Go upscale on a downscale budget

You just gotta know your "touch points."

Problem: You want to transform a quickservice joint into a classier sit-down place, but on a lean budget and in a short time frame.

Solution: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Focus on renovating and redecorating a few key areas for a “wow” effect.

To re-conceptualize Yasu Sushi Bistro, partners Yasu Hashino and Yoshi Natori called on Ideation Design Group of Phoenix. “We began by identifying the ‘touch points’ in the room—the entry way, the wall behind the bar and the ceiling,” says Ideation’s Carl Schaffer, who along with Jennifer Reynolds is a principal in the firm. “We ordered high-end materials for these areas to make a big splash, but to keep within budget, we used very small quantities.”

Immediately upon walking in, patrons now encounter a small sofa covered in a richly patterned fabric (photo at top right) that “sets the stage.” Although the fabric cost $70 a yard, the designers used only four yards—well worth the price judging from customers’ reactions, Reynolds notes. “It conveys the feeling we want and creates a color palette for the rest of the room,” she adds. The two lined the wall behind the bar—an area under constant scrutiny by sushi eaters—with eye-catching glass mosaic tiles. Here again, a little went a long way to upgrade a former lunch counter into a swanky bar area (above). The designers then suspended bamboo panels from the existing ceiling to add interest above. Spotlights, pendants and theater-style lighting are used to draw attention to all the touch points.

“Lighting is the most important element,” says Schaffer. “It pays to spend a little more in this department—it makes such a huge difference.”

Total makeover costs came in under $60,000 and the project was completed in six months.                 



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