Build a Better Bar Top

By Barron Schimberg, AIA LEED AP

During a restaurant redesign, the importance of choosing the right bar top can’t be overstated. The surface should combine form, fashion, and function in a way that reflects the spirit of the establishment.

Bar tops can be made from dozens of different materials, including wood, laminates, granite, steel, clear or frosted glass, or resin. Two of the most memorable bar tops we have designed include an onyx bar top which was lit from below and a terrazzo bar top that was crafted to our specifications and sealed for durability.

Here are a few things to keep in mind, when designing a bar top:

Aesthetics. Think about the overall look you are trying to create for the space. Consider the bar top as an opportunity to make a visual statement.

Maintainabiity. The bar must be easy to clean and resistant to stains and scratching. Try to think of everything the bar top might be exposed to: water rings, alcohol, coffee, food, wine, salad dressings, etc. The softer the material, the more maintenance it will require.

Drink Rail. Find out if the bartenders have any preferences with regards to the drink rail. The drink rail is a lowered trough that can be added to the inside edge of the bar top to contain spills while drinks are being mixed. A rubber mat or stainless steel grate in the drink rail keeps glasses from sliding on a wet bar top. Don’t forget drains spaced about every 3‐4’‐0” for cleaning purposes.

Extra Support. At some point, bar patrons or employees may feel the urge to stand on the bar. In theory, a bar shouldn’t have to be designed to support the weight of people. But experienced restaurant owners know that in the real world, it’s necessary.

For the bar area in The Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria Island, we worked with Ben Nettles of Ben Nettles Concrete Design in Sarasota  to create a custom‐mixed terrazzo bar top. We selected the base color of the concrete as well as the exact color and the sizes of the crushed glass mixed with the concrete. Before the final bar top was poured, cured, and sealed, we had samples made, then tested them by pouring wine, oil, and mustard on them. The key to a successful terrazzo bar top is allowing the correct amount of curing and sealing time. This process can take anywhere from one to four weeks depending on the thickness of the bar top and the type of sealant used. (Photo: Dara Townsend Caudill)


 On the Waterfront: The Sandbar Restaurant Gets an Old/New Look


Choosing the Right Flooring for Restaurants

Barron SchimbergBy Barron Schimberg, AIA, LEED AP

One of the most important interior design decisions in building design or renovation projects is flooring. When planning your budget, don’t scrimp on flooring. It affects the feel and functionality of a space, and can be difficult to change out if you want to replace it.

Choosing the right flooring is particularly important in restaurant dining rooms. The right choice sets the stage for the overall ambiance of a dining room.

The wrong choice can make the room excessively noisy or cost time and money if it’s difficult to keep clean. Flooring for a large area can look too flat or linear if not selected properly.

Five Factors to Consider

The five main factors to consider when choosing restaurant flooring are:

  • acoustics
  • ease of maintenance
  • aethestics
  • comfort for the servers and kitchen staff
  • ease of moving chairs and tables

Each restaurant has different requirements. For example, understanding traffic patterns is very important. When clients come to me with restaurant design projects, one of the first flooring-related questions I ask has to do with how guests and servers will move throughout the restaurant.

We also have to visualize how the diners will be dressed and how they will behave. For example, a fine dining restaurant attracts patrons wearing nicer shoes and stiletto heels. At a seaside restaurant, such as The Sandbar on Anna Maria Island, many people come in from the beach with sand-covered feet and flip-flops. They may be wearing damp bathing suits and carrying beach towels dripping saltwater.

In all types of restaurants, drinks or food will get spilled on a regular basis. The flooring must be easy to clean on a daily basis and provide a certain degree of resistance to stains and falls.

It’s important to know how often the staff plans to clean the floor, and whether they prefer to mop or vacuum.

How We Chose the Floor for The Sandbar

For the reconstruction of the historic Sandbar restaurant on Anna Maria Island, we spent a lot of time evaluating different flooring options. The flooring had to be durable enough to stand up to the high volume of traffic from patrons and staff.

