Lounge Acts: Allium, griffinGB, and Vintage Make Sitting Around an Art
The lounge at Allium. Photo courtesy of Allium.
Lounging can be much more than just chilling on a comfy couch. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) In some cases, it can even be an art form (just ask Proust), one that requires the collaborative efforts of hospitable professionals with unique style, people whose foremost desire is to bring a convivial and sophisticated scene together in a novel way. And, often enough, to soft sell some stuff, like what you’re lounging on.
One notable example is taking place right now in Great Barrington, where local vintage clothing and furniture shops, griffinGB, and the eight-month-old Vintage, which bookend the town, are in a design collaboration with Allium Restaurant + Bar. It all started by chance. Deidre Corcoran and her business partner Emma Blair, co-owners of Vintage on Route 7 in Sheffield, and friend Connie Griffin, proprietor of griffinGB, would meet to unwind after work over dinner and drinks at Allium.
“I always loved the original loveseat and coffee table at Allium,” said Corcoran, who ended up approaching restaurant owner, Nancy Thomas, to purchase the distressed leather chair and table. Thomas agreed and Corcoran happily packed up the seats in her pickup truck and drove off. But that left an open space in the lounge with no seating for guests. As Corcoran recounts “Hmm, necessity being the mother of invention…I asked Nancy if she would consider letting our shops set up a new lounge using items from Vintage and griffinGB.”
Deidre Corcoran. Photo courtesy of Allium.
With a shared love of decorative arts history, style, and collaboration, Thomas agreed. Now every six to eight weeks, Allium revamps the lounge with merchandise from Vintage and griffinGB. February marks the start of installation number two for the trio. GriffinGB and Vintage will alternately renovate the lounge scene, handing leadership off to each other each month.
During February, both Allium and its sister restaurant, Mezze Bistro, are presenting food, drink, design, and music inspired by a Scandinavian theme. The shopkeepers fashioned the Allium lounge with a simple and modern roomy vintage workbench (which Corocroan revamped herself from a bench to table) and six stools ($4,200), a black chipped swivel stool ($150), antlers ($320), Libbey glass candles adorned with golden foliage ($60), and an original watercolor ($875) hanging on the wall overhead. The Allium bar highlights vodkas and aquavit-based cocktails, and the menu — designed by new head chef Daire Rooney — will be full of Scandinavian-inspired items such as smoked and cured fish and pickled foods.
Since it opened in 2007, Allium has been known for its commitment to buying locally and supporting independent farms and artisan producers, a notable wine and cocktail menu, and a hip young staff. But the lounge space at Allium has been just as integral to the restaurant as the food. The popular and chic setting is visible from Railroad Street; its dark wooden bar and warm interior can be seen through the restaurant’s large, clear, nearly sidewalk-to-ceiling garage door window. The lounge area has always been a happening destination for locals and out-of-towners looking to cozy up in the winter (or in summer for refreshing cocktails at an open window). Many fans of Allium have found themselves enjoying a drink at the lounge before dinner or after a movie, or have parked there all night long, sharing laughs, nibbling on marinated olives and Marcona almonds, and greeting friends who stride through the restaurant’s front doors.
“Beyond good food, I have always enjoyed a good rally and collaboration,” says Allium’s Nancy Thomas, who strives to combine forces with other business owners in new and interesting ways. She has featured the work of young, local artists in both restaurants, hosted jewelry, trunk, and fashion shows (including one in which skateboarders glided down the center of the restaurant), and even punk rock bands on Sunday afternoons, just so that young kids from the area could have something to do. However, this is the first effort to change up the physical layout of the restaurant.
“Nancy has really opened her arms to us to come in without questions,” says Corcoran. “She is not even asking to see pictures; she has trust in us, so we are definitely cognizant of that as we are staging the lounge area of a very successful restaurant.”
Vintage in Sheffield. Photo courtesy of Vintage.
Corcoran, who has an extensive background in design, has spent the past few years buying, remodeling, and selling historic homes, and has been involved in style photography as well as an Etsy site, “Amos Rhoades,” which she has now integrated into Vintage’s online store. Her partner Blair has a love of style and fashion and recently spent time working and studying in Los Angeles and Italy, where she attended art school for photography and fashion design.
Together, Vintage and griffinGB carry cool, one-of-kind finds like hand-blown Simon Pearce wine and water goblets and an Andy Warhol-inspired banana poster from 1967 framed on foam board ($650). This project allows for the stores to showcase what they sell, making hanging out just as valuable to the shops as to the lounger. Items are always for sale. Last month griffinGB and Vintage featured a 1950’s coffee table and side table (set - $375), French club chairs (pair - $1100), an old Turkish urn ($700), burning on wood art work by Stephanie Lauretano ($600), large coral ($175); and more. The highlighted drink for January at Allium was, of course, whiskey.
Deidre Corcoran, Nancy Thomas, and Emma Blair. Photo courtesy of Allium.
The women of griffinGB and Vintage find that working collaboratively with Allium brings inspiration and the opportunity to gain new perspectives on design and their fields, as well as the sheer joy of companionship, plus a new opportunity to showcase their wares and curatorial skills. “The rawness and freshness, it feels amazing,” says Corcoran. “And what a cool thing to be in the hop of Great Barrington. It’s fun for all with a side of whiskey and kale salad too.”
Allium took to its blog to tout the new project: “In the interest of sticking together, we’ve teamed up with Vintage and griffinGB to redesign the Allium lounge area. We’re feeling very fortunate to be surrounded by local, creative businesses that share our spirit of collaboration and the desire to shake things up.” —Fiona Breslin
Allium Restaurant + Bar
42/44 Railroad Street, Great Barrington
Sunday – Thursday (Kitchen closed Wednesdays — bar is open): 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Friday + Saturday: 5 pm - 10 pm
1695 N. Main Street Route 7, Sheffield
Sat + Sun: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
177 Main Street, Great Barrington
Wed - Sun: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.