During a frigid week last winter, Griz Dwight hosted a barn raising—in a storefront at the base of an office tower in Tysons, Virginia. The brouhaha was all for the latest Founding Farmers restaurant by GrizForm Design Architects. “Some barn builders came down from Vermont. They laid out a frame on the floor and then hoisted it up, over the bar, with pulleys,” Dwight says. “It was important to be true to the materials and not make some cardboard barn look-alike.”
In addition to that big statement, Dwight and senior interior designer Brooke Loewen scattered smaller visual puns throughout the 11,500-square-foot space. A headless horse, painted on the hostess desk, becomes a centaur when a human appears behind. In the dining room, a wall sculpture was painstakingly composed from cookie cutters. “We bought thousands, and each one had two price tags that we had to peel off before we could spray-paint them,” Dwight says. A cedar-lined phone booth is adorned with tools and an oversize horseshoe to resemble a tack room, encouraging tact in cell-phone users.
Dwight and Loewen also commissioned artists to create Americana-themed works. A diorama purportedly showing how marshmallows are made is recessed into the bar counter. On a wall hangs a quilted version of a 13-star colonial flag.
When Loewen discovered an artist who composes dreamy 3-D landscapes by embedding twigs, moss, and other natural ephemera in resin, she immediately told her, “We don’t know what, and we don’t know where. But clear your schedule.” There are now 12 displayed on a partition at the restaurant.
Some puns are harder to catch. Take the “family tree.” Dwight sketched out a tree, then had its silhouette laser-cut from sheet steel to rise, at 10 feet tall by 16 wide, from the back of a banquette. After gazing at the filigree of branches and leaves, shift your gaze downward to find his personal farm-boy touch: his initials carved into the trunk.