The Commoner Restaurant & Bar by MARKZEFF, Pittsburgh – Pennsylvania

June 24th, 2015 by retail design blog

Mark Zeff recently finished, The Commoner, a new restaurant and bar located inside the recently opened Kimpton Hotel Monaco in Pittsburgh that I thought you might be interested in publishing. The 4500 sq. ft. space pays homage to the Steel City’s industrial past and features work by local artisans and an oversized bar where Pittsburgh’s legendary sports fans will gather. I am sending you a little brief below and I will send you photography via we-transfer.


The Commoner takes its name from William Pitt, First Earl of Chatham, for whom Pittsburgh is named and who was also known as “The Great Commoner.” Using in-depth research about the town’s storied and gritty past, Zeff translated the time period into the space, evoking a traditional local beer hall with very simple furniture, subdued lighting and rustic materials – the type of place where steel workers and politicians might have rubbed shoulders.


In addition, two key factors were at play in the design: The Commoner is located below street level with only diffused natural light so how would they illuminate the space while keeping the dusky ambiance? In addition, how would they evoke the fierce pride of Pittsburghers in a subtle way that made sense design-wise? Mark collaborated with the company Mirror-Tique to custom-design an oversized antiqued mirror that was hung across the back wall that features an inlaid map of the city of Pittsburgh while reflecting the light coming from the high windows. His design scheme is also evolutionary, with the expectation that over time the spirit of the space will develop the patina of the old tavern it was designed to be. Zeff placed an oversized stencil on the floor in the center that over time will wear away from foot traffic and used painted furniture that will also wear beautifully over time.


To further the homey tavern feel and its inherent camaraderie, one of the key features of The Commoner is its full length exposition kitchen that allows guests to eat at the counter and enhance the dining experience; there are also bar-height communal tables in front of the bar, creating varied seating heights throughout the space; the back bar uses more reflective materials, this time reclaimed wire amber glass and is backlit to create a feature element. Furthermore all of the barstools, tables & banquettes are custom-designed by Zeff highlighted by two custom communal tables built out of wood with statuary marble tops mounted on steel I-beams that are held up by salvaged architectural I-beam columns.

Design: MARKZEFF / Mark Zeff
Photography: Michael Mundy














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