Award-winning commercial exterior in Richmond VA

Multiple award-winning commercial exterior in Richmond, VA, Museum District:

Caliente is a neighborhood restaurant in the museum district of downtown Richmond, Virginia. This 1920’s building is in a historic district made up mostly of row houses from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. When the owners bought the building at Sheppard and Park, they set up their restaurant with internal seating only. They enlisted the help of Rob Wright and Cabinetry & Construction to meet several goals:

  1. Outdoor Seating: The owners wanted to add an outdoor seating area. They had selected this location largely because it allowed for that possibility. The expansion added tables and increased their revenue-producing footprint. It also made the business more competitive because there was no other outdoor dining nearby.
  2. Face-lift: The building was in desperate need of a face-lift, appearing tired and uninteresting. During the renovation, we tried to upgrade the construction quality as well as the building’s aesthetics.
  3. Visibility: The restaurant is in a small commercial district surrounded by residential areas. There are three competing restaurants at this intersection. Caliente wanted to stand out among its neighbors. The owners had plans to launch a significant investment in advertising to bring patrons to the restaurant from other neighborhoods. They planned to feature pictures of the restaurant in their campaign and wanted to realize the highest return on that investment.
  4. Branding: The restaurant features a Southwest theme with a matching menu and interior motif. The owners wanted to extend their identity outside.

We sought to meet these needs through several tactics:

Overall approach: Cabinetry & Construction specializes in renovating older buildings. While addressing the business needs of our clients, we were sensitive to making changes in harmony with the original design of the building. We worked closely with the client to ensure that our design worked with the neighborhood, while also achieving a festive but solid look. We wanted a sense of permanent improvement. We especially wanted to avoid having the result look like a temporary, beach patio.

Improved function: We addressed the need for outdoor dining by renovating the front of the building and adding a 24-by-15-foot covered patio that seats 30. We poured a new concrete floor and applied a two-color acid stain to complement the terra cotta colored tile floor inside. We enclosed the entire patio with a brick and stucco wall with custom designed pillars and caps. We replaced an architecturally inappropriate and ugly metal overhang with a two-toned awning to create an all-weather environment, to add punch, and to complete the color scheme. We installed a pressure treated, comfortable bench inside the new wall for seating, reducing the number of chairs to oversee and protect.

Use of Color: We repainted the building with a carefully crafted color palette. The signature color is reminiscent of a warm Southwestern sunburnt brick. We highlighted, complemented, and balanced this red with three pleasing shades of green. The greens include an almost black on the shutters and ironwork, a sage on the pillar caps and a natural stone Verde on the acid-stained floor. We also used a warm terra cotta, the same found throughout the interior, on the floor. Finally, we enlivened and completed the color scheme with a soft ivory on the moldings and the striped awning.

Upgraded materials: Besides removing the metal overhang and replacing it with the more attractive and practical awning, we improved several other areas. On the side and front of the building, we covered ugly aluminum window panels with an architectural solution: We made panels with synthetic moldings, which stand up to weather and hold paint well. We created pillars to hold the awning using stucco to blend with other stucco on the building. We molded concrete pillar caps then acid stained them to make them attractive and durable. The “cast iron” supports mounted on top of the pillars fit with similar designs found throughout historic districts in Richmond, once a major center for iron works. They suit the neighborhood and the city’s heritage. We made them of aluminum for durability and low maintenance. We carefully preserved historic moldings around the doors and windows and added attractive shutters to upper windows.

Repairs: We made other general repairs as part of the renovation. While the decaying rear outside door to the kitchen was not visible to patrons, we replaced it. A retaining wall separates the patio from the adjoining property. We took special care to ensure the integrity of that wall and to work the drainage and the patio into the wall. To improve the safety of the patio, the top finish of the concrete floor resembles chiseled stone, which provides enough texture to keep the patio from being slippery when wet.

Special features: Caliente’s previous sign was small and illegible. We designed new bold, stylish signage that works with the identity and branding of the restaurant. We took special care that the sign’s illumination made it equally pleasing and legible at night. We kept lighting in general subdued and to a minimum. We recommended unique and interesting carnival lights to match the retro, early-twentieth century feel. Hung just under the awning, they provide a festive supplement to tabletop candlelight.

Obstacles overcome and challenges solved: Caliente restaurant is in an area ripe for investment and renewal. While it borders some of the city’s most popular and fashionable urban areas, this particular section was still rundown and plagued with a disproportionate rate of crime. Caliente’s renovation was a bold move by its owners to begin to transform this area.

The owners’ proposed changes at first met skepticism and resistance from the neighborhood. Residents worried that an outdoor dining area would become more of a bar than a restaurant, increasing crime and resulting in late night noise. The City required rezoning the building. The owners worked hard to sell their ideas and to get the compulsory approvals and variances. Cabinetry & Construction provided support in this area as well, enlisting support from our customers, writing to City Council and offering to testify.

Eventually, when the owners shared their plans, neighbors realized the changes would improve their community’s lifestyle and appearance. In fact, the presence of people on the patio eating at night has reduced neighborhood crime and enticed some of the nearby businesses to undertake similar face-lifts.

In short, as an article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch points out, “Caliente represents the implementation of a bold vision, executed with skill and taste.” A once-bland corner building is now a neighborhood landmark and torchbearer for change. It is a great example of going from tired vanilla to zesty salsa.

To see more:

Visit the Projects on our Houzz profile to see our entire portfolio of remodeled baths, kitchens, additions, whole houses, and a few more extra-special projects. Read our Testimonials to see what thrilled customers have to say about us.

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