Designer Justin Venk faced quite a challenge when Audrey Edelen asked him to renovate a dark and forgotten space for her new Ardmore restaurant. She wanted to transform the drab locale into a warm, inviting cafe that was full of light and energy but still had a feeling of antiquity.
There was serendipity in Audrey’s choice of Justin for her project. Justin and his wife had recently moved back to Oklahoma City from New York, where Justin started his design firm, Facet 14 Studio, while completing his master’s degree at the New York School of Interior Design.
“In the ultimate ‘it’s a small world situation,’ Audrey happened to know both of my brothers-in-law,” Justin relates. “She mentioned to one of them she was planning to open a restaurant in Ardmore, and he suggested she call me.
“As a designer, every job is personal, but there is something special about being able to return home and work so closely with a family connection. I loved the aesthetic Audrey was aiming for, and our visions for the space were very much aligned, so it worked out beautifully.”
The design concept was warm and uncomplicated, inspired by classic New York and Parisian bistros. The clean lines play well against the vintage-inspired materials, including rough-sawn flooring, aged brass finishes and antique mirrors.
With its soft gray lacquered walls accented with glazed-brick tile, the restaurant takes on the vibe of a French bistro with classic ceiling tiles and custom vintage-inspired navy banquettes. Justin added brass accents, quartz counters and raw steel to complement high gloss veneers in various combinations. Facet 14 brass light fixtures were the finishing touch.
Still, while Justin and Audrey were excited about the final space, getting there wasn’t easy. Justin’s design required a radical makeover that gutted the existing space, reworked the entire layout, added a restroom and outfitted the cafe with new flooring, walls, lighting and ceiling system.
Of course no renovation is without complications. Justin had sourced a beautiful hand-glazed brick tile for the walls – a major design feature. The Argentina factory changed the manufacturing process and style of the tiles without alerting Justin’s team before shipping. It was a design trauma he remembers all too well.
“Ultimately, we were able to find a comparable tile that could be shipped in a timely manner, but it felt like a huge setback then,” he recalls. “Budget and time are always a factor in any design project and the tile issue slightly compromised both.”
The result surpassed Audrey and her partners’ expectations. “Justin took our ideas, stayed true to them and turned the space into more than we could have dreamed of creating,” she says. “He spun everything into a perfect package.”
Now, Ardmoreites are savoring this upscale dining experience. Audrey named the restaurant Scout in honor of her favorite book and literary character, Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch in Harper Lee’s highly celebrated classic To Kill A Mockingbird.
Justin believes people want to eat food that looks attractive. He also thinks they want a restaurant to be aesthetically pleasing. The Scout Fresh Foods and Cafe offers delicious food and timely service in an inviting setting. Scout features ever-changing daily specials to complement its menu of fresh baked pastries, granola, specialty sandwiches and salads.
Justin treasures a recent email he received from an Ardmoreite who also has a home in New York City. The person wrote: “Thanks for making this beautiful space in Ardmore that was much needed.” The response from Scout patrons has been “complimentary and kind,” Justin and Audrey note.
Facet 14 Studio is currently working on residential projects in Oklahoma City, as well as Edmond, Norman, Denver, New York City and Washington, D.C. Justin is also expanding his commercial portfolio. Watch for the opening of The Jones Assembly (Food-Spirits-Music) in OKC’s Film Row, opening later this year. Justin designed the custom lighting for the new restaurant and music venue.