Decoration of Paninis Bar & Grill in Kent, Ohio

"As a designer, I solve my client's greatest problem: how to make the public love their place, so they want to stay, feel comfortable, and spend money."

John Rivera-Resto

"The background details"

My introduction to Panini's Bar and Grill was working on the decoration and creation of art for the Paninis store in Brunswick, Ohio (see this page in the Menu's "Rest & Bar Design" link). Since then, I had worked on three other projects for these clients, and several other projects of note (see the Menu's "Artwork by Year" link).


Panini's Bar & Grill Restaurant in Brunswick, Ohio -my introduction into the franchise.

In late spring of 2012, I had just completed the reconstruction of a galleon display at the Tilted Kilt Restaurant in downtown, Cleveland (see this page in the Menu's "Rest & Bar Design" link), and was about to undertake two huge mural projects, when I got a call to meet the clients at a location in Kent, Ohio. All I knew about Kent was that Kent State University was located there, but I didn't even know where Kent was on the Ohio map. But I found the place about an hour's drive from Cleveland, and attended the meeting. By the time I left, I had been commissioned to decorate the new Panini's Bar & Grill Restaurant in Kent.

Summer 2012

The late spring of 2012 was a gorgeous one, and I was taking advantage of the weather by starting two large outdoor mural projects in the city of Cleveland, Ohio USA (see "It's up to us" and "A world of sweat and steel" pages on the Menu's "His Murals" link). I was at the top of a scaffolding when I got a call asking me to meet the clients at Kent, a small city about an hour's drive from Cleveland. I had already done several commissions for these clients, so I was very familiar with them and the type of businesses they created. So I noted the location's address and flipped my phone close (yes, this was the time when we used flip phones -my favorite phones ever!).

paninis-bar-and-grill,-brunswick-ohio,-brunswick-on-the-map,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto-2010 Kent is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the largest city in Portage County. It is 40 miles (65 km) from Cleveland -about an hour drive, and 20 minutes away from the city of Akron. The population was 28,904 in the 2010 census.

That evening, I studied a map of Kent on my home computer, also reading about it's history. I made it to Kent and drove around the small city to get a feel of the place. Then I attended the scheduled meeting. New construction was happening around main-street, and the clients were opening a Paninis Bar & Grill on a primed spot (to learn more about the Paninis franchise, see "Decoration of Paninis Bar & Grill in Brusnwick" in the Menu's "Rest & Bar Design" link).

Mr. Rick Favazzo was the General Contractor. He had also been the GC for the remodeling of Paninis Brunswick and the Tilted Kilt in downtown Cleveland, so we already had a working relationship. In fact, years later, we would also collaborate in the remodeling of Paninis Westlake (again, check it out on the Menu's "Rest & Bar Design" link).

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Location of the new Paninis Bar & Grill in Kent under construction. The restaurant would occupy the ground level and other businesses the offices on the upper stories.

At the meeting we discussed ideas about the decor -mostly limited to the use of stone veneers on the side of the main bar, a fireplace with sports items like at Brunswick Paninis, and the flooring selection. We also discussed ways to sound-proof the place (by spraying the exposed metal ceiling with paper pulp-like acoustical product that I requested to be black). Later on we would discuss colors for the walls, but for now, I pretty much had carte blanche to act as I thought best.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 I traveled to Kent to see the construction study the construction site and blueprints for the restaurant. I walked the place as customers would and took photographs. These proved to be invaluable reference for early planning.

Of all the clients (made up of a number of investors), I dealt directly with the two principals. So all decisions about decor, were resolved among us. Before I left the meeting, I had taken dozens of reference photographs, made small sketches of the walls, and taken notes and measurements from the blueprints. And that's how I become the Interior Designer and Decorator for Paninis Bar & Grill in Kent. Well, in truth, I was never asked. By being at the meeting, it was assumed, that I was. After all, that's what I did on previous jobs. That's how it goes.


