Hungry for the Gronning Aesthetic

The DC restaurant scene has come alive in recent years with celebrity chefs and haut-cuisine popping up in transitioning neighborhoods and attracting urban pioneers by the droves. As a designer for several hip new DC restaurants, Eric Gronning is no stranger to this movement. Some of his latest projects include Maple, Jack Rose, Cork, Oyamel, Jaleo, Thally and Ghibellina, as well as furniture design and fabrication for José Andrés’s office.

In business for himself since 1996, Gronning established Gronning Architects, located in the heart of the U Street Corridor. As Gronning tells us, his company is a dually-faceted architectural design and furniture fabrication business that embodies a clean, simple and modern aesthetic.

Walnut Dining Table“Using materials honestly,” as he puts it, is the keystone of his furniture-building art form, which allows the natural qualities of the materials in his work to be expressed. The Claro walnut conference table in José Andrés’s office, as well as a similar dining table in Andrés’s modern Mexican Penn Quarter restaurant Oyamel, are illustrative of this concept.

At wine-centric Maple in Columbia Heights, all architectural design and furniture fabrication (with exception of the chairs) was done by Gronning Architects. It’s safe to say they have a great relationship with the owners – Gronning and his wife co-own the hit restaurant. Similar to the bar he designed for Cork on 14th Street, the bar at Maple capitalizes on the table functionality of its end extremity by seating parties as large as eight. Diners are able to face one another instead of being strung linearly across the bar, enabling an easier conversation dynamic. For those who prefer to plan ahead, the end of the bar at Maple can be reserved for dinner.

Cork MarketOpening this month are another two highly anticipated eateries with Gronning’s thumbprint on them: Thally and Ghibellina. The build-out of Thally, a Ron Tanaka neighborhood bistro concept in Shaw, was designed by Gronning; while 14th Street’s Tuscan gastro-pub Ghibellina features much of his furniture and steel work, including bar stools, table bases, metal sink frames, and more. Ghibellina’s island bar is inspired by Gronning’s visit to Paris’s Le Petit Fer à Cheval (translated as “The Little Horseshoe”), which features a narrow horseshoe-shaped bar with just enough room for a single bartender to fit behind it. (This is where being a skinny Frenchman comes in handy.)

Besides getting tapped to design space and fabricate furniture for a number of hot spots, Gronning has also been busy planning an art and furniture showroom at his headquarters on U Street, which will exhibit his signature furniture pieces and an array of Project 4 artwork. Gronning says the showroom will be complementary of Dan and Anna Kahoe’s eclectic American mercantile shop GoodWood on the floor above, which features an ever-changing inventory of antique and restored home goods and accessories. Gronning says the opening of his showroom is still a moving target, but anticipates its debut by late autumn.

*All photos courtesy of Gronning Architects.

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