A friend of mine, Alicia Rebensdorf, moved from California to New York a number of years ago. In January 2011, she opened a wine and cheese bar called Tuffet. I’ve admired it’s take-off from a distance and am pleased to share a Q & A session I had with her recently.
What was your inspiration for creating Tuffet?
I’m not sure exactly…. I had worked in the industry for a while. I loved a proper cheese plate, knew a couple cheese-focused bars and knew it was something not really done in the Williamsburg, the neighborhood I had lived in for 7 years. I was also admittedly inspired by my ex-boyfriend who was a chef and who wanted to open his own restaurant. I watched him work on his biz plan and looked at a lot of restaurant spaces with him and realized that it was something I could do too.
What did you consider when coming up with the interior design?
Before I even found the space, I know I wanted a sort of vintage industrial vibe. Something a little more tough so I avoided a lot of the wine-bar froufiness. But then I found the space and it had this great deco vibe which actually worked well with that industrial era I had in mind. I feel like deco has a femininity and the industrial atomic age has this masculinity that compliment each other well. The tongue-and-groove walls were there (though painted a horrible color). The whole diner-era curved front and glass brick entrance was there which we kept. So part of it was pre-planned but then an equal amount was responding to the space and the character it already had.
Did you have assistance in the interior design?
My general contractor did give me his input on some of the details. He helped me design the bar top and shelving lines and we worked together to come up with the steel moldings (which a local metal worker made for us). But most of the design choices were mine. I have a lot of faith in my sense of style and my aesthetic. So I just went with my gut.
How would you describe the style/vibe of Tuffet?
I initially was going for industrial-deco but I also think you could say it a 50’s diner meets the Great Gatsby.
What do you think is the greatest influence in creating a mood in your space?
Part of it is the space: the lighting, the black and white, the chalkboard, the candles. But there is also what fills that space: the music (we play a lot of blues, soul and old hip-hop), the bartender’s personalities, the guests (whether it be a bunch of couples or a more rowdy party).
Where did you find the accessories?
A lot of the other small stuff I actually had been purchasing for some time whenever I went upstate or vintage shopping. I knew I wanted white enamel wear and just started slowly collecting stuff. Then, when I had the deco slant, I just had laser vision for that era. I actually had a goal of getting a vintage deco stapler and scoured Brimfield until I found it. The pictures of old cheese factories I also found on Ebay and had a local guy frame them. We have a lot of little knick knacks (the porcelain miss muffet and goat/cow/sheep heads) that were gifts or good finds.
Even Tuffet’s font was decided through a fortuitous find. I found an old box of these deco metal letters on Etsy. The font was just that deco/industial vibe I wanted so I searched online until I found a font that matched them and used it for our menus and website.
*Sconces & chandelier: six matching goose neck lamp style sconces from old school in Georgia; Ebay
*Other pendants/lights: Brimfield Antique Fair in Massachusetts
*Stools: at Brimfield Fair as well
*Chairs: from a Flea Market in Brooklyn; all the white iron in the backyard was found through Craigslist and multiple trips out to Long Island.