Kent is a "college town". The Paninis restaurant was only minutes away from the university. Kent State students and staff were my primary target in the decor planning.

Planning and Preparation

In the days that followed, we communicated through e-mail or short phone conversations. We settled the color scheme. I favor warm reds -because that's the color that stimulates the appetite, and because the light that is reflected from the warm colored-walls make everything and everyone look good. In addition, the client wanted some "sparkle", so we settled for gold. Red and Gold go together, but you have to be careful about controlling its intensity. They provide a rich background mood to make decorative and architectural accents (your focal points) stand out. I selected several shades of red and let the clients select one. The key here is to "pre-select" acceptable choices that would work on your decorative scheme.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 We purchased framed sports-related images from a supplier in Chicago who provided most of the decor pieces for Tilted Kilt in downtown Cleveland. They provided us with lists of inventory and I did the selection, stipulating the size and the color of the frames: only brown and gold. I was careful to pick only images that were relevant or added to my decor scheme.

After the main color was selected, I emailed the color code to the general contractor, who in turn will pass it along to the painters. The ducts for heating and air were exposed running below the ceiling. Sometimes you want to "hide" them by painting them the same color as the dark ceiling (assuming you have a high ceiling as we did), but I decided to go the opposite way and use the duct work as a decorative element and make them stand out.

So I instructed the painters to paint the ducts gold. Specifically, to use Sheffield water-base gold paint, which in my experience, is the best gold paint ever. Sheffield even makes a solvent-base gold paint that is so good it make objects look like they had been gilded with the real thing. But for the duct work, the water-base was a good way to go because it did not release the noxious fumes of solvents.


Same as with Paninis in Brunswick (see page in the Menu's "Rest & Bar Design" link), sport items were incorporated into the fireplace. But this time around, I had time to plan and select the right ones in a wider variety. After they were placed in the initial cement layer, masons added stone veneers around them. The Paninis logo and side football helmets, we would paint later.

As for wall decorations, the clients wanted to see what items were available by the Chicago display company that provided several hundred framed photographs and prints for the Tilted Kilt restaurant. We called them and they provided us with lists of their inventory. The way it works next, is that you make your selections, and they framed them and send you the shipment. None of the frames are new, but used and re-purposed frames.

At the Tilted Kilt, framed images were placed in a manner that I call "plop art". This is where you take any piece and attach it to the wall where-ever they fit. I'm not a fan of plop art (unless this is the name and theme of your business); I noticed that the human brain likes order, and when you place objects that share a common relation, people enjoy it more and spend more time digesting the content.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 My decor plan required a series of famous Kent State alumnae images. So a great deal of research was done to collect photographs, computer enhance them, add graphics, and format them to size for printing. The finished pieces were originals, not store-bought. Then we framed the prints and marked their position in my placement diagrams.

So the first thing I decided about the decor was to create groupings of images and items with a common theme, instead of spreading things all over the place. However, the term "sports" is not limited to just baseball, football, and basketball -the impression you get from visiting other area sport bars. I wanted to represent other popular sports, such as golf, boxing, hockey, track and field, and so on. What's more, Kent State University had 21 varsity sports teams. This alone was fertile ground for decor ideas.

Just because the theme of a business is sports, you don't have to dumb it down by plastering the walls with the limited and repetitive inventory that multi-million dollar sports franchises push through their sport outlet stores. So, if you want to represent other sports, you have to create your own content from scratch. Being a designer, this is exactly what I did -create unique content that no one else had.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 I did not want the decor imagery to be dull, repetitive and invisible, but grouped in sport themes and with trivia that would catch the eye and be interesting. You will never conveniently find what you need for a "designer" look in a store. You have to make it from scratch, and this takes work and planning.

