Prasino, a suburban group of contemporary health-conscious eateries, wanted to bloom and grow. So it recently opened its first urban venture in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. And the restaurant’s longtime designer, Caren Crangle of Chicago’s Simeone Deary Design Group, was once again asked to tend to the restaurant’s design.
Having created an eco-chic look for the LaGrange and St. Charles locations, Crangle wanted to carry that ambiance over to the new space. But the restaurant also needed to mesh with the hipster neighborhood’s ultra-urban sensibility.
Crangle describes the new Wicker Park venue as “the big brother that lives in the city.” And although the restaurant trio is unmistakably related, the Chicago Prasino — which means “green” in Greek — is decidedly more edgy than its suburban sisters.
Taking over a long-vacant, newly constructed storefront, Crangle began the design process the same way she has in the past.
“We definitely take one big idea and take it apart, deconstruct it and put it back together in the space,” Crangle says. And that “one big idea” is the urban farmers’ market, she says. Places such as Chicago’s bustling Green City Market — with its tents, stacks of crated fresh fruits and vegetables and asphalt ground covering — provided the seeds for her eco-conscious design.
Crangle’s interpretation of a farmers’ market is very loose, as the clean-lined, sophisticated restaurant is anything but rustic or folksy. Prasino owner Ted Marglaris, whom Crangle describes as having a strong sense of aesthetics, didn’t want his green restaurant to “look like a granola kind of place.”
Divided into two main spaces — a daytime café/evening lounge and a main dining room — Crangle used an abundance of green materials as she explored her farmers’ market concept.
Various walls and some ceiling areas throughout the space are clad with horizontal planks of rapidly renewable mesquite wood. The wood is meant to evoke those aforementioned fruit and vegetable crates.
Polished and stained concrete flooring — accented with eco-friendly cork and wood — runs through the rooms and gives Prasino its urban edge.
The concrete, Crangle says, “makes you feel like you are walking around in a farmers’ market that’s been set up on a city street.”
Crangle worked with graphic designer Ken Ludeke to create “graphic, edgy” custom wallcoverings that showcase a collage of black-and-white photos. The wallpaper, which has a PVC-free backing, features pictures of farmers’ markets, wooden crates, produce and more, along with vintage Marglaris family photos. The lively paper covers a structural column in the main dining area, as well as semi-private dining “niche” at the room’s end.
Ludeke also designed the linear mirrors that run along the walls of the dining room above rows of leather banquettes and semicircular booths and also appear again in the lounge. The unique mirrors are decorated with abstract imagery inspired by stacked vegetable crates, stamps of the restaurant’s logo and inspiration sayings. The images were applied to the mirrors with a white water-based ink.
Crangle chose an earthy color palette for all three Prasinos. Here, ivories, browns, copper, and citrus and asparagus greens provide visual cues that the restaurant is all about “all natural.” The colors pop up in fabrics (many made from recycled polyester and bamboo), eco-friendly Green Hides leather, sustainable and reclaimed woods, VOC-free paint and “green” drapery sheers that hang over the dining room’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
Although the eatery’s look is thoroughly modern, Crangle wanted to design a warm, “harmonious” and inviting space. Her mission, she says, was to create “a really great comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere” that also had “the modern edge” her client was going for.
A number of touches give the eatery a welcoming, fun vibe. At the entrance stands a trio of comfy chenille-upholstered tub chairs paired with funky cocktail tables crafted from fallen trees. (A similar setup is arranged next to the bar.) This homey group is adjacent to an EcoSmart see-through fireplace that separates the reception area from the dining room.
Conventional booths are replaced with back-to-back wood-framed, leather-upholstered settees. The sofa-like settees appear both in the lounge — where they are dotted with perfectly arranged throw pillows — and in the dining room. In both spaces, they are paired with richly stained and environmentally friendly larch wood veneered tables.
And playful lighting is used throughout the eatery. There are numerous ball- and bell-shaped pendants made from layers of recycled cardboard. Additionally, two outré fixtures — one in the dining niche, the other in the bar — pair amber-colored recycled glass orbs with repurposed metal “stems.” The fixtures are stylized interpretations of sunflowers. A farmers’ market staple, the sunflower is the restaurant’s icon and symbol of green ideology.
The fixtures, Crangle says, “add a little sparkle and glamor to the space.”
1846 West Division Street
Chicago, Illinois 60622