IF YOU’VE ever stepped into an Amber Brewer-designed restaurant—and chances are you have, as there are nine of them and counting—you know. You know that every last detail, from the sign out front to the dish your taco/pizza/enchilada/salad arrives on has been painstakingly considered and meticulously crafted. There’s no Oh that’ll be fine, let’s just go with that if you’re Amber.
And it’s not that her designs just look good. There’s meaning behind it all, too. The oversized light fixture crowning the main dining space at Heights Taco & Tamale Co.? She had that made from a John Deere tire rim, a nod to the menu’s Delta roots. The metal pipe fittings used throughout Lost Forty Brewing Co.’s taproom? A tribute to the East Village’s scrappy industrialism. And at Yellow Rocket Concepts’ newest project, a second iteration of the restaurant group’s Local Lime in Rogers’ Pinnacle Hills Promenade, it’s all about the tile.
“I was inspired by what I saw in Mexico,” Amber says of her approach in the new space. (Those are her feet in these sneak-peek “shoefies,” BTW.) “You know, that beautiful, unexpected honeycomb of tiles and blocks of all sorts of materials. Old and new. But instead of just recreating what I saw, I wanted it to be an Arkansas interpretation of that—a bit more neutral, more my style. It’s the same thing we do with our food: The food at Local Lime is an Arkansas interpretation of coastal Mexican. I wanted the space to feel that way, too.”
But why start with the floors? For one, at 9,500 square feet, this was the largest restaurant she’d designed, so there was more “surface opportunity,” she says. Second, she had a longer lead time, which meant she got to indulge all of her What if we tried this-es. Instead of having to order off the shelf, she could, say, sketch out a hex-tile mural to greet diners with a funky “hola” when they entered the space. She could order handmade concrete tile bedecked with stars. And she could make it so that all the furniture on the “porch” is suspended from the ceiling—including a 30-foot banquette swing—because she’s Amber Brewer and she knows what she’s doing, OK?
The truth is, though, that it doesn’t stop with the floors, and that’s what’s currently keeping Amber busy in advance of the restaurant’s opening this September. There are mirrors to acid wash and re-acid wash, light fixtures to make by hand, concrete breeze blocks to install, custom tables—handmade in Arkansas—to arrange. It’s a lot of work, but Amber says it’ll be worth it.
“It’s my favorite food of ours,” she says with a shrug. And favorites deserve a little extra effort. Even when you’re Amber Brewer.
GET THE LOOK
Inspired? Yeah, we were, too. Which is why we started doing a bit of tile investigation. Here’s what we found:
1. CEMENT TILE SHOP
Modern designs made using generations-old techniques—with plenty of styles to choose from. Bonus: Cement tiles are 100 percent natural, and 100 percent recyclable. (cementtileshop.com)
2. FIRECLAY TILE
Handmade in California, these eco-friendly tiles are both sophisticated and sustainable. (fireclaytile.com)
3. POPHAM DESIGNS
These Moroccan tiles are like art for your floors. Or your backsplash. Or your walls. Heck, tile everything. (pophamdesign.com)
4. TABARKA STUDIO
This Arizona-based company produces bespoke, hand-painted terracotta tiles that have a cool vintage European aesthetic. Think: a Mediterranean villa straight outta Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. (tabarkastudio.com)
5. CLÉ TILE
Amber worked with this California-based company to magic up those star tiles for Local Lime’s porch. We’d like to magic up a powder room clad in this pattern, or maybe take a more neutral color up to the ceiling for a statement-making fireplace feature. (cletile.com)