From the Chicago supplier, I selected only those items that I could specifically use in selected areas, assuming that had it in the right size range. Finding things in the size you want is always a challenge. So early in my career I abandoned the idea of wasting time trying to make things fit, in favor of printing my own material to the exact-size needs. The one demand I made from the supplier, was that I wanted the ordered items framed in only wood or gold frames. Silver, black, metal, chrome and any other type of frame finish, was not on my decorative scheme.

As a source of images, we searched through Google, books, and other publications. Printed materials were scanned and enhanced in the computer, some were combined with graphics or lettering to create images of a theme, and other pieces were created by combining several photographs into one. Then all the printed material was collected and framed as required. Many of the frames were purchased at thrift stores, or discount stores. We even purchased inexpensive framed prints, then we took out the prints, and re-purposed the frames to our needs. About half of the frames were repainted with gold or faux-wood paint. This is how we ended up with an inventory of photos and images to decorate the entire store.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 We did a series of US presidents playing sports, and discovered that the majority of them played golf. Most of the photographs we used were really interesting, like President Harding using a baby elephant as a caddy.

While shopping for frames, we were also on the lookout for sports items to attach to the fireplace, and to add as props around the restaurant. For example, in our boxing wall picture collage, next to a famous print of Muhammad Ali, we attached a boxing glove to the wall. In another setting showing a collage of US Presidents playing golf, we added golf balls and a golf club. Accenting the pictures with real objects added another layer of interest to the collections. And by the positive feedback I have gotten through the years, I know the public greatly appreciates this attention to detail.

Lastly, but just as important, I added dozens of images from Kent State's varsity teams, and especially from women's teams. Women and the fans are two very important subjects that decorators always tend to forget. Since I don't really follow sports, my radar of interest, is with everything and everyone, and not just star athletes. I believe the inclusion of all these elements is what makes sports interesting. And finally, another series that I added as a trivia piece, were photographs of Kent State famous alumnae, people like actor Michael Keaton, talk-show host and comedian Arsenio Hall, and even the pop musical group Devo.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 This is an actual photograph of Richard Nixon bowling. We enhanced it for clarity and enlarged the size, but nothing else was altered. This is the kind of gem you will never find if all your decorations are store-bought. When you call yourself "an Interior Designer", you have to design for what you have in mind. If all you do is use items from a catalog, then you are "a decorator".

For weeks we prepared and collected our inventory for the decorations. The clients kept buying more items at sports store. Some I used (as shown on some of the images on this page), other items like sport flags and pennants were used as space fillers, some I re-framed or cannibalized to create other items, and a few were set aside for possible use in future projects. From the beginning my stance was that I would use only those items that fit the decorative scheme; no plop art.

As time progressed, we also picked the glass cups for the pendant lights used along the perimeter walls. We were lucky to fine one that matched the rest of the decor -red with gold specks. Work at the site was progressing, but there had been delays. There are always delays in construction -it's written on stone tablets! But the one thing that rarely moved, is the projected opening day. The translate to: the decorators are screwed!

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The one thing you hardly ever find in sport stores, is images of women in sports. In every sports-theme business in Ohio, all you find is exactly the same identical thing: store-bought images of the Cleveland Browns, The Cleveland Indians, The Cleveland Cavaliers, Ohio State, and other assortment of college sports teams and so on. But no women in sports! So I made sure to fine original images from Kent State women's varsity teams and include them in the decor.

The decoration team has a crucial role in the creation of any new store: they do all the visible eye-candy that defines what the place is. Opening a business with out decor, is like being at a black tie dinner in your underwear. That's how important this is. But the last team to go in, is the decorators. But when the rest of the construction is behind schedule, and the opening day is not push back, the decorators have an unrealistic time period to do their magic. Welcome to my world.

