You haven’t lived until you’ve had Russell’s Cafe’s gooey butter cake. Or gorgeous cakes slathered in sweet, fluffy buttercream. Or the loaded sandwiches. Or the pot roast. Evidently, a lot of people agree with us, because this little South Hampton gem is regularly packed to the rafters with hungry diners. To get more seating out of the two-story building, chef and owner Russell Ping asked us to convert the second floor apartment into a new bar and dining room.

We worked closely with Russell to create a “modern farmhouse” sensibility that flowed naturally from the casual and cheerful look of the first floor. After clearing out the apartment’s partition walls, our construction crews went to work cleaning and preserving much of space’s structure. The exposed brick wall and ceiling rafters were sandblasted to let the materials’ natural beauty shine.

The original pine floors were refinished. The new kitchen and bar were capped by a dark soffit, contrasted by white subway tile with thick charcoal grout. Russell suggested shiplap, and we used it as a continuous visual element, wrapping around the kitchen, flowing around the bar, and along the dining room wall as a wainscot.

Amy and Chris Plaisted of Hammer & Hand Imports are frequent diners at Russell’s, and they suggested using some of their 44-inch Indian serving platters as “shades” on overhead lights. We bought some Edison-bulb lights from Crate + Barrel, and our construction supervisor, Matt Lung, welded and hung the platters from the rafters in such a way the electrician could feed the fixture through the platter. It was a small feat of engineering, and the result is a unique focal point for the dining room.

After our crew added a new door and exterior staircase for egress, the space was finished with tables made by Russell’s father-in-law. The new space is a cozy juxtaposition of new and old that serves as a natural extension of the first floor. Great architecture may not make the gooey butter cake taste any better, but having more space for more people to enjoy it sure is great!

Russell's Cafe

View of Russell’s Cafe’s new second-floor dining room.

Russell's Cafe

Russell’s Cafe’s new second-floor bar.

Russell's Cafe

The cheerful and functional backbar.

Russell's Cafe

Russell’s father-in-law built the new tables in the dining room.

Russell's Cafe

View of the dining room and bar. Notice the shiplap around the kitchen, wrapping around the bar and along the dining room wall.

Russell's Cafe

Detail of the Hammer & Hand platter, floating above the pendant light.