I'm thrilled to share this completed project with you today. It seems like so long ago now, my dear friend Chris, began talking about this passion project of his--a Southern comfort cuisine restaurant named Bubba. To see that dream be turned into a real-life, beautiful, delicious, and booming restaurant has been such a delight. Chris is a total force and along with an amazing team, they created this vision. I have loved every second of being a small part of that team.
Bubba is a very personal project for Chris. His family moved from Texas to Iowa when he was young, and although he has a deep love for Des Moines, he has Southern roots. The restaurant is even named Bubba, a traditional nickname for the eldest son in a family, and Chris's familial nickname. I wanted the artwork to tell the story of not only Chris and his family, but of the South as well.
This is a copy of a painting of Chris's great-grandmother on his maternal side. The original currently hangs in his grandmother's home in Waco, TX, and we set out to create a copy. We hired a photographer in Waco to go to his grandparent's house. From there, she sent us the files, and I had it printed to canvas. I had a custom frame created for the piece that would highlight that beautiful dress and the colors in the piece. She is a beautiful Southern belle and the Matriarch of the lounge.
Next to Chris's great-grandmother is a custom painting we had created by local Des Moines artist, Jimmy Navarro. I love working with Jimmy because he always creates incredible custom pieces for my clients. Jimmy came to the restaurant while it was still in construction and added details into the painting like the Bubba napkins and matching bar top. The Bulleit Burbon and other ingredients will make the perfect Old Fashioned.
Magnolias are a Southern flower staple and are featured around the restaurant. These beautiful tile photographs were created by local photographer, Rick Lozier. I had Rick's series printed onto tiles that would raise off of the wall to add some dimension to the pieces.
When you first walk into Bubba, you're greeted by a wall of silver platters (that is if you can keep your eyes off of the bourbon wall straight ahead). When I think of the South, I think of beautiful dinner parties, going the extra mile, and a certain elegance. Silver platters evoke that formality and old world charm to me. Over several months, I went to estate sales and thrift stores to find pieces that would blend together and have character. The best part was that a wonderful woman here in Des Moines recognized a platter of hers that she had donated to the charity sale I had bought it from. Layers on layers to the stories at this restaurant.
There are two custom gorgeous chandeliers on the first floor of the restaurant. I knew I had to find artwork that would need to compliment and work with these statement pieces. The magnolia piece was an idea that Chris and I had been talking about for quite some time. The final piece came from a photograph we purchased and had printed on a matte acrylic and it stands off the wall with brass bolts.
Right next to the magnolia is another painting by Jimmy Navarro. Jimmy often does paintings of men's shoes (I have a painting of Converse hanging in my bedroom by him) and when I showed the idea to Chris, he was on board. There are many elements, you'll soon see, if men's clothing. Southern men are often the best dressed men, and so it was an idea that we came back to again and again. Whether it's with saddle shoe bucs, bow ties, straw hats, or men's suiting material and belts on the booths, there are nods to men's Southern wardrobes all over the restaurant.
Oh, this booth. The belts on the back cushions are too good, first of all, and I had nothing to do with that. The Southern hat wall always felt like a fun idea to me but when it all came together, it became this sleeper hit. My sister Kate, searched the internet for fun and stylish hats and put together the perfect combo, in my opinion.
On the left side of the booth is a photo of Chris's great-grandfather on his paternal side. This photo is a perfect photo. So much character and grit. I look it and see a true Southern cowboy. I had the custom frame created to match the decor and give a nod to his great-grandmother's frame on the other side of the restaurant.
On the right side, is a painting by Joseph Bradley, an artist from Greenville, South Carolina, who has shown in the past at the Des Moines Arts Festival. We loved the connection to both the South and Des Moines, plus Joseph's beautiful imagery of a southern landscape.
These three pieces by the stairwell are the perfect example of when a plan comes together. I had an idea to frame slices of trees native to the South in shadowboxes and have a calligrapher write out their names like a botanical study. The wood pieces were purchased online and right before they were framed, Jean Wilson, perfectly wrote out their names. I'm thrilled with the results. It was like the vision in my brain was made concrete. I love it when that happens.
Talk about another artist I love working with--Anna Frederick. Anna is such a professional and so good at what she does. Hand-lettering is a dying art and she's an artist who loves her craft and the history behind it. "Bless Your Heart" is the ultimate Southern expression and perfectly fills up the wall exiting to the patio. If you look up you can also see Anna's work above the main doors that says "Y'all Come Back." So good.
Coming back again to men's clothing, Chris's partner Jonathan had an idea with bowties. I thought it was brilliant and set out to create a large wall full of fun and colorful pieces. No bowtie is repeated and each looks great on its own but as a whole wall it's an amazing effect. I bought untreated wood shadow boxes from Michael's, bad them painted navy and white and fit a bowtie into each one.
And finally, we have a piece by Van Holmgren. Again, when I think of the South, I think of hunting lodges and taxidermy. I wanted to put together that effect without having an actual deer head hanging anywhere above you while you are eating. I worked with Van to use the colors and houndstooth print from the Bubba branding while he used his signature custom stencil, pop style. The wood came from an Orchestrate Hospitality team member's renovated home and were floor boards he had ripped up. Van white washed them for a perfect backdrop to his work.
Okay, phew! That was a lot of words, but I can't express enough how proud I am of this project, or how much fun it was to work with Chris and the whole crew. I hope you'll go in and see it in person and have a big ol' plate of chicken and waffles for me. You'll probably see me there too hanging out in the lounge eating the banana pudding (it's to die for) and having a mint julep.