Habitat: A Look Into Kate Rohrer’s Retro-Glam Design for Louie Louie

One designer is proving that eateries can be fun again.

kate rohrer designer louie louie

The lounge at Louie Louie. | Photograph by Heidi’s Bridge

Nobody needs reminding that 2016 was weird; by year’s end, morale for some had hit a low. That same year, designer Kate Rohrer signed on to help Marty and Sydney Grims of Fearless Restaurants with an ambitious project: the reinvention of a former eatery inside the Inn at Penn in University City.

Rohrer says she hoped to lighten the mood and “create a place that would take people away from what was going on in society.” Inspiration for the retro-glam design came from European grand cafes as well as a psychedelic Peter Max print the Grimses owned. This past July, Louie Louie opened, showcasing defined areas (bar, lounge, dining room) that coalesce into a timeless place.

“A lot of newer restaurants lack substance because they sometimes feel too new,” Rohrer says. “If I can make a space look like it’s been there for a long time, I’ve succeeded.”


Rohrer sourced a Victorian-era reproduction from a fabricator in the Hudson Valley, adding contrast to the lounge’s other-wise modern style.


To warm up the area and make it more comfortable, Rohrer and the Rohe Creative team had a gas fireplace installed. It’s the focal point of the space and features an old-world plaster mantel and surround.

Wall treatment

Rohrer painted the preexisting wall paneling black to create a dramatic backdrop for the lavish decor. Above the paneling, she applied a ’70s-style Osborne + Little wallpaper that resembles burled wood. Ceilings throughout the restaurant were antiqued by a painter.


No reupholstering was required for the find from local shop Jinxed. The gray velvet sofas were custom-designed to mimic its shape and establish a “curvy moment in a very square room.”

Published as “This Is a Restaurant” in the October 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.