Pouring on the Southern Charm in Chelsea

The Cozy, Laid-back Color Palette of New York’s Porchlight Bar

Three people walk into a bar. (Trust us—you haven’t heard this one.) One of them orders a Gun Metal Blue—Mezcal Vida, blue curaçao, peach brandy, lime, and cinnamon—the bartender’s signature cocktail. The other two contemplate food. One eyes the Louisiana crawfish fritters, while the other can’t decide between the chicken-fried pork or the fried-shrimp po’ boy.

There’s something about the place, this neighborhood bar with the welcoming name—Porchlight—that makes these patrons feel at ease. Maybe it’s the structure itself, built in the 1890s, a former warehouse and train terminal whose original wood-and-brick interiors have been preserved and that is filled with authentic natural colors, unpretentious and warm, yet sophisticated. Maybe it’s the staff, who couldn’t be more down-home friendly and who remember your “usual,” if you are a regular. Or maybe it’s the food, which is simply outstanding. It’s not typical bar fare, but real comfort food.

Photos by Liz Clayman
Photography by Liz Clayman. Photos provided by Porchlight.

The trio concludes it’s a combination of these things. But here’s where the story takes an unexpected turn. The venue is not in Louisiana, Mississippi, or anyplace else in the South, as the offerings and atmosphere would suggest. It’s in the historic Terminal Stores building, in Chelsea, on Manhattan’s West Side. And it’s the perfect place for a little Southern design inspiration right here in NYC.

That Big Easy Feeling

Porchlight, dubbed the “New York bar with a Southern accent,” is the first stand-alone cocktail bar cofounded by renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer (of Shake Shack fame) and Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG). The Porchlight concept originated from another popular USHG establishment in NYC, Blue Smoke, a Southern-inspired restaurant cofounded by Mark Maynard-Parisi.

“Blasts of color are found in our cocktails, wine, beer, and our great graphics and printed materials. These colorful accents really shine within such a warm and muted space.”

Blue Smoke, which includes the popular Jazz Standard club, is located in the Flatiron District. A second location opened in 2012, in NYC’s Battery Park City. New Yorkers might also know Blue Smoke from its prime baseball-concession location, at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.

“My decade working at Blue Smoke allowed me to immerse myself in Southern culture,” said Maynard-Parisi, a cofounder and managing partner of Porchlight. “I traveled extensively throughout the South and really fell in love with it. With Porchlight, Danny and I wanted to celebrate the warmth and welcoming hospitality we experienced in our travels and share that inspiration with New York City.”

Canvas for Color

This idea of Southern hospitality is expressed in a variety of ways, from food and drinks that Maynard-Parisi called “at once approachable, welcoming, and sophisticated—my impression of the South” to the service, emanating the glad-you-came comfort of a neighborhood bar. And then there’s the delicate interplay between architecture, design, and color.

The interior itself, with the simplicities of its 19th-century-warehouse origins, is the canvas on which color is applied.

Photos, left– right, by Paul Wagtouicz and Lauren Durden. Images provided by Porchlight.
Photography by Paul Wagtouicz (left) and Lauren Durden (right). Photos provided by Porchlight.

“We wanted to let the natural beauty of the building shine,” said Maynard-Parisi, referring to the salvaged wood, exposed brick, and other original elements that help form the lounge area, game room, and indoor porch (yes, porch; how’s that for Southern?). “In general, the colors of the room are the warm earth tones that are inherent in the architecture itself.”

To achieve its vision for the bar, USHG contracted with Parts and Labor Design, a NYC-based firm known for its “bare-knuckled and straightforward approach to high-end design,” according to the company’s website. USHG then relied on other sources to complete the Porchlight palette. “Blasts of color are found in our cocktails, wine, beer, and our great graphics and printed materials,” Maynard-Parisi said. “These colorful accents really shine within such a warm and muted space.”

Among Porchlight’s colorful collateral are playing cards, coasters, matchbooks, and, of course, the menu. Patrons are frequently seen exchanging these items and posting pictures of them on Instagram. “This helps make Porchlight more than just a place to get a drink,” Maynard-Parisi said. “It gives people another way to engage with us and with one another.”

Photos by Liz Clayman
Photography by Liz Clayman. Photo provided by Porchlight.

Adding to the hospitable color scheme are the works of local artists. Such dabs of creativity are yet another reason people flock to Porchlight, located in the gallery district of Chelsea.

“We rotate the art on the walls every six months,” Maynard-Parisi said. “So many of our guests have an appreciation for visual arts. It’s exciting to engage with the art community, and we take pride in the fact that they keep coming back for more.”

People coming back for more is what drives every decision Porchlight makes, from serving a Southern-style cocktail you can’t resist to mixing colors that greet you like an old friend—the latter constituting Porchlight’s unique design mixology.

“Our journey will never be over,” Maynard-Parisi said of Porchlight’s mission to please. “We are constantly evolving and are always looking for new inspiration.”

A Palette Inspired

Porchlight has certainly been an inspiration to us at Design in Color, so much so that we created our own down-home, laid-back color palette modeled after the hues in the Chelsea hot spot.

Recreate Porchlight’s inviting, laid-back ambience with this curated Pratt & Lambert color palette. Colors shown, top–bottom: Noir 24-16, Ginger Whip 10-8, Regatta Blue 23-14, Oyster White 10-1, and Sepia Brown 7-19. (Photography by Paul Wagtouicz [left and middle] and Lauren Durden [right]. Photos provided by Porchlight.)

In our inspired palette, we use Pratt & Lambert’s Sepia Brown 7-19 and Oyster White 10-1 to represent the earth tones drawn from the rustic wood, brick, and leather in the space. Ginger Whip 10-8 is a nod to the warm lighting and accents. Noir 24-16 and Regatta Blue 23-1, representing Porchlight’s metal framing as well as the bar’s famed Gun Metal Blue cocktail, round out this charming colorway. We raise a glass to Porchlight’s “Y’all come back now” color scheme.

Hungry for more Southern-inspired design? Check out this recap of “Southern Style Worth Stealing,” from the latest Traditional Home New Orleans Showhouse.