This time around, I was confident we had everything under control, because I started early and had learned what to expect from previous projects. But just when you expect smooth sailing, dark clouds gather at the horizon. This is when I got a call from the client telling me about his new idea: "99 bottles of beer on the wall." Naturally, he didn't now what or how, only that we should do something with it, and that this should be our centerpiece. We already had a space on the wall behind the bar were we talked about adding a piece of art. At the Brunswick Paninis, we installed a commissioned painting by Cleveland artist Hector Vega. But we were still debating what to do, when the 99 bottles of beer idea was set forth.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The other thing that is always forgotten in sports decor, is the fans. So we also added them to the decor scheme. Some photos of the fans are even more interesting that those of the team players.

Creating an Iconic Piece of Art

The thing about great ideas, is that they are only thoughts and words. They can take any shape or form, which can be hard to grasp. This is all the client had. So my job became taking this idea and turning it into something tangible in a short amount of time. At the moment I didn't know what I was going to do. But I figured I would need 99 bottles of beer. So I asked the client to start collecting bottles. This would keep him busy for a few weeks while I came up with a plan.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The general contractor does not want to be photographed doing grunt work. With construction delays and the grand opening only days away, my crew and his crew where pretty much working simultaneously. He and I have worked on four big projects and it's always the same story. So we help each other as best we can and make things work.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call to pick boxes of beer at the Brunswick Paninis. I took the loot to the shop and was pretty amazed at the exotic kinds of beer included in the collection. This was great, because I had over 100 different beer labels that I could arrange in an interesting composition. From a distance you wouldn't be able to read any text, but the shape of the label and it's dominant color would be discernible. As a result, depending on how you placed certain color labels in the composition, you could create interest by drawing the viewers attention from one focal point to the next, throughout the entire composition. This is what a great piece of art is suppose to do: attract your eye and hold your attention for as long as possible. Now, all I had to do was take advantages of these unexpected gifts to create a compelling work of art.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The clients wanted red for the walls, so I gave them three sample colors and they picked one for the painters (see the previous image of the fireplace). But the color looked flat. So we searched for wallpaper in the same color scheme with some textural variations.

Except for Sundays, I spent the rest of the week working on the two mural projects, were I had about thirty teenagers working on site. My evenings were spent in the shop preparing drawings and layouts for the next day's work. But I also had some members of my regular crew working at the shop, making sure all the material for the Kent store was completed, packed and ready to go. In between coffee breaks, I played with a piece of white cardboard, scaled in size to the wall space for the 99 bottles of beer art piece in Kent, and a bunch of little paper bottles also cut to scale. Through the course of several evenings, I tried half-a-dozen bottle arrangements that would fit 99 bottles in an interesting composition.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The client asked for gold specks on the red so the wall could sparkle. After looking at dozens of wallpaper books, it was not to be found. So I told him to settle for a wallpaper sample I had chosen and then I would "faux" the gold on the paper. It took us three days to add gold to the walls. "Army brat" Donna was a one girl army. She was so good at everything -including kicking ass and taking names, that I used to put them in charge of "the boys" in most of my projects.

When I finally came up with the winning arrangement, I cut a piece of white paper to the actual size of the wall space, and laid it on the floor. Then I placed the real beer bottles on the paper, recreating the composition on my scaled mockup. For several more evenings, I fussed over it, switching bottles from one position to the next, until I was satisfied with the color distribution of the labels in the composition. But this was half the battle. I still had to figure out how to keep the bottle in place and what material to use for the support.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Using sea sponges, we gilded the walls with Sheffield solvent-base pale-gold paint. There was only one way of doing the job: by hand one wall at a time. Even my wife Nancy got recruited for the tedious job. She was so good, she used both hands. But in the end, the gilding over the red "Venetian Marble" wallpaper, looked fantastic!

During the day, while supervising work progress on the murals, my mind kept going back to the piece. Then I thought: -"I would really cool if the bottles were floating in beer", and this was the germ of an idea that led me to the finished piece. I worked the details of how to make it happen, and them managed to complete the art piece the night before the grand opening. The clients never saw the work until that very day.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 My right hand man, artist Ric Owens, added gold banding below the crown molding and above the chair-rail all around the restaurant walls. This drew the eye to define spaces where the decor images were going to be, and harmonized well with the exposed duct-work, which I had the painters paint in gold too.

