Designing Brooklyn: Matthew Maddy

Photo courtesy Colonia Verde

hOmE’s Haslegrave brothers have gotten a lot of credit for helping to shape Brooklyn’s restaurant design identity—from Ramona’s gorgeous expanse of copper pipe and marble to the cavernous, oak and antique-rich Paulie Gee’s. But the fact is, just as many of the borough’s most striking spaces can be attributed to the discerning eye (and equally capable hands) of American Construction League’s Matthew Maddy—a former journalist who provides conceptual design, architectural services, and specialty fabrication for establishments as diverse as No. 7 (where he’s also a co-owner), Weather Up, Sweet Science, Featherweight, and Glady’s, plus new Boerum Hill oyster bar Grand Army, and Missy Robbins’ McCarren Park-adjacent, not-yet-opened Lilia.

And while each of his interiors is unilaterally attractive, you’d be hard-pressed to identify any particular one as a signature Maddy project. “I like to believe that my strength is an ability to not have a discernible style, which can become a crutch, and serve the designer far more than the client or restaurateur,” he says. “Besides, it’s fun to think through every different kind of place, from dive bar to fine dining restaurant. I do like tile though.”

Photo by Jane Bruce

Maddy’s design process, on the other hand, has remained relatively consistent: simply hanging out in the new, empty space, and ruminating over a beer—or five—first. It’s how he came up with the concept for Fort Greene’s stone cold stunner, Colonia Verde, for which he earned a James Beard Award nomination this year. “I’d like to think they were won over by the simplicity and warmth of the place, which was inspired by the farmhouses, as well as the South American style and sensibility that the owners grew up with,” notes Maddy. “And like the owners, it was meant to be very beautiful, really welcoming, and overarchingly familial.”

Incidentally, when it comes to the all-important factor of effectively working alongside clients, it’s served Maddy especially well that he’s not just an artist but an architect as well, which allows him to operate within a set budget, by knowing what it costs to implement certain aesthetic decisions. “I think not knowing how to use a computer influences my design too,” he jokes. “I don’t think it enhances it, but it definitely influences it.”

Photo by Jane Bruce

So considering Maddy’s personal tastes run the gamut, what particularly excites him—and conversely, kind of bugs him—when it comes to the brave new world of Brooklyn bar and restaurant design?

“I really like the flamingo wallpaper at the Royal Palms, and they did an awesome job with those bathrooms. I think overall bathroom design has gone way up,” he remarks. “I love the bathrooms we made at Russ and Daughters, too, as well as the undulating solar system we projected throughout the bathrooms at Chilo’s.

“But nothing design-wise drives me crazy, except that the designer/developers of the Atlantic Yard mega project didn’t build a High Line-like elevated green space over Atlantic Avenue, from Flatbush to Vanderbilt,” he continues. “It would have been so easy and beautiful, and it would have knit together Fort Greene and Clinton Hill with Park Slope and Prospect Heights. Total missed opportunity there.”

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