In addition to being easy to clean, the flooring also needed to be resistant to potential flooding (although nothing except sand or concrete is totally flood resistant). Plus, the flooring (coupled with the ceiling treatment) had to enhance the acoustics of the room, so diners could talk to one another in a reasonable fashion.

We ended up recommending 24 x 24 inch iron-colored Plynyl Tiles from Chilewich. The Kono pattern we chose gave us the look of woven Sisal, which we felt was applicable to the beach and the environment. It also looks very nice with the chair and booth fabrics.

To avoid creating a flat look in the large dining room, we asked the construction team to install the tiles in a checkerboard pattern (above). Rather than rotating every other tile 90 degrees, we designed a larger checkerboard pattern by rotating every four squares 90 degrees. This larger pattern is a better fit for the scale of the space.

To test the durability of the tiles, we attached four large carpet tiles to a piece of plywood. We then placed the plywood in the most highly trafficked area of the restaurant. As mustard, ketchup, oil and dirt were dropped on the tiles, we asked the staff not to clean them up immediately. Rather, we allowed the spills to be wiped into the tiles and left for awhile. It was impressive to see how easily the stains were removed from the Chilewich tiles, even after they were left untreated for awhile.


Today, the installed tiles look great and should last for at least 15 years. If one or two tiles start showing excessive wear and tear before then, they can easily be replaced without redoing the entire floor.

Tips for Restaurant Owners

Here are a few points to keep in mind, the next time you tackle a renovation project:

  • Do your due diligence when it comes to flooring. Try to anticipate all of the hazards that might affect the durability and look of the floor over the long term.
  • Test different options with your staff under real-life conditions, particularly in high-traffic areas.
  • Take acoustic considerations into account, particular for larger spaces. If you choose flooring that supports good acoustics, it will give you more flexibility in designing the ceiling and walls.
  • Trust the aesthetic recommendations of experienced design professionals. We have specified many different types of floors for a wide range of requirements. We have seen what works and what doesn’t.

Of course ultimately, the decision will be yours. Take your time to get it right.


Studio South Fitness Project: Transforming A Former Workspace into a Workout Place

By Barron Schimberg, AIA LEED AP

Did you see the article “Sarasota’s Next Top Fitness Team” in the January, 2013 issue of Scene magazine? The story describes Tiffany Liashek’s concept for the new Studio South Fitness center she opened in December on South Osprey Avenue. Studio South Fitness offers custom workouts that include one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer and a schedule of classes tailored to the each client’s goals.

The Schimberg Group helped Tiffany bring her vision for the gym to life. We provided the architecture and interior design services that transformed 6,000 sf of former office space into a contemporary gym with a stylish, homelike decor.

To support her concept for friendly, personalized training, Tiffany wanted the facility to look warmer and more comfortable than many big-box gyms.


The photos below highlight some of the design details. For example, carpet tile and vinyl wood flooring cover the main areas, and kitchen-like cabinetry, wood-look lockers, and restrooms with decorative fixtures and mirrors make you feel at home. Painted orange walls energize the workout spaces, while calming blues and earth tones add warmth and balance throughout.




Because Studio South Fitness is all about health and well-being, the facility uses eco-friendly carpet tiles, VOC-free paints and natural day lighting throughout.


Todd Anderson, who has worked as a fitness trainer, did a terrific job as project architect.

He says “Having experience in the fitness industry allowed me to better coordinate with consultants and contractors, properly space plan fitness equipment, and effectively communicate with the owner to create a successful project.”

If you would like to turn an existing property into something new and different, give us a call.

Whether you already have a fully formed vision for the space, or would like us to suggest some ideas, we would be happy to help!


SCENE: Sarasota’s Next Top Fitness Team


Greg Wilson,



Everyone Makes Mistakes

By Barron Schimberg, AIA LEED AP

Barron SchimbergEveryone makes mistakes—even architects. Do a Google search for “architectural mistakes,” and you’ll see that even world-renowned architects such as I.M. Pei and Frank Gehry have made errors in their building designs. (See: Ten Major Architectural Failures)

What matters to clients is how we handle mistakes. Be honest about the mistake, admit the mistake immediately, apologize for the mistake and then fix the mistake.

