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Mid-century is in. Word art is out. Thoughts on space with Charlotte designer Sarah Slusarick.

Sarah Slusarick Charlotte restaurant design 1

Last week, this meme sparked a debate between food bloggers on social media.

The joke of the meme is that a lack of focus on your interior and your dining room means that your food is probably getting most of your focus.

Or you can be bougie like me, and the site of a trashed dining room makes you assume the kitchen is trashed as well. If you don't show excellence in your dining room, you must not show excellence in your food either.

The meme underscores how spaces aren't just spaces. Your space can underscore or overshadow your food. Class, culture, and history are built brick by brick when you design your dining room.

I wanted to get smartened up on Charlotte interior design as it relates to restaurants, so I reached out to Sarah Slusarick. Sarah runs Craftera Creative Co., a company specializing in custom art installations for events and spaces.

In a series of emails over the last month, Sarah walked me through the most popular trends in Charlotte spaces, her opinion on restaurants creating "Instagrammable moments," and her favorite spaces in Charlotte.

[Note: Certain passages have been bolded by Inside 485 for readability. As always, no business mentioned has paid for coverage.]

Sarah Slusarick Charlotte restaurant design 2

I-485: First off, I have to ask: what's your opinion on the dining room meme? Does a messy dining room mean the food is fire, or does it signify a lack of care?

Sarah: That's hard because I understand where that idea comes from on a base level - you usually find a little hole in the wall place in cities that will wholeheartedly surprise you when your food is delivered. I do think overall this does lean more towards a lack of care all around though - the dining room is only a reflection of the kitchen. I would love to always assume that well-designed restaurants mean the food and cleanliness of the operation are just as up to par, but unfortunately, I've seen so many gorgeous restaurants getting horrid sanitation scores lately. Maybe they're banking too much on the exterior and this is really becoming a problem from the inside out.

I-485: How would you describe what you do?

Sarah: I own an art installation company that specializes in making custom art installations for events and interiors. I start each project by getting to know the client and their vision. Whatever the event, location or aesthetic - I then design each project in a way that will align with the client's needs and highlight them or their brand's identity. I utilize branding, market research, themes, logos and event hashtags to help make the client's vision a picture-perfect reality!

I-485: I'm really bad about judging a book by it's cover. The moment I walk into a restaurant, I'm already noticing tired things like unfinished ceilings and IKEA style furniture. What's the first thing you notice about a space when you walk into it? 

Sarah: Since I have such a strong background in Photography - I usually notice the available natural light in any new space. Then my brain starts racing and noticing the amount of wall space, ceiling height, and any architectural elements of the space that I could play off of. 

I-485: What design trends are you seeing right now in Charlotte restaurants?

Sarah: I feel like there's a huge resurfacing of trends from the 50's-70's right now. Mid-century modern design has never gone away, but I definitely think there's a much larger appreciation for MCM aesthetics as well as bohemian and botanical trends currently. 

Eight and Sand Kitchen Charlotte
Eight and Sand is the perfect example of mid-century modern mixed with botanical and bohemian themes.

I-485: What trends do you hope we all leave in 2019?

The "word-art" trend is something that I have never quite understood. That includes posters, prints, cutesy signs with textural platitudes, pillows with phrases, overused quotes or even the single adjectives or verbs ("blessed," "gather," etc). I like to call it the "live, laugh, love" trend. It's gotta go. 

I-485: Your point about "Live Laugh Love" aesthetics is interesting to me. Does that include neon signs? I've noticed very Instagrammable neon signs are becoming really popular (Lost and Found, the Manchester, QC Pourhouse). I can't tell if I like them or if I think they're tacky. What are your thoughts on intentionally creating Instagrammable elements in spaces? Is it just a cheap trick to get customers to do free social media marketing, or are they a valid artistic take?

Sarah: I think that's a great question, because in my opinion there's a HUGE difference than a run of the mill "gather," " family," etc sign than a quotable used for Instagram moments. I think honing in on creating those spaces specifically for people to see and be seen and then in turn post about it is exactly what's working this day and age. It's basically free advertising for businesses. I think the neon sign / the insta moment has to be done well and be unique in order for it to be successful (and that's where I come in!)

I-485: What are some of your favorite spaces in Charlotte?

Sarah: Optimist Hall, The Suffolk Punch, and La Belle Helene are my top three restaurant spaces, and Archer Paper (inside Optimist Hall!), Covet Atelier, The Design District in Southend, Camp North End, and the mobile glamper from CLT Boutique are a few of my favorite retail spaces. 

I-485: One of the major continual questions facing Charlotte is whether or not we have a discernible culture. Design and space usage are an aspect of culture. Does Charlotte have a unique personality when it comes to interiors for restaurants/retail spaces? 

Sarah: Absolutely. I was born and raised in Charlotte so I've watched it grow and develop into the thriving city it is today. I respect the appreciation for the arts, the diverse culture, and the initiative to activate underutilized spaces throughout the city by incorporating design, art, and modernism. I think Charlotte takes a lot of cues from larger cities so I would like to see a bit more individuality and less imitation, but I think that's something that we're working on!

Follow Craftera Creative Co. on Instagram to see more of Sarah's work.

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