When the Hilton Garden Inn & 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen first opened in downtown Louisville last November the reception was extremely positive. Local Louisvillians were abuzz with praise on everything from the look, to the food, to the drink menu. With Luckett & Farley serving as the interior designers for the project it was great to see everyone’s reaction to Louisville’s newest hotel and Kentucky’s first rooftop bar. We sat down with Trisha Johnson to learn more about the inspiration and design process.

Hi Trisha, thanks for takingsome time to chat with me today. First I was wondering if you could give us just an overview of the project and how Luckett & Farley became involved?

Sure! We learned that they were looking to build a Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Louisville, just a few blocks away from our office so we were very intrigued. After some conversations and meetings with a few different folks, we were awarded the interior design contract for the lobby of the hotel and for the 8th floor conference space and restaurant, which would become 8UP.

This project was a little different than other hospitality projects I’ve worked on before. Most hotels have a rigid set of standards that the design team must adhere to, but the owners had a desire to customize the hotel lobby and eighth floor restaurant so that it was unique to the city of Louisville. We were able to take a more custom approach that allowed us to really get creative throughout the spaces.

Walk us through how you prepared for this project.

We did significant research before starting. I traveled with the restaurateur to Chicago, New York & Atlanta. In New York we had the opportunity to visit the exclusive Boom Boom Room which is a world famous club that I could have never gotten into on my own.

We duplicated that trip at multiple locations throughout New York, Atlanta, & Chicago. We looked at a few other rooftop bars in Chicago and New York and studied how they were able to handle the flow of people and staff, but more importantly, we were able to speak to people with firsthand experience on operating a restaurant of this type.

I know that most of the stakeholders weren’t centrally located, so tell us what your team did to communicate ideas and help the team arrive to decisions.

Distance was a major challenge for our team so we started utilizing different forms of technology to help communicate our design intent. For example, many major decisions were made through the use of Skype and FaceTime. Our team would set all the finish materials up in a conference room and do a FaceTime chat with all the stakeholders. This allowed us to talk about our finishes, show them, point to them, zoom in on them & then we could have a group discussion. The use of technology made it easy to make big decisions quickly without everyone having to fly across the country, allowing us to streamline a major part of the process.

Can you give us a little idea as to what specific design choices you made to give off the Kentucky vibe that the stakeholders wanted?

It was important to the stakeholders to acknowledge Louisville’s traditional aesthetic in the lobby design, but they also wanted to introduce patrons to what was waiting on the roof, which is a much more contemporary and urban space. To maintain “tradition”, the lobby flooring was selected because it had a natural stone “look” which is a nod to Ohio Falls & the limestone rock beds on which our city is built. We included accents of wood at the reception desk as well as a feature wall that also acts as a space divider. These elements bring a warmth to the space while also adding to the bourbon country feel.

If you could, give us a breakdown of the 8th floor?

The 8th floor was 14,000 sf that had to include a high-end rooftop bar, an elegant restaurant and a conference center that needed to be functional, yet cool. We wanted the conference center to have movable glass walls that would open up the space and give a more relaxed vibe. That gave us the opportunity to completely open the space.

As for the restaurant, we incorporated high back chairs and sofas to add an acoustical softness to the space. This was important because we have a lot of hard surfaces throughout the space. Leading to the exterior, we have over-sized garage doors that open into the patio space. We wanted the ability to claim the patio space as part of the interior space when weather is nice, it gives patrons a completely different experience. As you walk out onto the patio, you are greeted by fire tables, a beautiful bar that floats in the middle of the patio and a large expanse of glass rail that overlooks 4th street live.

What is your favorite feature in the space?

There are quite a few areas and spots I love throughout the space, including the metal coil and the fire tables on the patio, but as weird as it sounds, the restroom areas probably have my favorite feature. Restrooms are always an area where you can be a little bold and add some pizzazz into a space. We wanted to have a fun way to tell people when a bathroom is occupied. At each individual restroom door there is a “welcome mat” built into the floor. From the public side it is just a white translucent floor tile, but when someone shuts the door and locks it, the translucent floor tile lights up red indicating that restroom is occupied. While it’s nothing too crazy, it’s just a fun little twist on the green is empty and red is occupied airplane type system, plus it gives people something to talk about while they wait in line.

Now that the hotel and restaurant are open, how do you feel about the finished product?

I think the project turned out really nice. We’ve gotten great feedback from the public, whether it is in magazine articles or people just talking about it on social media. Seeing this type of response always makes us excited. I’ve actually overheard people discussing their favorite piece of furniture or talking about a specific fabric they loved. It’s rewarding for our team because we feel like we’ve put together a space that people appreciate and enjoy and that, at the end of the day, is why we do what we do.

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