Brothers (and partial owners of Moto) John and Kevin McCormick — responsible for the distressed surfaces at Freemans, Beatrice Inn, and Smith & Mills — would like to be credited for the trend in Depression-era restaurant styling, according to an Observer profile on the pair. After opening now-departed Palacinka in 1997, they moved on to unveil Williamsburg café Moto, which inspired other restaurateurs to request their talents in creating a perfectly aged look. But the brothers McCormick now claim to be victims of egregious copycatting. Wilfie & Nell, for one, seems too similar to Smith & Mills: “Just the choice of name and then to have those influences here and there on the inside, it was like, c’mon!,” bemoans Johnny.
But no matter how far the McCormicks’ influence may spread (the Observer wonders if Crate and Barrel and IKEA will attempt a mass oxidization of their inventory), Johnny says of their look, “you can’t really replicate it. Not to my eye.” You can, however, replicate the French-bistro thing: Regarding venues such as Pastis andLe Gamin, Johnny comments, “It looked like they all picked up the same coffee table book and bought the same enamel sign.” Perhaps, but at least McNally doesn’t claim a monopoly on tarnished doorknobs.