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Theatrical Architecture
Bill Johnson has made career as designer of Atlanta’s most celebrated restaurants
Dry Cleaning By Courtney Barnes for creativity inherent in this type of work,”
Special: he continued. “Restaurants can be very the-
(3) Or More Items Whether sitting with friends in atrical, and I like [orchestrating] all the
20% OFF BluePointe’s sleek, fire-engine-red leather visual elements – lighting, color, and tex-
(Expires 11/30/01) banquette taking in the space-age glamour ture.”
of the dramatically lit bar, or ensconced in a Although educated formally as an archi-
cozy corner of Canoe surrounded by tect, Bill is heavily involved in the selection
exposed brick walls, polished wood and of his restaurants’ decorative components
MIDTOWN LOCATION OPENING SOON! views of the Chattahoochee, people dine out such as furniture, fabric, flooring and fix-
Two Intown Locations: for a satisfying social experience as well as a tures. “We start with good [architectural]
1409 North Highland Avenue gastronomic one. So when opening a new bones and then use lighting and decorative
(Next to”Movies Worth Seeing”)
restaurant, restaurant owners hire not only elements like pattern, shape, and color to
2350 Cheshire Bridge Road talented chefs but also imaginative architects make a space soar,” he said.
(Across From “Varsity JR”) Bill Johnson’s Atlanta clients include
and designers to create an alluring space The Johnson Studio, which has grown Seeger’s, Canoe and BluePointe. He relax-
that will draw patrons in time and again. over the years to a staff of 18, includes a es at his newest venture in restaurant
The architect of choice for successful mix of architects and interior designers. In design, Joël in Buckhead.
restaurateurs such as the legendary Pano some cases the team builds an entirely new
American indigenous architecture and visit-
W ake up Karatassos of the Buckhead Life Restaurant
Group is Bill Johnson. Bill’s list of credits
structure, but often they are presented with
an existing space. With BluePointe the chal-
ed the Anasazi ruins. Craftsmen were
brought in from Santa Fe to lend their rari-
your body, includes Atlanta’s most celebrated dining
spots, including Seeger’s, Nava, Canoe, The
lenge was to work with a 10,000-square-foot
glass box with a 26-foot-high ceiling, while
fied skills to the space that has a striking
wooden-beam ceiling and slanted masonry
heart, and Lobster Bar at Chops, The Club at Chops,
Horseradish Grill, BluePointe, Killer Creek
Seeger’s presented an opportunity to trans-
form an unassuming bungalow.
walls. Frequently, though, Bill’s restaurants
offer only subtle visual cues, if any, to the
soul. Chop House and the recent $1 million
facelift of 22-year old Pano’s & Paul’s. Other
“At the start of a project we meet with
the client to hear their vision,” Bill said.
type of food served. For example,
With a deep exploration of yoga, BluePointe, which features American-Asian
popular local eateries designed by Bill and “Typically we have three sessions to learn
meditation, and breathwork. seafood, has black granite and mosaic floors
his team at The Johnson Studio are The the [restaurateur’s] target audience, the
swirled with blue to suggest the ocean.
Morning and evening yoga classes Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen food, and the general concept. My job is to
Cameron Philpott, an employee benefits
for beginners through advanced. and The Varsity at Town Center. His national be a good listener and bring the client’s
consultant with Palmer Cay in Buckhead,
Pilates, tai chi, qi gong and belly projects include Mon Ami Gabi and Eiffel dream to life – even if initially they have
said, “BluePointe is one of my favorite spots
dancing are also available. Tower II at the Paris Las Vegas Casino, TrU trouble finding words to articulate the
for client meetings, in part because the
in Chicago, and Cypress in his native dream.” Essentially Bill has to be part psy-
restaurant is filled with colorful, interesting
Charleston, S.C., among others. And it all chologist and part artist.
Jaya DeviYoga
S T U D I O began with Atlanta’s intimate and charming “At the Studio we divide up into teams of
sights that serve as great conversation pieces
– especially the bar.”
404.688.6757 Dessert Place in the early 1980s. two to five people and brainstorm for our
Seeger’s, in contrast, has a completely
312C N. Highland Ave. “As a student at Georgia Tech, I, like presentation to the client. I’m fortunate to
different ambiance and appeal. The five-star most architecture students, envisioned one work with wonderfully talented individuals,
restaurant is known for its understated
day designing monumental public structures and we’re all brutally honest with one
romance, with serene white walls punctuat-
– maybe a library or museum – but restau- another. Everyone brings inspiration from
ed by a winding cherry-wood staircase,
rants never crossed my mind,” Bill said. their own experience,” said Bill. Ideas can
dashes of red and gray, and yellow leather
“After graduation in ’77 I did a variety of come from anywhere – the designers’ trav-
work in typical start-out positions, then my els, or from fashion, films and history.
Claudia Thompson, owner of the
first wife opened [a café], the Dessert Place, “Sometimes when I’m flipping through mag-
Morningside specialty shop Providence,
and I did its design. [Real estate developer azines or traveling I observe trends emerg-
praises Seeger’s unpretentious beauty. “The
and restaurateur] George Rohrig saw my ing from diverse sources, and I do think
space is elegant, but does not upstage the
work and hired me to design Peachtree Café there is a sort of ‘collective design uncon-
food or the guests.”
and Otto’s. scious’ at work,” Bill added.
Bill said above all he wants his restau-
“After designing five Buckhead restau- When designing Nava, noted for its
rants to be warm and fun. “Humans are
rants, I realized I enjoyed the opportunities Southwestern cuisine, Bill studied Native
social creatures and we go out to eat for
Morningside Presbyterian Church entertainment, but also to connect with oth-
“Your Neighborhood Church”
ers and to be a part of the family of man. If
Children... my work gives people a dose of good ener-
Families... gy, I think I’m doing something worthwhile.
Young Adults... Once I was at BluePointe and within earshot
Where will you spend Christmas of some patrons enjoying themselves and
this year? pointing out various design features to each
Come Worship With Us! other, like the changing colors at the bar –
Advent Festival Dec. 2nd 5:00pm it felt good.” @
All Are Welcome
1411 North Morningside Drive
404.876.7396 The Johnson Studio, 127 Peachtree St. 404-525-5400.
14 atlanta intown november 2001