The photographs on this page will show exactly how the 99 bottles of beer on the wall piece was created, and what we did to make it stand out in a magical way. I will only add that it was not easy, nor did I expect it to be easy, especially when you are working on something that is completely original with no prototype to guide you. But we learned a lot from doing the project -and swore we would not do it again! If it were easy, everyone would have one. But true to my expectations as an interior designer, we created an unique work of art that could not be found anywhere else or in a store catalog. This feature alone would make the Paninis in Kent stand out from the rest of the competition, and leave a memorable impression on all visitors to the restaurant.

Beating the Deadline

I made a trip to Kent to instruct the masons on the placement of sports objects on the fireplace. The gold color ducts look great, the red color on the walls looked adequate, but flat. It need some pizazz. The options were to do a faux paint job, like texturing or ragging to create some depth. Or, we could do wallpaper with the effect already printed on the pattern. The client went for the wallpaper idea, particularly since he wanted some kind of gold specks on the paper. So we visited several wallpaper dealers in Cleveland, looked at every wallpaper book -dozens, and at best found three maybes. We finally settle for the one that was available in enough quantity to do the job.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Artist Craig "Awesome" Wilson, about to paint the "Kent State" football helmet. The Panini's logo will follow. Since we didn't have an actual Kent State helmet, we split a generic one for the display, sanded the plastic finish, and primed it white. It would be painted in glossy sign-painter's enamel, and then a Kent State Golden Eagle decal will be added to complete the prop.

With the deadline fast approaching, the walls were wallpapered and they looked great. After all, the red color wallpaper would serve only as a setting for the placement of framed pictures. But after a few days, the client expressed his disappointment that the gold specks didn't really stand out. So I took a piece of wallpaper to the shop to see what I could with it. In the end, my solution was to faux gold leaf by hand over all the walls. And once more, the client didn't get to see it until we were already gilding the them. I had simply run out of time for more meetings since construction delays had pushed my working time to a matter of days.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 My brother Ricky also pitched in some hours after his day job at NASA. We recreated the dimension of every wall section on the floor, place all the frames to be hung in the correct composition, and then transferred the measurements from the floor to the wall for perfect placement. I discovered that this is the most effective method to do a perfect job in a short amount of time.

But the final result spoke for itself, and proved to be a solution that added another level of class to the place. The gilding was done with a very high quality solvent-base metallic paint that looked like real gold leaf. Therefore, it imparted the red wallpaper the same reflected quality that made gold "shimmer" as it caught the light. Again, this was not easy to do. It is a nasty, smelly, and tedious job. If you make a mistake, there is not way to fix it, except for replacing a section of wallpaper. But with the right crew, you can do anything -and we did it in three days.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 I'm "in the zone", concentrated on all aspects of the job and moving methodically from one task to the next. For the most part, I do not do things "on the fly". My practice is to think everything in advance, using scale models and diagrams, and work like clockwork on site. Close at hand, I have a bottle of water with a teaspoon of lemon and half a teaspoon of honey, and a thermos with coffee and milk ready to sip in-between tasks.

Including myself, I had a crew of six artists to do the job in less than five days. The client's nerves were on edge at seeing all that needed to be done before the looming deadline. So we stayed at a hotel in Kent to save time from having to drive back and forth between Cleveland and Kent. Then we worked 16-hour days. Electricians were still working inside and construction workers were completing the outside bar and patio. The furniture had been delivered so we had to move everything out of the way to be able to work. I had preparation, an action plan, and the confidence of knowledge to not worry about their concerns. And, my crew was absolutely realiable and experienced. This was just another job in which they were going to have fun. I never have fun; I'm in charge and I'm under pressure. My mind is on beating the clock. When the job is finished, then I can have fun.