Ideally, we collaborate early in the process to identify and resolve potential mistakes. Those ‘future mistakes’ are easier and less costly to correct. Once the problem has been identified, we can review what we learned from the mistake and how similar problems can be prevented in the future.

Here are three real-life examples of the type of errors that have occurred on various architecture and interior-design projects and what we learned from them.

Mistake 1: The Wrong Bases for Custom-Made Tabletops

Recently, we commissioned an artisan to make 27 rectangular tabletops for a restaurant. To support the custom-made tabletops, we ordered bases from a national distributor of commercial restaurant equipment. Per the recommendation of the manufacturer, we made the mistake of ordering round bases for the rectangular tops. The bases were heavy, expensive, and took four weeks to arrive. Once the tables were installed in the restaurant, we learned that the chairs could not be pulled up to the table due to the shape of the bases.

After learning about the problem, we quickly found a local distributor to provide the cross-type bases typically used with rectangular tabletops in restaurants. Within three days, we had all 27 of the round table bases switched out, and the new ones installed. As the architect and principal of my company, I personally helped the laborers make the switch. I knew just how important it was to the owner to have everything in the redesigned restaurant ready for their scheduled opening.

Lessons Learned: You can’t always trust a salesperson to recommend the most appropriate product for a particular job. Do your own due diligence. Also, Restaurant Table Base 101 – Use cross bases with rectangular tops. Leave the round bases to the round tops.

Mistake 2: Incorrect Dimensions on a Residential Renovation

In the midst of construction, a contractor, following our drawings, realized that an incorrectly drawn dimension would cause a 2’-0” discrepancy. All work in the field stopped and the entire floor plan had to be modified.

In this case, one of my employees made the mistake when drafting. I immediately called the homeowner, admitted the mistake and committed to fixing it as quickly as possible. Within a couple of days, we provided the contractor with an updated drawing and kept the project moving. The client appreciated us making their project a priority and addressing the problem immediately.

Lessons Learned: As an architect, I count on my employees to be accurate in their work. Sometimes they aren’t. As the owner of the company, the problem is ultimately my responsibility. I simply explained the error and helped her fix the mistake. We all learned.

Mistake 3: Overcharging for Furniture

On a commercial project, we charged about $2,000 too much for some furniture we ordered. We immediately let the client know about the miscalculation and sent a new invoice. The client appreciated our honesty, and our good relationship continues.

Lessons Learned: Be honest. No amount of money is worth losing the trust of a client. Use accounting software to accurately track the costs associated with procured items. Then, make sure there truly is a mistake. If an error has occurred, let the client know immediately.

Advice for Clients

If you think the architect made a mistake on your project, call it to his/her attention as soon as possible. Don’t keep your concerns bottled up.

Don’t confront your architect in an accusatory manner. Discuss the problem in a reasonable way. After double-checking your facts, explain why you believe a mistake has been made. If you are correct that we are wrong, we will act quickly to make corrections.

No building project will ever proceed perfectly. Mistakes occur on every job—particularly if we are trying something bold and innovative. As Albert Einstein once said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

On the Waterfront: The Sandbar Restaurant Gets a New/Old Look

If you have ever hung out at The Sandbar Waterfront Restaurant on Anna Maria Island, then you know why it is such a popular venue for destination weddings, waterfront dining, or watching sunsets. If you haven’t been there yet, check it out the next time you’re in the Sarasota area. Anna Maria Island itself is unique, and very few restaurants in the U.S. enjoy such a prime right- on-the-beach location.

When The Sandbar Restaurant first opened in 1911, the white, wooden bungalow with its dark wood-paneled interior felt like a local fishing shack. Over the years, the restaurant has undergone periodic renovations after fires, hurricanes, and tropical storms. Each renovation brought something new—a dance floor, expansive wooden decks, outdoor bars, and the wedding pavilion.

Over the past two years, The Schimberg Group has worked with owner Ed Chiles and many other team members on the restaurant’s most extensive renovation ever. The main dining room was totally demolished and has been rebuilt from the sand up.


