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Highball Social

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Stonecutter is constantly inventing exciting craft cocktails that showcase their barrel-aged spirits, and wanted a new space to host events and expand their experimentation. The site of the new project, The Highball Social, was a former funeral parlor with a high ceiling and exposed metal trusses. We worked with the co-founders to develop a speakeasy-inspired theme that reflected the elegance of their cocktails, but paired it with traditional, natural elements to relate it to the makers movement in Vermont.

We started with designing the bar. We had plenty of room and design freedom, but the spacing, size, and proportions were driven by function. Highball produces complex drinks, so we arranged the cocktail stations to maximize efficiency. Every inch is utilized so there is no dead space, and bartenders have the ideal spacing to make drinks quickly and accurately. The backbar is the most eye-catching feature in the room, and helps pull everything together. We collaborated with graphic designer Andrew Plotsky, who drew up a design that included natural elements that inspire Stonecutter Spirits— the mountains, marble quarries, and Lake Champlain stacked together, with a grain bundle in the center.  The geometric design fits with the art deco aesthetic, and the natural wood and marble we chose ground it in the Vermont tradition.

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The massive, 16-foot tall walls provided an opportunity to create something unique, and continue the “stonecutter” motif. We went literal, and built the wall to look like part of a marble quarry. We cut marble block shapes from plywood and covered them with thinset to give them a rough texture. Most of the coloring on the marble rock face forms after years of water running down them. To create the most realistic replication of that, we watered down paint and applied it to the walls with rags, sponges, and spray bottles. It took eight colors, multiple coats, and many hours of experimenting to strike the right balance between light and dark shades. But we ended up with a subtle effect that lends visual interest without overwhelming other elements space. 

The art deco aesthetic is continued through chosen pieces— the gold and marble tables, geometric wall tile, and the porcelain stalactite pendant lights hung throughout the space.  We also designed and built custom light scones from marble tile and brass. To balance the modernity of the more refined elements, we incorporated custom pieces with a hand-made feel. We created custom booths from wood pallets, distressed workbench-style tables, and repurposed the building’s original factory windows as a divider behind the hostess stand.

The Highball Social provided some unique challenges and opportunities.  With a repeat client like Stonecutter, we needed to create something cohesive with their brand and our prior work, but different enough to feel new and interesting. We also needed to balance the elegance that Highball was aiming for with elements that evoke the craftsmanship of the Stonecutter process. In the end, we feel we achieved a refined look that is accessible and relatable to the people of Vermont, and enhances their experience in the space. ∆

Olivia Tubio