When we were asked to design the interior of the new tasting room for the Kinslahger Brewery in Oak Park, we were thrilled, intrigued and above all, determined to create a space that was distinctive within the growing craft brewery culture.

The clients asked us to create a space that had nuances of an original speakeasy, but they also wanted to evoke a modern spirit as well—something indicative of all Yearbook Studios’ designs. The initial plan was in place by the architect, so we knew where almost everything was going to go. From there, we reviewed original drawings and began to reinvent relationships, bar finishes, the design of the back bar, color palettes and lighting fixtures, seating, artworks, wall covering, floor finishes and more.


Located at 6806 Roosevelt Road in Oak Park, the original building dated from the 1920s. The long narrow plan was ideal for our design direction. The original tin ceiling was still intact, hidden above a suspended ceiling left behind from the copy shop that last occupied the space. Originally, the Kinslahger owners had considered oak paneled walls and hard wood flooring, both which proved to be cost prohibitive. We thought of creating a more dramatic, severe color palette of jet blacks, putty grey and a warm architectural cream which would evoke both comfort and a mysterious sense of an underground meeting spot. The palette was also an ideal backdrop for their impressive amber-colored beers.

The goal was to create a environment that would make patrons feel at home while having a downtown edge. By developing a dramatic palette with select surfaces to create visual interest, we were able to decrease costs and maximize the final impression.


Our original drawings included a much taller back-bar hutch with a stacked crown moulding to play off the original ceiling. The piece was designed to throw light against the ceiling tiles to create a central focal point behind the bar, anchoring the room on the left side. On the opposite side, a 24 foot banquette was carefully conceived to harken back to a men’s club or underground speakeasy with generous vertical back channels upholstered in faux black leather. Above, a gallery of vintage photographs to be hung in the academy style would include images of breweries, patrons and life tied back to the days during and shortly after prohibition. The art was to be punctuated with cylindrical milk glass sconces to create a strong vertical demarcation between the photographs and define the long wall across from the bar itself.



As the project unfolded, we were faced with several detailed questions regarding moulding profiles, surfaces, etc. We worked closely with Elements Architectural Group and Heartland Construction and their teams to achieve the exact details we were after. Some of these items included the deep door frames with traditional details on a dramatic scale, wanescotting covered in beadboard and the zinc counter on the bar finished with a quarter sawn oak bar rail.

The back bar hutch was a work in progress throughout much of the project with ongoing discussions about how the piece would be best lit and accented. In the end, it was decided to back light this monumental piece through etched glass panels and vintage glass transoms rescued from the original windows in front of the building by architect William Scholtens.


The ceiling tiles underwent a series of test finishes led by the architect. We selected an amazing combination of techniques which allowed the variations in finish from 90 years ago to come through with a gloss finish to reflect light and sparkle, giving a sense of infinite space above like a nighttime sky. Concrete floors were poured, and again, a combination of experimental finishes were explored. The final result is a high-polished finish with variations in color which relate well to the industrial edge of the furnishings and the ceiling.

The chairs we found were originally from the Firestone Tire Factory that serviced Chicago during the 1930s. Covered in layers of black and tan paint, we had each chair sand blasted down to the original aluminum and then powder coated in gleaming silver. The original wood seats were also sanded, repaired and refinished as well.


Miraculously, we were able to source an original set of 12 Toledo Stools from the 1930s to serve as the bar stools. These were perfect in their slightly rough hewn condition with a putty colored metal that was right at home in the space. This set originally serviced the General Electric Plant in Indiana.


Finished in Ralph Lauren Architectural Cream paint, we chose an anaglypta textured wall covering from England that resembles a tin surface. This extends the character from the original ceiling throughout the space in a subtle, elegant fashion. As night falls, the surrounding walls bathe the room in a warm, dazzling glow.


The original architectural plan called for a floor to ceiling wall of windows looking into the brewery itself. We chose to move away from the trend of exposed brew rooms and stay true to the more mysterious speakeasy sensibility by having one porthole to peek through. The portholes are echoed on the restroom doors, creating a rhythm in the back of the tasting room.


In the end, the clients were very happy with the final result. This project was a great opportunity for the Yearbook Design Office and we hope to design many more commercial spaces, and hopefully, with such great people.

A beautiful logo was created by designer Brian Doherty, and we had the privilege to design business cards in the spirit of this modern speakeasy which will circulate well within the walls of their new taproom.


Our thanks to Kinslahger and all their amazing team of contractors and craftsmen to turn this vision into a reality.