After The Sandbar’s dining room reopens this month, we want to hear what you think!  We played a leading role in the redesign—both on the building structure itself and the interior design.

We worked hard to preserve the casual, Old Florida atmosphere that has made The Sandbar so popular with tourists and residents alike while introducing some gorgeous new upgrades to the flooring, tables, walls, and lighting.

The Sandbar will still be the kind of place where you feel comfortable grabbing a burger and a beer in your bathing suit.  But we believe the more contemporary ambiance will appeal to foodies interested in sampling some of the more sophisticated items on the menu.

We can’t show interior photos until the restaurant opens later this month. But we can tell you that Ed Chiles cares deeply about his gem of a restaurant.  He wants to create a memorable beachfront dining experience for everyone–whether you are a first-time visitor or long-time fan.


So, yes, the design process on this project was intense, but super-collaborative.  We went back and forth on a number of ideas, and gathered input from multiple members of the restaurant staff. And of course problems cropped up that had to be dealt with along the way.

So in future posts on this blog, Patty and I will talk about some of the unique elements of the design and why we made certain decisions about the flooring, countertops, lighting, walls, etc.  We also plan to interview some of artisans and craftspeople who contributed so much to the stunning new look. We hope our series of posts will be inspiring and educational about how great projects happen. Stay  tuned!


About The Sandbar Waterfront Restaurant 


The Power of the Sketch

By Barron Schimberg, AIA LEED AP

Barron SchimbergWe recently worked on a project with another architect.  He was old school, using sketches and watercolors to express his thoughts and design.  We’re new school, using technology to represent our ideas and accurately portray the space and how the building will look.  We believe that if we show our ideas more true to form, rather than conceptual, we should be better able to sell clients on our visions and services.

So, the other architect and I went back and forth, almost competing for the love of the client.  In true, ego-driven architect fashion, we urged the client to “Pick me! Pick me!”

At a pivotal moment in the design process, we had an opportunity to win over the client.  We chose to represent an interior space in a colored pencil, hand-drawn sketch.  Although technology was used to set up the perspective, we used the power of the sketch to create the rendering.  The client was sold!

Personal, hand-drawn renderings seem to be what clients want. Why is this?

We find that hand-done drawings fire up the client’s imagination, giving them a better sense of what it might actually feel like to live or work in the redesigned space or building.  It makes them feel good, which is what the client wants to experience.

As noted in a previous blog post, actually, all of my projects begin with a sketch. It is the architect’s original tool to allow ideas to flow and creativity to thrive.

I learned to sketch buildings at a semester abroad in Greece.  I was taught how to judge proportion and scale and notice more details in a surrounding environment.

Computer-aided drawings provide an extremely accurate and cost-effective way to plan every detail of how a building will be constructed. But to a person who doesn’t work in construction, that just doesn’t matter.

The graphics shown below are some renderings and sketches we have done in the past.  They have successfully allowed the client to see the project in progress. But they have also been relaxing and enjoyable to draw.

So I am curious: Do you prefer the computer renderings or the sketches? If so, why?

When hiring an architect for your next project, would you like to see hand-drawn sketches along with your renderings? Let me know what you think!




When Pen Meets Paper


Taking the Fear Out of Buying Original Artwork

By Patty Morrison Schimberg

Patty Morrison SchimbergOne of the most gratifying parts of my job as an interior designer is playing matchmaker between clients and artists. It gives me great pleasure to see clients discover the joy of owning original art.  Finding good homes for talented artists’ works—at sites where the art can be seen and appreciated outside of the artist’s studio—is also incredibly satisfying.

As an art consultant to clients, my intention is not to supersede the role of a gallery. If you want to become a serious collector of art, a reputable gallery may be an invaluable resource.  Galleries offer expertise, bios, and established pricing track records for the artists they represent.  Their presence provides exposure for artists, which can transform an artist’s career.  Their guidance to clientele can captivate the interest of a novice buyer and over time, shape true art collections.