Getting the job done

The captions on these photographs will give you a detail visual diary of the decoration process, the design scheme, and how the artwork was done. In addition to the decoration, there were other details I had to attend to while the place was being constructed. As the designer, all kinds of questions were addressed to me, mostly by phone, such as: what can we do about getting the bar lights to glow amber? (you cut color gels and fit them in the lamps); How should we light the bar? (using LED strip lights and a plug for the 12v power supply); What can we do decorate make the Big Ass Fan (create graphics on the computer, print them on adhesive vinyl, and then apply the decals to the blades); What color should we paint the backs of the closet doors? (What? Who gives a shit. It's the inside of a closet, so paint them white); and so on.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Everyone in my crew specialize in certain tasks that they excel, but if need to they also can work where needed. Before we start the day's work, we do a meeting were I detail what everyone will be doing and the goal for that day. Everyone is in the game plan from start to finish.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 This wall was dedicated to playing pool, the Army and the Navy, and the sport of boxing. Some real items are placed as props to add pizazz to the wall display, like a pool stick, or pool balls and a wooden triangle, a boxing glove, or the five stars of a General. The composition of the frames and props is perfectly balanced.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Every prop and frame is screwed firmly to the wall. The gold and brown frames standout nicely against the gilded Venetian-red wallpaper. Red with gold flecks pendants match the decor scheme perfectly. We looked through several product catalogs until we found what we needed. Stores have limited space for display, but chances are that what you need is in their product catalog. So with time and some patience, you can find what you need.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012,-079 The finished fireplace looked great. The gold leaf on the wall sparkles nicely when it catches the light. The effect is rich and warm at the same time, making the entire tableau look very elegant. This is what you should expect from good design and planing. Please note that the place is very dark, so I used a flash when taking photographs. So look at daytime photographs at toward the end of this page to get a good sense of how the color scheme really works.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The centerpiece of our football-theme wall was a score clock salvaged from a park. It added the right touch to the ensemble. Even when you have an eclectic collection of different size frames, the key is to make the asymmetrical composition balanced. Creating the composition on the floor, using masking tape to mark wall bounderies, is my preferred method of composing.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 What we never have enough of, in any job, is night lights. Mood lighting in a restaurant is not practical illumination for working. So as part of our kit, we have an assortment of lamps and extension cords we always carry around.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Beer and liquor vendors love to give away mirrors and plaques and metal art to the establishments they serve. This give-a-ways are advertisement that simply end up taking a lot of space. So I tend to select the best as "fillers" and usually place some with mirrors in corners, because light reflecting on them produces a nice effect on the adjoining wall.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 When I use pennants, I like to balance them with other imagery of the same theme. In this case, I placed two photographs of Carlos Baerga and Robby Alomar, two of the best second basemen in baseball history, in a setting other than baseball -an interesting image. It so happens I have some photographs in my personal collection and they worked well in this setup.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 I had a lot of flags and pennants that the clients had bought from sport store. Since they are big and colorful, I like to use them in less focal spaces so they don't distract from other display areas.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 I dedicated this corner space to the Cleveland Indians. All these items were store-bought. This is why all the frames are black and why they were all placed together. They connect more with the TV than with the wall, but as a group it's still a good setup.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 On another section, I created a theme dedicated to the game of baseball, instead of focusing only on a specific team. All these items were purchased from our Chicago supplier. Notice all the frames are brown or gold, just like I requested them to be. They go very well with the red and gold wall.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The movies "Major League I & II", starring Charlie Sheen as "Wild Thing", were so popular in Ohio that they deserved their own tableau. Adding a bat and glove above the triptych was a nice touch.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 We buy items at flea markets and thrift stores, paint and redecorate them at our shop, and use them as accent pieces hanging from invisible wire. This works extremely well with sports items.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 This area was dedicated to basketball. This was the pre-Lebron days, which explains why there are not photos of him.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 For the area above the entrance, I used vintage beer advertisements that added color and to the space.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 I dedicated an area to golf. What made this ensemble really interesting, was the collage of a dozen US Presidents playing the game.

