Cheap Chic at Fabi + Rosi

Cheap Chic at Fabi + Rosi

Misty Adair
Jan 26, 2010

Cassie Williamson, owner of the Austin restaurant Fabi + Rosi, admits to being colorphobic. Yet with her keen eye for simplicity and determination for affordable design, Cassie has created a chic, cozy environment with a shoestring budget and a monochromatic flair.

Cassie and her husband Wolfgang (the chef), always wanted to open a restaurant in an old house and they jumped at the chance to acquire the 1903 cottage that formerly housed the cafe Zoot. The couple renovated the entire space on their own, with only the assistance of an electrician. Even though they had no previous remodeling experience, they completed the entire project in only 6 weeks on a ridiculously small budget.

Cassie and Wolfgang made all the smaller dining tables and constructed the pine plank wall in the waiting area. Chairs and larger tables were purchased at Ikea and CB2. The banquettes were custom built in Ft. Worth and are one of the splurges in the budget. It was important to Cassie to use as many local resources as possible, so the majority of the furniture and accessories were discovered at antique markets, thrift stores and on Craig's List. She relentlessly searched for exactly what she wanted at reasonable prices, like the gorgeous antique crystal chandelier for $300 and the French chalkboards for $40.

Cassie and Wolfgang improvised cheap solutions to design dilemmas. They chopped up an Ikea Expedit bookshelf to make a wine cabinet that fit the space correctly. Instead of sewing window treatments, Cassie cut panels of sturdy fabric from Fanny's and secured them to the lower halves of windows using upholstery tacks. To hide the ugly cords hanging from the TV, they wrapped a flat cardboard box in fabric and mounted the TV over it. The couple likes to run obscure French black and white films in the background, which is an idea they picked up in the elevator of the Thompson Hotel in New York.

Because sustainability is also important to Cassie, she chose to avoid the fine dining luxuries of fresh flowers and candles on every table. Instead, she uses sparse dried flowers in tiny vases and she hangs a row of glass ornaments (CB2) with votive candles in the center of the room. This display is visible to all diners and also reflected back in the assembly of vintage mirrors on the opposite wall. Another point of interest is the antique mounted animal head from Germany, which was a gift to the couple. Cassie hesitated to use it, but then tried it with a flower garland to soften the taxidermist effect. To her surprise, dinner guests love to take their pictures with it and often walk away with the flowers.

Although Cassie is a fan of "form and function" minimalism, she also loves antiques for their character and patina. Her intention was to combine the beauty of the old with the freshness of the new to create a space that is both clean and inviting. This warm atmosphere is the perfect compliment to a fine dining experience that is both affordable and comfortable.

What do you think of the interior of Fabi + Rosi? What tips can you offer to those craving high style on a low budget?

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