design by Rohe Creative.

Image above: Custom cane walls by Corinne Marshall, a custom chandelier and antique mirror details in Louie Louie’s semi-private dining room.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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The banquettes feature “bright, bold, unapologetic colors and patterns from the 1960s and 1970s.” Look closely, and you can see the intricate custom caning and marble work.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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Complementary shades of marble serve as anchors between the various rooms in Louie Louie.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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The Presidential election landed in the middle of the project and caused a major shift in the team’s overall design goal. “We began looking at Post-War optimism that included retro ‘feel good’ music, sayings, lifestyles, [etc.]” Kate Rohrer says. Eventually they began focusing on Peter Max – one of their client’s favorite designers. Sign painting by Gibbs Connors.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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“(The) custom mosaic floor tile pattern (created by New Ravenna) was inspired by the psychedelic pop artist Peter Max, who was known for his bold use of color,” the design team explains. The metal inlay was crafted by Iron Studio.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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A painting by Jessalyn Brooks hangs near the lounge’s fireplace and chandelier – both of which were purposefully centered to make the space symmetrical.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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The lounge was designed to evoke the feeling of a cozy, residential living room.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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“Warm woods/metals, custom tiles and window treatments” helped the Rohe Creative team achieve the spot’s vibe.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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Just one of the many gorgeous furniture pieces used in Louie Louie’s design that takes a step back in time.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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The bar is the connecting point between Louie Louie’s lounge and restaurant.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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Louie Louie flows directly into the adjoining Inn at Penn hotel – a beloved hangout for University of Pennsylvania alumni. Kate Rohrer and her design team were careful not to compromise what the inn’s fans love about it. “It’s always a delicate dance and so important for designers to remain flexible,” she says.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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The design redirect Rohe Creative and their client went through six months into the project taught the team how to trust their gut: “We stepped out of our comfort zones, and it made the rest of the build-out process exhilarating as it came to life,” Kate Rohrer tells us.

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A wall of reclaimed subway tile from Philadelphia row houses in the main dining room.

Retro Nouveau Style at Philadelphia, PA Restaurant Louie Louie, Design*Sponge
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“Guests love to feel like they can take over their own little ‘nook’ with friends and family,” Kate Rohrer explains. Plants and more of Corinne Marshall’s custom cane work make this space in particular very inviting.

SOURCE LIST

Lounge painting – Jessalyn Brooks
Sign painting – Gibbs Connor
Custom metal – Iron Studio
Custom seating – Munrod Upholsterers
Vintage rugs – Rohe Home
Vintage seating – Rohe Home, At Home Modern
Custom pillows – Reba Allan Designs
Gold leaf signs – Gibbs Connors
Mosaic tile – New Ravenna
Caning – Corinne Marshall
General contractor – David Semerjian Builders
Millwork – Halkett Woodworking Co.

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