Early in the project, one of the clients showed me a picture of a ceiling fan. This was not and ordinary ceiling fan, but a "Big Ass Fan". This was the name of the company and they made big ass fans, with spans up to 20-feet wide. It was big, it was different, it was an eye catcher, but most of all, the client absolutely wanted one. So the GC and I found a spot on the ceiling were it could fit, and had him order an 18-foot span fan with 10 blades. When the shipment arrived, the consensus was that sure it was big, but it was still just a fan. So the client as me if we could buy some sport decals or something else, like writing the names of local schools and so on, so the fan could be made more interesting to look at.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The clients bought an 18-foot-span "Big Ass Fan" (yep, that's the real name) that would only fit in this particular area. It works as a fan, but can also be a nice art piece when you add graphics to the blades.

A decorator would have done exactly that: go to a sports store and buy decals such as team logos and the like. But a designer would not cheapen the piece by doing just that, because doing so would make it look like someone added decals to the fan blades! Instead, I created a colorful cohesive design for all the blades, with each blade highlighting a specific sports team, school, or college. You can see an example of the on the image below, but to see all the art for all the fan blades, please see the "Big Ass Fan Sport Graphics" page on the Menu's "Rest & Bar Design" link.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Each one of the ten blades of the Big Ass Fan, had vinyl graphics representing every sport team in the area. This is an image for one of the blades. After researching logos and colors for the major teams, and also those of area highschools, I created original art for each blade (look for this page in the Menu's "Rest & Bar Design" link).

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Somehow, we ended up with a shipment of miniature football helmets. Instead of placing them everywhere, I opted for a place where they would become a focal point if grouped together.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 A few "soft touches" strategically placed, are always a welcomed sight. Don't you agree?

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The spaces between TVs were perfect for placing flags. Flags add color without being too obtrusive, even after focusing spotlights on them. When the TVs are turned on, they will be just blend into the background.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The centerpiece for the restaurant, was the "99 bottles of beer on the wall" art piece. The client had the idea to do something about it, "it" being the popular song by the same name. But it was up to me to think of... what? While I thought about it, I asked them to find me 100 bottle of different brands of beer.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The space for the art piece was an area on the wall behind the bar, above the chair rail. So the dimensions were basically arbitrarily determined. I needed to come up with an arrangement that fitted exactly in this wall space. After playing with different configurations on paper, I ended up with one in which the bottles radiated from Panini logo placed at the center of the composition.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 To the consternation of my crew, we drilled a tiny hole on the bottle cap of each bottle and drained the beer down the sink. This took a while. Then we arranged the bottles on a radial pattern, taking care to place the bottles so that the labels provided a nice color contrast from one to the other.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The composition was laid on a sheet of paper the size of the wall space for the piece. We ended up with exactly 99 bottles in the composition. Once satisfied with the arrangement, every bottle was carefully traced on the paper and the name on the bottle noted.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 With the composition finalized, we constructed two wooden frames with grooves to slide in a 1/4-inch sheet of clear plexiglass. Because of weight consideration, I decided to split the art piece into two sections. Plexiglass is lighter than glass but the sections were still heavy. Later on they would be much heavier. Two temporary divider boards were added to keep the plastic rigid and the sides of the frame from expanding.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The paper pattern was placed under the clear plexiglass and the bottles were fixed in position with masking tape.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The next step was to glue the bottles in place using clear epoxy glue.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 After the two sections were completed, we prepared for the most difficult part of the job: mixing and pouring liquid resin on each section, making sure the resin encase each bottle.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The resin was made in one-gallon batches by mixing two components, adding tint to achieve the right color, and pouring it rapidly because the mix began to harden almost immediately. It had the consistency of honey and the chemical reaction released so much heat that it warped the plexiglass. It took a team of five people to rapidly mix, pour and spread the resin on the sections before it congeal to a solid state.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The final result looked as if the bottles were floating in beer. After the pieces had cooled, we removed the dividing boards from the sections. Counting on the fact that the resin would be semi-transparent, I had planned to add another element to the design that would take art over top.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The next part of the job was to add a 1/4" thick back panel to the frames. But before installing it, we arranged a string of LED lights on the back and secured them with masking tape. Then we drilled holes to fit the LED bulbs into the wood.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 One the LED bulbs had been inserted into the panel, we used hot glue to seal them in place. We used a total of four strings of LEDs, each string connected to an 8-function comptroller box.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Next we powered the lights and, using the comptrollers, made the lights turn on and off in different patterns and speeds.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 With the electrical done and tested, the panel was screwed to the back of each frame.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Each section was extremely heavy, about one-hundred and fifty pounds each. That same night, close to midnight, we traveled from Cleveland to Kent to do the installation.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 During construction, I had told the electricians were to place power feeds for decor lighting. So to install the piece, we screwed the sections in place after connecting the power supply, and them added an additional piece with the Paninis logo at the center. Once lighted, the piece looked stunning.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Even after working for long hours and with little sleep, the crew still kept their sense of humor. Except for my wife Nancy who wakes up the sun, my crew and I are night owls. You have to be one to be in this business, because restaurants can only afford to close at night.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012,-079 I am exhausted. When you are responsible for everything, and everything is done while racing the clock, you are always under a great deal of pressure. If you don't prepare ahead of time, and if you don't have a trained and dependable crew, you will not make it in this business.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 We were almost finished with this job, and we were very tire, but there was still one final thing to do.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 We added a series of small, framed images along the bar's overhead, and with this final task, this job was completed. It was about 3am, but I was very pleased with the results. All the design elements worked beatifically to make this Paninis the best looking store in the franchise to-date (until I did Paninis Westlake five year later).

