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ink & elm

With the opening of Ink & Elm, the residents of Druid Hills will have a place to call their own. In fact, they will have three spaces in one and a destination that speaks to the past and future of the neighborhood.

Atlanta is known for its historic neighborhoods, architectural time capsules that mark the city’s growth. Druid Hills is one of the most well preserved examples and is indicative of the grandeur of late 19th and early 20th century lifestyle. In addition to the architecture, the area is famous for its landscape and linear parks which were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect behind New York’s Central Park.

Now, Druid Hills has a new space to celebrate. Ink & Elm is a 7,000 square foot tavern, lounge and dining room that celebrates the deep history of the neighborhood. The name, Ink & Elm is a tribute to Frederick Law Olmsted and to the trees he envisioned and which line the streets today. But the partners behind Ink & Elm wanted to do more than pay homage to history, they sought to restore some of the elegance and sophistication that were prevalent in the early days of Druid Hills.

Working closely with the owners, the design team at ai3 set out to create a space that would provide an experience that was unique to Druid Hills. One of the challenges was to take the location of Ink & Elm, the Emory Village shopping district where students, faculty and staff of Emory University seek out coffee and sandwiches during the workday, and sell it as a special evening destination. To that end, ai3 designed a space that offers something for everyone, a rich, cozy and multi-functional space with a contemporary Druid Hills style.

The overall aesthetic of Ink & Elm is that of an early twentieth century studio or lounge. Its atmosphere is dark, cozy and plush with upholstered chairs, deep booths and a large fireplace. The space is divided into three parts, to serve the neighborhood’s diverse demographic. The main entrance serves the dining room, an airy space inspired by Olmsted’s garden design. It features a 40-foot ceiling and a wall of windows covered by a sheer green curtain to balance light and intimacy. The space is split between a wall of deep booths and rows of quiet tables. All the seating is upholstered to create a feeling of refined comfort.

The center of Ink & Elm is devoted to the lounge, a rich and luxurious space perfect for sipping champagne cocktails. A much lower ceiling height lends a cozy atmosphere to the space and hanging glass pendants illuminate it with soft dappled light. Guests enjoy cocktails while lounging in comfortable club chairs.

The third space at Ink & Elm is the tavern, a dark and intimate area that is marked by a raised floor, wood paneled walls and an open fireplace. The tavern is a long, narrow space with low-hung soffits that hug a series of booths on one side of the room and the bar on the other. Elements of comfort carry over from the dining room and lounge in the form of upholstered bar stools and soft lighting.

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Symbolically bridging the cultures of dining and wine-making, all interior and exterior elements of the restaurant are connected by an impressive architectural space: a bright and airy, wood clad double height arcade.

Together with his wife, Sarah Marie Johnston, Chef Tom Gray envisioned a place where design, food and ambiance work together holistically to create a special and welcoming experience.
Much of the personality that drove ai3’s design for Seed was inspired by the chef’s own photography and travel experiences.

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