While in the midst of a full-course rebrand for one of our favorite restaurant clients, The Boathouse, TFS jumped on board to help launch their new Mexican concept restaurant, Casa Del Barco. The original logo and identity development project grew into a more comprehensive environmental branding, literally from the ground up. We had the privilege of working with interior designer Helen Reed throughout the building demolition, construction and finishing phases.
Casa Del Barco, the gringo translation of “The Boathouse,” is located in the historic Reynolds Metals Italianate building on the Canal. CDB features a unique waterfront location like its sister restaurants at Sunday Park and Rocketts Landing. Owner Kevin Healy was going for an authentic Mexican vibe that he couldn’t quite articulate, but he knew it when he saw it. We wanted the design to be an amalgamation of all things we considered to be authentic Mexican – both in cuisine and culture. The original opening date was slated for November 1, 2012, Dia de los Muertos, or day of the dead.
We started concepting and created moodboards around the themes of family, food, tequila, honoring the dead, cigar boxes, sugar skulls and old world rustic textures and layers. We referred back to these initial boards as inspiration throughout the process as the branding and design grew. The logo was influenced by ornamental type, hand lettered and painted signage, and wrought-iron scrollwork and filigree. From there we created custom artwork and patterns that we used as layers in the different components – everything had a sepia, leathery, weathered kind of feel. Our identity was rough-hewn and subdued compared to the loud and colorful, stereotypical notion of Mexican. Avoiding these cliches was essential and we found ourselves teaching various members of the Casa Del Barco team what this other side of Mexico looks and feels like.
The series of sugar skulls we illustrated each came to represent a different personality. Our design team chose a direction and each member pursued their own interpretation of what their sugar skull would embody – the first was food with shellfish and seafood, bottles and a guitar; the second became the patron saint of tequila with agave and citrus and shot glasses; the third was our feminine depiction with peppers, flowers and ocean waves.
Maintaining a sense of relation to its sister restaurant, The Boathouse, was also a factor we considered throughout the branding and materials. While they are completely different restaurants with different offerings, we used elements from the established restaurant to influence the new. Our strategy took into account the possibility of future multiple locations of Casa Del Barco, or even a franchise.
We developed an entire retail arm of the brand, most of which to our great delight, we were able to produce. This portion of the design led to some of the restaurant supply (barware, coasters, menus and binders, check clipboard, to go bag and container labels) and influenced the staff uniforms. The t-shirts, flasks, iPhone cases, and temporary tattoos were an exercise in vendor sourcing and all exceeded our expectations. Everybody at The Flores Shop was part of constructing the brand and it was one of our most collaborative efforts to date – from designs to production methods and materials.
The interior furnishings and fixtures were functional components and another area where we wove subtle elements and textures into the mix. We wanted the new space to feel rustic and rough, recycled but also refined. Instead of putting up plain acoustic panels (in consideration of the loft dwellers above), we created graphics that were printed on the acoustic substrate, allowing the ceiling to fade and blend into the other architectural features of the restaurant. We carried these elements throughout the interior, exterior signage, website and collateral materials.
Our intent in every execution was to pay respect: to the history of the building, the origination of the menu, Mexico and also with a nod to Richmond, and the families – past and present – who are part of it all. We used photography of Chef Todd Richardson’s family in custom artwork and illustrations throughout the interiors. We narrated and interpreted a somewhat complex story of origination so all the elements work together, and the tequila label wall graphic in the back corner is probably the most visually comprehensive graphic synopsis of the story.
Casa Del Barco is an homage to the past, and the heritage of the building as well. Via the food, branding and environmental design, we nod to the history of Mexico and its cuisine, with a twist. Thus the tagline, Reinventing Tradition.