Where did the green mandate come from?

It was definitely coming from the clients' agenda. They really wanted to do a space that was green and environmentally correct. The challenge has obviously been to find creative ways of doing that. One of the biggest decisions was to try to use as much of the existing shell as possible and reuse where we could.

Is that where the tin came from?

Yes. One of the first things we did was go in and demolish the existing space, which had been basically a gypsy cab dispatch. It was almost an archaeological process. One of the most interesting parts was the four layers of tin ceilings. We salvaged all that we could. The contractor spent a tremendous amount of time stripping the tin down. Within each pattern, there was not enough to cover the entire space, so we had to come up with a system that would use the available material in an interesting way.

You were able to do a lot of custom pieces here. How could you do so much on a limited budget?

This project was unique in that the client and the contractor were the same person. Andrew Giancola was one of three partners involved with the space, and he really acted as collaborator and proactive troubleshooter. He was also an advocate for the design and able to work to get consensus with his partners on ideas which might not have gone over otherwise.

Project: Root Hill Cafe, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Architect: RSVP Architecture Studio, Brooklyn—Brian Ripel
Contractor: Giancola Contracting, Brooklyn
Size: 875 s.f.

A few of Ripel's favorite products

Smith & Fong

Even the subcontractors knew the client wanted to go green with the project, which is probably why the architectural woodworker was able to sell them on using Plyboo, a plywood made from 100 percent bamboo, for the architectural woodwork. Not only is bamboo a rapidly renewable resource, it looked good in the space and worked naturally with the color palette.

Adapted vintage pendants 
Aurora Lampworks

Giancola found a vintage chandelier and worked with Aurora, a Brooklyn-based lighting restoration shop, to take it apart and make it into several modern fixtures. The pendants fit into the reuse agenda and even ended up saving money over similar, new fixtures—not to mention they added an accent Ripel liked in the space.

Salvaged wood floors
Floor Smart

Originally, the team hoped to find beautiful, intact wood under the garage's floor. When they found the old floors had rotted, they turned to salvaged wood, which would keep things natural and recycled. Floor Smart, a store in Livingston, N.J., not only took care of the milling, it even provided pictures of the two barns that the wood came from.

Custom steel storefront
Available Glass and Store Front
[email protected]

The café's custom designed curtain wall was fabricated by hand on site. The façade leans out about 2½ feet from top to bottom, making it more inviting to passersby. Giancola also worked with the steel fabricator to incorporate a thermal break in the system. Though it proved difficult to achieve, the end result worked by using two layers of steel with a neoprene gasket in between.