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Retro Rebirth at Clockwork

Raleigh’s newest cutting-edge restaurant revives the fashion of bygone eras with a modern twist and the element of surprise.

04/01/2014 By Robert Nieminen
Photography by Pascal Monmoine

In the days of Prohibition, speakeasies lived and died on word of mouth and were cloaked in an air of secrecy. Today, if you find yourself in downtown Raleigh, N.C., you might happen upon Clockwork, its hippest new restaurant and lounge, if you’re lucky or know someone with the inside scoop.

Raleigh-based architect and Clockwork owner Souheil Al-Awar chose to deliberately forgo glaring signage and opted instead for an inconspicuous neon arrow pointing to the front door. “The name is only above the door, so it adds a little bit more mystery to the space, and when you walk in you get an element of surprise,” he said.

The interiors invoke classic fashions and (of course) the work of filmmaker Stanley Kubrick—the inspiration for its name. Working in collaboration with interior designer Christine Rosario, Al-Awar blended Mid-Century, Hollywood Regency, and Mod-era influences with bold patterns and colors like fuchsia and magenta to create a trippy yet upscale atmosphere.

The walls and ceilings are dressed with boldly patterned wallpapers from Kohl & Sons and Brian Yates, and are balanced with more traditional touches. “We started out with the mirrors behind the bar, which is sort of Kubrick,” said Al-Awar. “From there, we toned it down [with] the furnishings, bringing in a few more of the classical elements, such as the studs on leather.”

Interestingly, much of the vintage furniture was sourced locally from a rather unexpected place: Craigslist. “Christine and I would drive sometimes an hour and a half just to pick up a piece of furniture at somebody’s house,” recalled Al-Alwar. “North Carolina has a history of furniture, and some of these people would have this vintage furniture in their house forever, and some of it was in great shape. Some things we [re]upholstered, and some things we left alone.”