Artifice in the Arts District embraces the neighborhood
Wed, Mar 23, 2011 (4:06 p.m.)
Photo: Justin M. Bowen
Artifice ain’t your pappy’s neighborhood watering hole. There are ’70s-era lounge booths, a knotty pine floor referencing area warehouses, exposed vents and skylights, and a wraparound bar connecting the rooms, each with its own sound system.
But then owners Brett Sperry and Trinity Schlottman got a little wacky, bought a bunch of old televisions off of eBay, cut them in half to frame the mirrors in the men’s room (and to use as artwork above the urinals) and painted large-scale static on the opposite wall. Stencils, created from what Sperry calls “granny wallpaper,” laid the pattern for one of the bar’s four sitting areas. And local artist Juan Muniz, who painted the bar’s clever, outdoor, coloring book-style murals—including one of a woman whose attached thought bubbles will change according to the whims of the area—also painted interconnecting storyline works to hang inside the bar.
Essentially, this 3,400-square-foot DIY lounge is a whimsically elegant living room cocktail space, custom built and decorated using local artists and artisans and accented by random and playful accoutrements that reference the Arts District at every turn.
It’s a mouthful, but that about sums up the eclectic design experience inside the 1953 warehouse-style building renovated on a $350,000 budget.
“There are a lot of playful, whimsical, rambunctious elements,” Sperry says while sitting in the conversation area, separated from the main bar by a raised floor and large oak shelves painted black. “We’re also rejoicing and celebrating elements from the past, from the neighborhood. The whole spirit is to make something feel like it kind of grew here, organically.”
From inside the lounge, Sperry, who made his money as a video game designer, can look out onto his own neighborhood, toward Newport Lofts where he lives and across Charleston into his Brett Wesley Gallery. The location wasn’t his and Schlottman’s first choice, but it was easily accessible for Sperry and others in the neighborhood working on the stealth project—a DIY bar as a way to stretch the dollar in a tricky economy. Sperry designed the furniture. Artist Danny Roberts helped with the overall concept. Joel Spencer from Happenstance painted the exterior bricks and created functional accents inside. Schlottman, division manager for Urban Lofts for Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas, built the booths with his crew, cut tables and laid the floor. The performance room, separated from everything else by 11-foot-tall chocolate curtains, has chalk-drawing-style acchellents on the black wall.
But it’s the windows that really make the place stand out. Not often do you see so many windows in a Las Vegas bar. These guys busted out the concrete walls and installed five giant windows, then built molding, painted yellow, to frame the landscape—the poetic Charleston Boulevard grit and overall industrial charm of the neighborhood so many have come to love. “There’s a lot of fun going on in the Arts District. We wanted to let some of that in,” Sperry says.
So what’s next? “Vacation,” Schlottman says. Sperry just smiles. He’s already working on his next idea.