Located in the suburbs just 20 miles north of Chicago, local firm DMAC Architecture transformed a former 5,300-square-foot transmission repair garage into the upscale yet casual restaurant, Greenwood American Kitchen & Bar. Just two blocks from the commuter rail line, Greenwood serves a dual purpose: it is an urban dining experience with open office space above. Greenwood is more than an architectural dialogue between old and new, it is an unconventional response with an elegant solution –– weaving in the scarred patchwork of masonry and paint, narrating the building’s storied past. Like a prize fighter, the building’s bruises and scars represent a story worth remembering and celebrating. Blending the scarred remnants of a former transmission repair shop with contemporary design, DMAC Architecture embarked on an exploration of embracing and repurposing the salvaged building materials and surfaces.
The interior of the restaurant is an interplay of exposed original concrete block walls that contrast a modern esthetic made up of the furnishings, materials, and finishes that connect the old and new. With many hard surfaces exposed, concrete form boards were upcycled into custom wall cladding detailed with acoustical backing to dampen noise. Alluding to the forest preserves that dot the regional landscape, the custom acoustic curtain separating the private dining from the main restaurant is an abstraction of a forest with greens and blues mixed with neutral colors. This pattern reflects the Greenwood concept, perfectly complementing the restaurant’s look and feel. The seating is upholstered with light forest green and tan fabric that pop against the warm wood tables and walls. The ceiling is mostly open and exposes the mechanical and plumbing lines above, but are painted black to be discreet. The large garage door openings were infilled with glass to maximize natural light into the dining room and visually blur the indoor-outdoor boundaries.
The kitchen is located at the west end of the building with a full-service bar housed near the east end for efficiency. The design is optimized for flexibility where smaller dining areas can be sectioned off by simply closing the curtain and exterior doors can be opened to bring in fresh air during the warmer months and to expand the dining room for additional seating and private events.
The restaurant also dons two patios for seasonal outdoor dining, designed with privacy walls and hedges. Phase two of the project added a light roof over the west patio and a full-service bar for more dining flexibility and service efficiency. For the east dining lounge the design team installed full-height folding glass doors to maximize natural light and open the space onto the patio for added seating or to accommodate private events
The overall design adds a two-story structure to the existing building to house kitchen support functions, restrooms and a separate entrance with access to the second floor office space. While the restaurant faces a quieter residential street for a more intimate experience, the office is strategically oriented towards the busy street and elevated rail tracks for an urban feel.
This project is an adaptive reuse of standard light industrial buildings of its era. The building’s bones were kept, reinforced, and modernized for mixed functions. Combined, the restaurant and office blur the urban and suburban lifestyles.