The number one tip for staying on top of the coolest, hippest new restaurants in Austin is to follow the career of designer Joel Mozersky of One Eleven Design. He’s got the inside track for tasty food and drink gossip and news on the ever-changing interiors of Austin’s food scene—because he's often the one designing these new and upcoming spaces! Instrumental in shaping the look of Austin restaurants (and commercial and residential spaces) for over a decade, when asked what he was currently working on, he shared some peeks into a whole slew of interesting bar and restaurant projects he has coming up that will be bold, beautiful and push the boundary of Austin design.
"I am working on a lot—the new look of the new Alamo Drafthouse [Alamo Slaughter Lane] and its adjoining bar 400 Rabbits, which is going to be a lot of fun. The Rattle Inn, which is located between Star Bar and Ranch 616, with my old friend Matt Luckie. Its interior is going to be over the top and will feature an excessive amount of vintage taxidermy. Nova Bar, which will be a bar and restaurant on Rainey Street inspired by Brazilian architect and furniture designer Sergio Rodrigues, with whom I am currently obsessed. Flat Top Burgers on the East Side, a restaurant on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, a new space for Antonelli's Cheese Shop. Freedman's Bar in an incredible historical building in West Campus and some awesome residential jobs," says Joel.
Joel started his career in 1998 with the Jackson Ruiz Salon, and as the above list of current projects hints at, he's worked pretty steadily since then. Projects he's done that have set the standard in Austin design: the sleek yet warm modernism of the interior of Uchiko. The bold but comfortable feeling of Uchi. The super fly and super hip Bird's Barbershop (South and East Side versions). The explosion of color and awesomeness that is the internationally-recognized La Condesa (and Malverde). And the list goes on. Gibson Bar. The Highball. Even a few amazing spots that are no longer with us like the Peacock Lounge and Mars Restaurant.
Beyond his obvious talent and his hectic work pace, you know what's the most amazing thing? He's humble, appreciative of all the projects he's gotten to work on and excited to be living in this awesome city—the kind of attitude I like someone shaping the look of Austin to have. Ask any designer or architect who inspires them, and Joel Mozersky's name will be mentioned. I just had to ask this staple of the Austin design scene some questions.
You’ve been designing for over 10 years in Austin. How have styles and tastes changed since you first started designing?
I think as Austin has grown, it has become a lot more cosmopolitan, and people expect more design from the environments they inhabit. Styles and tastes come and go like fashion, but I think Austin has done a great job in creating its own niche.
You’ve said before that you don’t consider yourself a contemporary designer, that your work is very much rooted in the past, but how do you describe your style?
What I meant by that is that I don't do a lot of contemporary work—what is of the moment. I feel like that kind of work looks dated the fastest. When there is a sense of some history in a project, it comes out more timeless and unique. When I am describing myself to potential clients, what I like to point out to them is the range of styles and projects that I have done, and that I want to do something different for them. I have definitely been asked to do styles I have done before, but I only did if it was right for the concept and the architecture.
Do you work by yourself on projects or do you have other designers/interns that work with/for you?
I have an amazing design assistant named Claire Zinnecker. She has helped me tremendously. Save a personal assistant, I was a one-man show until about a year ago.
I’m so interested in how you actually approach a project. Do you have a good idea of what the space is going to look like before you start or does the design come together as the project goes along?
The process goes like this—I meet with the client at the space and I listen intently on how they want to use it. We walk through and look at the architecture, and I let the architecture tell me what its capable of becoming, and how that jives with the wishes of the client. I try to develop a story for each project—a series of criteria that make decision making easier by creating a filter of what is and isn't right for the job. That filter helps me narrow down choices from everything that is available on the market to what is specifically good for the story. Inspiration on residential jobs usually comes from my client—I try to make the house look like a place the owners live in—but to the best of my abilities. I have worked with some amazing residential clients, and I think all of their houses are personal to the people they are and the architecture they live in. Commercial jobs are more tailored to the concept of the business, rather to an individual.
Do you consider the impact that your spaces will have on Austin? Do you sometimes incorporate elements for the “wow” factor or are you only concerned with what’s best for a specific project?
I think I am more concerned with what is best for a specific project, but I am always considering that the project is in Austin, and try to make it a place where Austinites will want to go. I do try to do something that I love in each project, so maybe that is the "wow."
Which one of your projects has been your favorite? Which one of your projects do you think has had the biggest impact on the aesthetic look of Austin?
I like them all for different reasons. I guess Uchi in 2003 has probably had the biggest effect on my career.
As I mentioned, nearly everyone I talk to names you as someone who is shaping the look of Austin. Do you feel that way? Do you sense the huge impact you’re having on this city aesthetically?
I think I have been fortunate enough to work on some projects that have made a big impact in the food world, like Uchi and La Condesa. When I did the Peacock [Lounge] in 2004, it was the first East Side hipster bar, and now there are a million of them. I have been in the right place at the right time a lot! I am incredibly appreciative to be able to keep working in the city I love, and I am so glad people like what I do.
Do you think Austin’s starting to gain its own “style” or “look” like other larger cities?
For better or for worse, I think the overriding style in Austin has become the "Austin Modern" look—Neutra-inspired boxy buildings with cantilevered roofs, concrete floors, lots of glass, wood walls, etc.
For more of Joel Mozersky's designs, visit his website.