But there are alternatives to galleries in New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles or other urban centers to find talented artists. Every community has an abundance of gifted painters, sculptors and craftsmen who are producing beautiful work.  Many of these artists may never have the opportunity to be represented by a gallery.

So, purchasing artwork that can add something powerfully special to an interior is a win-win-win for the interior designer, client and artist.  Clients are often amazed by the lasting joy they find in the artwork they bring into their homes or business environment.

Where to Look for Original Art

Many interior designers have established working relationships with artists who are open to working with individuals or businesses that have a decorative need for art.  This type of commissioned artwork, when the artist is responsive to a designer’s input regarding dimensions and coloring, is not for all artists.  However, some artists welcome the opportunity.

It is also common for architects to participate in the selection of artwork—particularly large-scale pieces or works for public spaces. Again, many artists enjoy the challenge of creating site-specific work, including interior elements such as an artistic staircase or a custom light fixture that merges form with function.

Other sources to discover extraordinary art include regional art and design schools, community-based exhibit spaces, and independent studios that offer art classes.

Art and design schools provide an extraordinary opportunity to purchase original artwork by budding artistic geniuses.   Exhibits are usually open to the public; and both students and schools are extremely encouraged by the sale of their work.

Studios that offer art classes also love to show off their students’ work. Some of the “students” may be older adults who have retired from a first career to pursue their passion for art full-time.

Community-based exhibit spaces that are affiliated with a university, museum, or fine-arts organizations host ongoing exhibits of local artists.  At these local art shows, the exhibit organizers will gladly share biographical and contact information about the artists.

Tips for Choosing Original Art

Buy original art that you love—and don’t ever “match” the sofa.  Art that you love will bring you peace or make you smile. It’s OK to buy artwork for the sole purpose of decoration, but only if it complements or enhances your surroundings. Nothing detracts more from the beauty of original artwork than an overly coordinated “match” to the adjacent textile or general surroundings. When you choose art solely because it repeats the theme, patterns, or coloring in your interiors, the originality of the art is lost. Then, instead of enhancing your space, the art looks more like something from a furniture store vignette.

Take time to learn about the artist. Ask to visit their studio and understand more about how it was created and the thought process behind it. The more you know about the “story” behind your original art, the happier you will be with your purchase. As a “collector” of that artist’s work, you will become part of that artist’s story. Plus, buying artwork from a local artist is a way of contributing to the cultural strength of your community.

For commercial spaces, think about the type of message you want the art to convey. Integrating the work of a local artist into your décor can be a powerful public-relations tool. For example, the art can express support of the community’s diversity.  Or, the art can imply that “this is a cutting-edge company.” As an interior designer, we help business owners find artwork that fulfills three criteria: (1) the design needs of the space; (2) the company’s overall style; and (3) the underlying business “message” that the business hopes their art work conveys.

So, one shouldn’t be intimidated by the process of buying art. Finding original art that you are proud to own and brings joy or provokes thought, can be an exciting hunt.  This mindset relieves the pressure to purchase art primarily as an investment or works that simply blend in with the rest of the decor.  Let art be it’s own special moment in the interior space.

Exploring The Built Environment: Always Look Back

By Barron Schimberg, AIA

Recently, my wife Patty and I visited the High Line, an elevated park running along Manhattan’s west side. Converted from a historic freight rail line, the High Line is an extraordinary and popular public space. As we walked north, we were reminded of the following:

  • Even in a major city like New York, there is always a different perspective from a pedestrian eye.
  • Urban oddities create visual stimulation and unique moments that provide opportunities in our lives for creativity and enjoyable experiences.
  • Always look back. As we walked past buildings and saw what was in front of us, we often turned around and looked at what we had passed. When we did, we saw completely different shapes, moments, and spaces.

What fascinated me the most about the High Line was the experience that this park provides pedestrians:

  • The opportunity to sit over a roadway and watch cars go by, like birds sitting on a wire.
  • The view between two multi-story buildings of wires, cables, ductwork, and windows creating a quilt-like patchwork of shapes and lines.
  • A peek into the mind of an architect or sculptor or an artist about how they chose to express an aesthetic, not at eye level, but at 30 feet above grade.

