TaC Studios - Design Bureau

Little Azio (Vinings) by TaC Studios

Little Azio (Vinings) by TaC Studios

Little Azio (Vinings) by TaC Studios

Little Azio (Vinings) by TaC Studios

TaC Studios

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Blending aspects of functional modernism and minimalist architecture, Jose Tavel and Cara Cummins of TaC Studios combine multiple disciplines to present a unified theory of design that transcends the ordinary. “I think it is irresponsible not to address interior design and furniture design within the architecture,” says Cummins. “How can you design a room without knowing what you would sit on, or how fabric would shade a window? We don’t leave a room naked and alone.” The duo, which has designed some of the most notable restaurants in Atlanta, discusses the challenges involved in creating an inviting dining ambience, and what type of restaurant they would want to open someday.

You’ve been married almost as long as you’ve been business partners. Describe the dynamic between you; what makes it work?

Cummins: Jose and I have different backgrounds and we may have a different way of seeing a project, but our approach is very similar. We like to meet with the client together because there are so many different ways of hearing what people have to say. Jose may hear one thing and I may see another thing, with regards to body language or the gestures that a client makes. We really want our work to be a conversation; we don’t want it to be a monologue.

In Atlanta, you’ve made quite the name for yourselves by designing restaurants. How would you describe your process?

Tavel: We start all of our design work from the back door to the front. Restaurants have to work. They must be functional. A beautiful restaurant will not succeed if the engine— the kitchen—does not work. Once the flow and function is determined, we begin to focus on the aesthetics. The aesthetics have always been in the back of our minds, but we suppress it until it works. Once we start working on refining the aesthetics we constantly ask ourselves “Is that really needed? Is the design stronger without it?” The easy part of design is adding too much and making it too expensive.

As artists, what do you hope to contribute to the dining experience?

Tavel: To us, a restaurant is the perfect, affordable, mental mini-getaway. We like to engage the customer from the moment they leave their car and put their hand on the door handle. Ideally, once they step inside, the combination of visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile combine to create an experience that is very different from what you had just left.

Cummins: Our job is to create a ‘place,’ and that encompasses engaging the senses, not just placing objects within a space.

What do you find to be most challenging about working on restaurants? Most rewarding?

Tavel: Restaurants are very technically challenging; they are very tough in that they operate long hours, the climate control is difficult because of the density of the people, the heat load due to lighting and because of the humidity created by cooking. And cooking and prepping is dirty business; there is a lot of cleaning required, which can mean harsh detergents. The rewarding part is that it is a place that many people will visit and usually associate with a positive experience.

How you use the three disciplines of architecture, interior design and furniture design to create a specific ambience for each different space?

Tavel: We want to use everything within our realm of design to deliver a cohesive product and experience. Too often the architects are relegated to designing the exterior wall of the building and a different company is called in to take over the interior. We prefer projects that provide us with the opportunity to not only create the building, but also continue the same thought process to the interior.

You’ve said that light is one of your favorite materials to work with.

Tavel: Light is a very, very strong element; it’s something that keeps [a space] very dynamic. It creates textures without there being textures.

What do you hope people take away from your work?

Tavel: We always try to provide for the client’s needs, within their budget with an overlay of aesthetics. We do not have a magic wand to deliver all of the client’s desires within a fixed budget—but we try.

If you were to build and run your own restaurant, what would you build?

Cummins: It would be a small taco stand overlooking the ocean.

Tavel: A cocktail bar near Cara’s taco stand.


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