EOA Architects and Design Object insert restaurant Bad Idea into a historic church shell

Funky Refresh

When Alex Burch, sommelier and former wine director, told people he wanted to open up a wine-focused restaurant they said it was a “bad idea.” Rather than turn away from the project, he named the project after this negative feedback. In East Nashville, Bad Idea is a new restaurant and wine bar located in a former Presbyterian Church at 1910 Russell Street. Local architecture firm EOA Architects teamed up with Design Object to insert a modern, eclectic space, reflective of the bar’s funky wine list, within the historic structure.

A stained glass fixture floats above the bar and is inspired by the glass found within the former church (Daniel Brown Photo)

In 2020, the church was largely destroyed from a tornado that swept through Nashville. EOA and Design Object first had to reconstruct the church back to its original structure before transforming the former church into the new eatery.

A lounge area, situated in front of the main feature window, pays homage to the church’s arched windows (Daniel Brown Photo)

Inside, the 5,521-square-foot restaurant radiates warm tones through the use of wooden furniture and mustard yellow ceiling. Curved dining booths act as a modern take on church pews. These cozy notes and comfortable seating options allow for an inviting, welcoming atmosphere for the surrounding community. A stained glass fixture hangs above the bar to pay homage to the buildings history as a place of worship.

Playfulness exudes throughout the space through undulating curvature (Daniel Brown Photo)

Stained glass sits atop the banquettes as another nod to the church’s window panes (Daniel Brown Photo)

Bad Idea’s interior design exhibits fun accents: wooden dining partitions with wavy amber glass embedded at the top, chunky Andreu World bar stools, and whimsical art pieces by Stevie Shao. The most unique piece is the mural behind the bar that pairs with the stained glass fixture above it. The custom wooden mural is designed by local surface design studio New Hat; it exhibits geometric shapes through the lineal side pattern, set against lurking eyes. As Abi Spear, principal of Design Object, described, “The inspiration was taken from the building’s windows and the concept was based on the senses and a surrealist, dali-esque use of facial features. With it being a wine bar in a church, we had also discussed a tongue-in-cheek twist on ‘turning water into wine.’”

Local studio New Hat designed the wooden mural at the back of the space (Daniel Brown Photo)

The adaptive reuse project began as a church and was then converted into Yamhill Community Action Partnership (YCAP) offices, and now, is Bad Idea. What unites every phase of the building’s life? The answer, Spear explained, is “community.”

“Starting with the way the restaurant was funded via Wefunder, all the way through to the local artisans and talent we were able to work beside,” Spear added. “It was a collaborative effort to create a space in East Nashville that would be designed and used by the community.”