The question for me is: How many amazing experiences are out there in other cities that we are either missing, or could create?

Fun sculpture on a roof

Modern architecture juxtaposed with a 20th century building. Seeing it at 30-ft. above grade lets you truly experience the two styles.

Space between two buildings

Modern glazing juxtaposed with old, industrial building mass

I shot the photos above as we walked in the High Line. To glimpse other views from the park, visit the Image Galleries section on the official High Line website.


The High Line

The Right Lighting Adds Aesthetic Appeal While Reducing Energy Costs

By Barron Schimberg, AIA LEED AP

Architectural success is impacted by choices in lighting, both for the interior and exteriors of spaces and buildings.  Lighting affects how we perceive the building itself, as well as the people and objects within it.  Lighting can be used to define zones within a space, change the mood, and influence how we feel as we work or shop within the space.

With today’s more sustainable and energy-efficient options for lighting, we can alter the look of a space while lowering the building’s energy cost.

By replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs (light-emitting diodes) or compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), we can apply warm or cool colors to spaces while considerably reducing energy usage and the amount of time between replacements.

For example, an LED has an average lifespan of 50,000 hours, compared to 8,000 hours for a CFL, and 1,200 hours for an incandescent bulb.  A space that uses 30 incandescent bulbs would use about 3285 kilowatt-hours per year, compared to 329 KWh/yr for LED lights and 767 KWh/yr. for CFLs.

Considering some of the substantial savings that can be achieved, it’s not surprising that so many owners of commercial and office buildings are retrofitting their buildings to use more LED lights. Retailers and restaurant owners are discovering that LED lighting can be extremely versatile in showcasing merchandise or creating the right ambience.

In contrast, LED bulbs are exponentially more expensive, so the upfront, out-of-pocket expense is greater.  For example, a 60W incandescent bulb costs  approx. $0.50, a comparable CFL may cost $1.25 and an LED bulb could cost $20.

We have used LED bulbs successfully in a multitude of projects.  We have incorporated them into retail displays in storefronts. They are used throughout food-display cases in the Whole Foods Markets we design.

On a lobby renovation project, we utilized LED bulbs in a unique fashion. LED bulbs were installed at the top of a long acrylic tube, allowing the light to illuminate through the tube, into the space, while not overheating the material or the wood dowels around it.

If you want some specific ideas on how lighting can enhance the look and efficiency of your office or retail space, give us a call at 941-894-6888 or email us at


Comparison Chart LED Lights vs. Incandescent Light Bulbs vs. CFLs

The Value of an Architect during Construction

By Barron Schimberg, AIA LEED AP

Some architects prefer to focus solely on the building-design work and would rather not get involved in the construction phase.  I prefer the opposite.  While I enjoy designing buildings, it is equally satisfying when clients hire me for construction administration.  Not only does it allow me, as an architect to engage in problem solving, but I can also resolve the problems in a way that preserves the integrity of my designs.

No matter what, changes will be required on every construction project—big or small.  And each time a change is required, someone must make a decision about how to proceed. While many contractors are indeed qualified to recommend a solution, they may not have sufficient time or technical resources to determine the best solution for each change that occurs.

When clients hire me for construction administration, I am “on call” for the duration of the project.  I set my fee to remain the same from month to month, whether the contractor needs advice once a week or every day during the month.  We’ve been asked everything from alternative ways of building the structure to selecting a railing cap to waterproofing below a slab.

While the building is being constructed, there will be far less finger-pointing about who is to blame each time a change is required. We simply work together to fix the problem.

It’s a win-win-win situation for everyone. As a client, you’ll get the peace of mind that comes with predictable monthly fees for expert problem solving.  Contractors often feel relieved that they don’t have to make decisions on the fly and I get the satisfaction of helping the project run more smoothly and seeing the buildings I have designed through to completion.

If you would like to learn more about construction-administration services, please give me a call at 941-894-6888 or drop me an email at


Working Construction Let Me See Architecture from a Different Perspective

Architects + Contractors = A Better Result