The thought process


The owner of an old and established restaurant in the garment district purchased the lease of the dry cleaners store next door, which meant a much wider storefront and higher visibility–an opportunity to refresh and attract new customers. I was asked to design it, and the restaurant would never close during the refurb. We would just wall parts of it off so that the restaurant could remain open for business.

glass front

Sliding colored glass wall, daytime, looking from bar to dining room

The intention was to design the new front to blend in with the best of the old, and give the rest of the interior a freshen up with paint, carpets and art. It was important to Milan, the owner, to satisfy his loyal customers who had been coming for many years while also attracting new customers.

Creating a relationship between the old and the new.

A single wall divided the main dining room from the new bar. To connect them, I created a window the length of the bar, made of colored sliding glass panels, which overlapped. The different colors and opacities created a striking focal point. The changing lighting from inside and outside meant that the window changes its appearance from both sides, throughout the day. No matter which room you are sitting in, the glass wall looks completely different during the day than it does in the evening.

When I designed the new bar, I focused on their location first - the heart of the garment district. There was nowhere that students or tourists could go that celebrated the history of the area, so I decided that Arno was perfect for this. The task was then to approach the fashion theme in a way that was attractive and entertaining to those new to the industry, people that loved fashion but were not part of the industry itself, and tourists, while being careful not to patronize or bore those who had been working in the industry their whole lives and came to Arno for the food and a relaxing time.


A 20 ft. tall sculptural installation inspired by bolts of fabric in the neighborhood stores provides a tactile backdrop to the tables in the bar.


In any refurbishment project, there are some things you can't change, others that are too expensive for what you gain and a few that you shouldn't. As a partner in the process, and to justify the trust placed in me, my responsibility is also to know when not to change something. To guide my client thoughtfully through the refurb. In Arno, the distracting sound proofing on the ceiling of the dining rooms was disguised with textured paint costing a fraction of resurfacing an entire ceiling. When asked to chose new dinnerware I strongly recommended keeping what they had, because their was nothing contemporary which had the equivalent style and quality.


up arrowThe black and white images in the cafe dining room are all by the amazing fashion photographer, Sante Dorazio, taken from his book titled Gianni and Donatella, and are all behind the scenes shots from a Versace runway show.



More FGI images feature on the high back wall of the new bar.

The idea of developing an Art collection was both a means of articulating the central theme and creating a more interesting setting as well as a means of forging new relationships with both the Fashion Group International (FGI) and its members, and students and faculty of the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). In the longer term, having an art collection facilitates future self-initiated events through changing exhibits– some of which can be timed with the major Fashion Week events hosted by the city twice a year.


up arrow I curated five separate collections. The permanent collection featured in the main dining room was taken from the incredible archive FGI has developed over the years. The images were all chosen carefully to be timeless and evocative of fashion.


arrow up The hallway exhibit is a collection of photographs, one from each decade, that show how both women and fashion have changed over time. It is open to interpretation which is the stronger influence.

left arrow The abstract series of images, in the banquet rooms, are very close up shots of antique and modern fabrics, embroidery, beading, and printed and woven textiles–all elements that inspire designers. They are deliberately abstract to serve as a more subtle background accommodating the many uses these rooms offer. Uses include weddings, trade shows, business meetings and corporate functions.


Upstairs and in the bar, I extended the notion of richness in variety by using different upholstery fabrics (both in texture and in color) on all the chairs.

FIT student work

left arrow To celebrate completion of the new restaurant design, I worked with Arno's events coordinator on a launch party with a special exhibition of the art collections featuring a three-dimensional installation from students of FIT. With the invaluable help of FGI archivist, Jean Meek Barker, the event was attended by over three hundred people, the youngest among them FIT students and, the wisest, 91-year-old Willa Kim–the world-famous American costume designer.

willa kim

FIT students with (left of center) Willa Kim and (right of center) owner, Milan Licul.


What the client said:

Katja is a pleasure to work with. Business is significantly better since the redesign.

Arno Restaurant


The brief: To design a new bar being added on to the existing restaurant. To inexpensively renovate the existing restaurant - without closing - to complement the new bar.

fabric bolts

colored glass

arrow Sliding colored glass wall, daytime view from inside the dining room





The tables have inlays of reels of threads or piles of buttons.





arrowMenu covers with the new logo.



up arrowThree Fashion Group International images from the permanent collection.


up arrowDecades of women and fashion images. I was intrigued by how strong the attitude of a time period came across in the models' postures and how differently they interacted with each other.



Should you visit, you can expect very good food, interesting people and lively conversation.





arrow up Abstract images from "The Devil is in the Details" series in the banquet rooms were all photographed by me.



FIT student work

arrow FIT mannequin installations were inspired by fashion, theatre and food.






I'd like to know if you found any of the content on this page interesting or informative– please click on the smile if you did.

smile000001Thank You :-)