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Before leaving, we turned on the lights, the ticker tape, the LED lightstrip we installed under the bar, the 99-bottles of beer display, and just sat there admiring our handywork. Later in the evening, the store would have it's grand opening.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The next series of photographs were taken by the franchise's photographer. They show daytime views of the restaurant.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 Arcade games are always popular with the younger audience.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The color scheme and the lighting produces a warm, inviting and welcoming feeling to the restaurant.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The NaNa doors next to the Big Ass Fan open up to an outdoor bar and patio seating -a design hallmark at most Paninis.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The centrally positioned bar is the focal point of the place.

paninis-bar-&-grill,-kent,-ohio,-decor-by-john-rivera-resto,-fall-2012 The letters on top of the 99 bottles of beer art-piece read: Drink the Wall. In a college town like Kent, this seems like a welcome challenge.

The design and decoration of this Paninis Restaurant became the template for other Muralmaster jobs. It gave me invaluable information on how to approach this type of commission, and how to operate under client demands, those of the General Contractor, suppliers, and sub-contractors. It also made me more aware of the designer's role as a communication bridge between the client's desires and the realities of a construction site, where the architect and contractor have to play by trade codes and city planning restrictions.

In Kent we made it work by finding creative solutions that satisfied everyone. I also got great feedback from customers visiting the restaurant. So for the time being, I was pleased. Five years after the Grand Opening, I was asked by the client to do conceptual designs for an outdoor patio extension to the popular store. But that's another story told on another page. To see it, go to "Paninis Kent Patio Extension, Spring 2018" on the Menu's "Rest & Bar Design" link. Enjoy.

Muralmaster® is ‘an educational site’ privately sponsored and maintained. It contains no pop-ups, sales banners or advertisements. People from over thirty countries routinely visit Muralmaster to enjoy the articles and admire the art. This website is also a great learning tool for artists and young students wanting to know more about the inner workings of this artistic profession. In Muralmaster they get what they can’t get elsewhere: an intimate and sobering look into the struggles of an artistic mind and the difficult career-realities of being an artist.