We all love pretty design—lush plants, beautiful furnishings, tasteful artwork—but there are certain spaces that take the idea of good design and really turn it on its head. There’s a fine line between all of it and just too much, but when it works, we applaud this type of ambitious design and we’re able to enjoy it in a whole different way than with a safe, tastefully designed space.

Today, we’re rounding up our favorite ambitious design projects around Pittsburgh; the ones that truly push the boundaries of what a coffee shop can be, what a restaurant should look like, how a shop should function. Here are our favorite feats of design prowess that we’ve seen in Pittsburgh this year.

Gi-Jin. The much-anticipated raw bar from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group has yet to open, but sneak peeks of the interior design (and on-foot peeks at the exterior) show a moody, modern take on Asian design that we can’t wait to see in person. The giant dragon mural wall, commissioned from local painter Jeremy Raymer, is a feat in itself, but the wavy, wooden beams along the ceiling and the decorative wood cut leaf details outside are equally stunning in a more understated way. And after a year plus of teasing us, the opening date is scheduled for March.

KLVN. You’ve seen it on Instagram. Scratch that — you’ve seen it all over Instagram. The airy, modern coffee shop in the Larimer neighborhood opened to an explosion of photos all over the internet, and for good reason: the warehouse space is furnished in a way that skews more California than Pennsylvania, with Donald Judd-esque plywood chairs, live edge tables, and polished concrete in abundance. If you’re looking for an escape from dreary Pittsburgh winter, this is just about enough to transport you elsewhere for an hour or two.


Schoolhouse. The Portland import expanded the idea of what could exist in Pittsburgh when it opened an outpost here in 2018, and it continues to give residents handmade, high style options for their own homes. We’ll never get tired of seeing that little “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania” geotag when they post their stunning vignettes online.

Bridges and Bourbon. It would be easy to make theatrical, over-the-top cocktails and let that be the focus, but this Downtown eatery went above and beyond (and it works). Gold leaf in the entryway, a near perfect white marble bar, and brass details throughout give this dinner spot a swanky, New York feel that’s perfect for dinner date or a dramatic night cap. While they cut their teeth on cocktails, look for an expanded menu for 2020.

Cobra. The newly opened Japanese yakiniku restaurant and karaoke lounge pushed the boundaries of what nightlife could (and should) look like in Pittsburgh. Futuristic, neon lighting, grill insets in the tables and a maze of rooms boasting design details around every corner can’t be properly described — you just need to go and see for yourself.

Beauty Shoppe. This Pittsburgh-based collective of co-working spaces elevates the idea of the traditional workspace. While the various Beauty Shoppe co-working spaces around the city have private offices, shared desks and other essential “office” details, the rest of the spaces are much more beautiful and design-forward than the typical co-working space: large, dramatic bouquets of dried florals drape from the ceiling at the downtown Americus Club location, elaborate, handmade weavings line the walls at the Terminal Building location, and in Lawrenceville, the soon-to-open Arsenal Motors boasts custom woodwork from Bones and All (above) and sleek furniture design from Studio Lithe.