Old school diner’s club Golden Eagle located on Memorial Drive in Reynoldstown is a sort of homage to restauranteur Michael Lennox’s grandparents. It combines warm nostalgia with chic modernity to create intimate gathering spots in a room which otherwise could feel cavernous.
Despite being open for three months, Golden Eagle’s design has already garnered attention; including winning Eater’s Restaurant Design of the Year this past December.
Lennox, who also owns Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall, had a rough idea of the design for his latest restaurant. But, it wasn’t until he brought on former Ford Fry restaurant designer Elizabeth Ingram that Golden Eagle really began to take shape.
“I was introduced to Elizabeth around the time she decided to leave the Ford Fry restaurant group and set up her own shop,” Lennox recalled of meeting Ingram. “I really liked the work she had done with Ford which included places like Marcel and Beetlecat. We clicked.”
The challenge for Ingram was not only designing around the art deco back bar Lennox had recently purchased from Red Baron Antiques in Sandy Springs but creating a sense of intimacy in a long, narrow room she often referred to as “the hallway”.
Ingram wanted to accentuate the access points in the room. Rather than fight the space, she chose instead to counterbalance the bar at one end with the reel-to-reel in the back of the room. She marched vintage-inspired light fixtures down the length of the dining room to draw the eye. They serve their function as light sources yet create a sense of movement and drama in the space.
The linear design pattern of the plaid carpet draws the eye forward depending on one’s position and helps create the intimate spots Ingram envisioned for Golden Eagle.
“I like to create pockets of space within a room for people to nest. For Golden Eagle, you have the banquettes, the bar, the lounge in back,” Ingram said. “It breaks the room up without making it feel disjointed while allowing people to nest in these intimate spaces.”
Ingram and Lennox admit their design budget was small compared to Atlanta’s larger restaurant groups. The pair often had to get creative with their choices.
The couches and chairs in the lounge near the kitchen, for instance, were all found pieces and refurbished. Items in Lennox’s personal collection were used throughout the restaurant. Antique architectural elements incorporated into the design of Golden Eagle include the chicken wire-encased glass windows in the vestibule and along the patio railings. Those came from late heiress and art collector Doris Duke’s New Jersey mansion.
Golden Eagle’s color palette is not a natural grouping but Ingram says the tension between those colors, patterns, and textures work well in this challenging space. They create warmth, richness, and intimacy without overwhelming the senses.
Ingram took Lennox’s vision of a place his grandparents would have enjoyed to heart. Some of the images the pair drew inspiration from included a small town 1920s Elks Lodge in Wisconsin and a mid-century living room. That living room might include a grandmother’s old chair or an aunt’s antique desk.
“People tend to think of mid-century as this pure design. It’s not. If you look at photos from the era, that design always included pieces from other eras,” Ingram said. “It’s comfortable yet clean. It’s a place to relax and enjoy. The design behind Golden Eagle is really a collection of stories.”
904 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta. goldeneagleatl.com.
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