As the North American Distributor of the Element4 Dutch fireplace line, European Home recognizes beautiful designs. From time to time we get the pleasure of having conversations with the brilliant minds behind some of those designs. This month we sit down with Sky Adler.
Sky Adler is the Senior Director of Architecture and Design for Kona Grill, a fine dining restaurant specializing in sushi and an array of handmade cocktails. Sky cut his teeth in design while living in LA and working in the film industry as a production designer for over a decade.
One of the first things I noticed when I walked into the new Kona Grill in Minnetonka, MN was how theatrical the whole experience was. A giant blue LED bubble wall greets you for your red-carpet entrance. Over by the bar, the sushi chef is cutting sashimi on his illuminated stage. Finally, as you turn the corner, you are treated to an Element4 eight-foot long see-through gas fireplace which brings drama and warmth to the entire scene.
How did you get your start in architecture and design?
(Sky) After completing my studies many years ago I picked up and moved to LA and found myself in the film industry as a production designer for 12 years. While there I worked on all kinds of projects even some associated with Steven Spielberg and Wolfgang Puck. It wasn’t the path I had in mind while I was in school, but when in Rome… you know?
[Eventually] I moved back home to Colorado and bought an old three-story Victorian House. I was working on that for about a year, while simultaneously working on a number of other rehab projects when I got a call from Marci Rude (VP of Development for Kona Grill) who offered to bring me on the team.
I’ve only been at this for about 5 years now but already we’ve done about 22 new restaurants and seven remodels. The crazy thing is, for the first three and a half years it was just me and about three other people. Now we’re up to a team of 19.
Did you like to design things as a child? What would you design?
I grew up in the era of crayons, and while other kids were drawing stick figures or flowers, I was sketching out full-on floor plans. By the time I was 9 or 10 I started building model houses with intricate roofing and very specific details down to the upholstery patterns. So, yeah, I was kinda weird. (laughs)
My father was in construction and he would design and build a new house for us to live in just about every other year, so I had a pretty close relationship with construction and design from an early age.
What has influenced the Kona Grill design aesthetic you have helped develop?
When I came in we wanted to create a complete update to Kona’s image. I completely re-imagined the color palette – bringing in blues, grays, and patina coppers to create a signature look. I also wanted to bring in new textures, like tile, concrete, and rusted metal. When you walk into a Kona Grill you can’t help but be reminded of the elements. Fire and water are central to our identity. I let these elements inform nearly all of my decisions from the fireplace to the aquarium to the specific color of the light that permeates the entire space.
Light and color seem very connected in this space. There are lots of different light sources, the aquarium, the LED wall, the fireplace, and I haven’t even mentioned the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. How did you come up with the lighting design for this space?
I think lighting is critical to any space. I actually studied lighting for a whole year just to better understand how it operates. I took a chance with all the blue lighting since it’s well known the color blue is actually an appetite suppressant (laughs) but I think it’s pretty unique for a restaurant. You have to break the rules sometimes.
I wanted to create different fields of light for different activities. Everything was intentional and the bar is lighted different than the dining area which is lighted different from the lounge where the fireplace really warms up the space, provides a pop and a lot of drama amidst all the blue.
And why did you pick the Tenore 240 by Element4 — a double-sided, see-through fireplace for this space?
Like I said, I like to create different dining experiences within the same space while maintaining the connectivity and energy throughout. The double sided fireplace allows more visibility between the wall and gives more bang for the buck, allowing a single unit to create two completely different atmospheres on either side. The appeal is to have division between the patio and dining room but still being able to see through to each and have the dynamic fire feature to combine the two.
Could you describe your design style in a couple sentences?
I completely don’t have one. (Laughs) I feel I’m well versed in everything. What we’ve created for Kona Grill in particular is something that is modern and relevant but not so modern that it will be dated in a couple years. My style is very architectural very clean while still being warm and inviting.
Special Thanks To:
All photography by: John Magnoski
Joe, Bonnie and all the wonderful people at
All Seasons Fireplace are responsible for this installation.
Posted by: Cory John Ploessl
Cory is the Marketing Manager for European Home. He has an MFA in Sculpture from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. He writes about fireplace and modern design on the European Home Blog.