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Marisol Gullo Designs Aja Restaurant

Storied Restaurateur Chef Tom Catherall Brings Nationwide Attention to Gullo's Designs

Article by David Gullo

Photography by Robert Young, Forever Young Images

Originally published in Destin City Lifestyle

Marisol Gullo’s latest design project has attracted nationwide attention in the recently opened restaurant Aja, located in the 30Avenue Shopping Center, Inlet Beach, FL, where Marisol runs her 30A Design Studio. Multiple award-winning restaurateur and renowned Certified Master Chef Tom Catherall brought in the local designer Marisol Gullo for his new 30Avenue restaurant, Aja, showcasing elevated Asian cuisine.

When it comes to coastal, contemporary design, few people know how to put it together better than Marisol Gullo of Not Too Shabby. Marisol has owned and operated her two stores for over twelve years - one at her 30Avenue location and 9755 US-98 in Miramar Beach.

Tom’s newest and maybe most beloved restaurant is Aja. He knew this one had to be something extra special, and he also knew he needed an extra special designer to bring his vision to reality. There’s not much that Marisol Gullo can’t do when she puts her mind to it. An attorney by trade, she moved to the area over twenty years ago. She is the 2017 South Walton Artist of the Year, an accomplished interior designer who has personally built and designed many homes and restaurants for her clients, as well as for herself.

We asked Marisol how she approached this high-profile project.

“I knew this one was Tom’s baby, so I also knew that this one had to be special. It took me a few weeks of research and many conversations with Tom about what he wanted to convey to his customers. Listening to my clients is the most important part of the process for me. Designing a space for someone is an intimate process. It’s important to me to get to know my clients so I can help them bring their vision to fruition. After all, this is their space, not mine. My job is to help them to bring it to life.”

We also asked Marisol how this new experience of designing a restaurant compared to designing a house.

“It certainly is different, especially when considering the amount of traffic a commercial space has, as opposed to a residential space. A restaurant, or any commercial space, will be a high traffic area…meaning you must keep in mind that there will be many more people in and out, so the space must flow.”

“However, for me, when I design, the devil is always in the details. That held true for this project, as it does in all others. Attention to detail is one of my most highly-regarded personal strengths, and it is an essential interior design principle. After all, little details can make all the difference.”

Visitors to Aja will see the attention to detail in the fabrics of their seat cushions, the design of the plateware, and the floor color. This parallels a need to carefully select cabinetry handles, and kitchen and bathroom accessories in a home.

One of Aja's wall coverings features an iconic image of a wave and Mount Fuji, Japan’s beloved mountain. It is a perfect example of details matching vision. Although this is seemingly a staple of pop culture, its origin is in a series of woodblock prints by Katsushika Hokusai, c. 1830-1832, titled Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji. It brings in something of the traditional into a modern atmosphere, a perfect parallel to the fusion cuisine of the restaurant.

The goal of great interior design is to unite every element in a space for a seamless and natural, attention-grabbing effect. This is exactly what Marisol Gullo achieved in Aja, a sophisticated restaurant offering an elevated Asian menu. Its modern and stylish atmosphere reflects the vision of Chef Tom Catherall. It’s elevated!