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Having just completed a Midtown steakhouse, New York downtown darlings AvroKO are set to reach a wider audience

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“Our clients like the idea that we can work in so many different disciplines,” says Adam Farmerie, a partner in New York design firm AvroKO. He’s giving a tour of his firm’s just finished project, Quality Meats. For the amber-lit Manhattan steakhouse, a property of the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, AvroKO designed not only the space but also details like tables, lighting, waitstaff uniforms, and water-bottle graphics. Since joining forces six years ago, the quartet—architects Farmerie and Greg Bradshaw and graphic designers William Harris and Kristina O’Neal—has carved out a niche in Lower Manhattan as a one-stop shop for soup-to-nuts restaurant design.

The creative force behind such downtown hot spots as Sapa, the Stanton Social, and Public, they often draw design inspiration from their Nolita locale; their offices, above Public, are just north of New York’s Little Italy. A streak of gritty nostalgia runs through much of their work. Channeling a vanished New York, they frequently unearth a building’s original substructure, finding beauty in the construction history buried beneath layers (and years) of drywall and paint. In a milieu—New York restaurant design—dominated by the sort of big-ticket theatricality pioneered by David Rockwell and Adam Tihany, the firm stands out for its focus on intimate, even bleak, spaces and its frequent use of found repurposed materials. The terribly photogenic foursome—the subject of a good deal of media attention and the upcoming book Best Ugly—is in constant demand these days, with ongoing projects in Toronto, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas.

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