A Saucy Take on Italy Meets California in Midtown, Detroit

by Brandi Koloski

Step into a world where Italy meets the California Coast, right in the heart of Midtown, Detroit. Don't let the name scare you; Mad Nice of Heirloom Hospitality is all about embracing the unexpected. With a modern Italian-inspired menu that encourages you to slice your pizza with giant scissors, and a mid-century inspired space adorned with coastal chic decor, this restaurant promises a unique and unforgettable experience. Collaborating with Parini, a dynamic design firm based in Detroit, Mad Nice brings together culinary delights and captivating aesthetics like never before.

The Creative Powerhouse — Parini

Christine Babini and Amy Pariser, the dynamic duo behind Parini, joined forces after meeting at a renowned hospitality design firm in 2014. Inspired by their former employers' success, they decided to venture out on their own, bringing their expertise to the thriving Detroit market. With a team of seven full-time employees and a couple of remote consultants, Parini is now entering its fifth year in business.

Parini's collaboration with Mad Nice represents a meeting of minds and a fusion of creative energies. Together, they have redefined the dining experience in Detroit by crafting a space that seamlessly blends the charm of Italy with the laid-back vibes of the California Coast. The result is a stunning environment that transports guests to a new environment from the moment they step through the doors.

Mad Nice: A Restaurant Reinvented

Mad Nice, originally envisioned as a restaurant called Sauce, began in 2019,  just before the pandemic hit. However, construction was interrupted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a two-year hiatus. When work finally resumed in April of the following year, the project had undergone some changes. During the hiatus, the project was reimagined to align with the new post-pandemic landscape. The updated concept included the addition of private dining rooms, a bodega component called Mad Nice Goods, and an enhanced focus on adaptability.

An airy pink themed restaurant with booths and Sally Barstools

Sally Freestanding Counter Height Stool with upholstered seat in Designtex - Wollish, Sage and metal finish in Crystal White. 

Unveiling the Unconventional

Mad Nice's interior design breaks free from the norm, immersing patrons in an atmosphere where surprises abound. Picture yourself cutting into a delectable pizza using oversized scissors while surrounded by mid-century aesthetics and coastal elements. Parini's expertise in transforming spaces allowed them to bring this bold vision to life, creating an environment that is as inviting as it is visually striking.

When it came to designing the space, Parini embraced the challenge of merging the client's vision of Palm Springs and Italian influences with a touch of Detroit's unique character. The building itself, a former retailer and grocery store, provided a blank canvas for Parini to work their magic. By incorporating original finishes like exposed ceilings, terrazzo floors, and existing glass block windows, Parini ensured that the essence of Detroit was subtly intertwined throughout the design.  The team embraced postmodernism architecture, drawing inspiration from local mid-century designs and infusing the space with arches and vibrant color palettes. The result is a space that transports guests to another world, evoking a sense of escape and intrigue.

Pink Alfred Barstools surrounding the bar at Mad Nice in Detroit

Alfred Barstool with Crystal White metal finish and upholstery in Kaufman - C Obsession, Nectar.

Partnering with Michigan Neighbors

Parini values partnerships with local businesses whenever possible. For the Mad Nice project, they chose to work with Grand Rapids Chair, a neighboring Michigan furniture manufacturer. Alongside the benefits of local sourcing, Christine Babini acknowledged the need for swift procurement of Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment (FF&E) for the space. The short lead time at Grand Rapids Chair provided a significant advantage in ensuring the timely arrival of furniture for the grand opening.

The team selected the Sally Freestanding Stool and Alfred Seating, both of which perfectly complemented the overall design aesthetic of Mad Nice. The Sally Stools, with their distinctive shapes, blended seamlessly with the overall aesthetic. Meanwhile, the Alfred Seating added an extra layer of texture and comfort, enhancing the dining experience. The customization options offered by Grand Rapids Chair allowed them to tailor the furniture to their exact specifications, creating a cohesive and visually stunning environment.

 We love the Sally Counter Stool. The shape is just perfect and looks like a custom design with everything else. And Alfred... we liked the layered stacked back that just adds a little bit of texture and comfort. 

Monica Ruma, Design Consultant at Parini

RELATED: Learn more about Grand Rapids Chair's customization options in our Finishes & Options Guide.

A detail shot of the soft pink fabric on the Alfred Barstool in front of a bar at Mad Nice

Alfred Bartool with Crystal White metal finish and upholstery in Kaufman - C Obsession, Nectar.

Success in Collaboration and Vision

Parini considers the Mad Nice project a resounding success, attributing it to their involvement from the project's inception and the unwavering trust of their client. Being able to provide input on every aspect, from the brand creation to the finest design details, allowed them to create a cohesive and visually captivating space. The client's trust in their vision allowed Parini to bring their concepts to life, even in the face of challenges and pushback. This collaboration between client and designer has resulted in a space that transports visitors to a different world, where Palm Springs meets Detroit in a truly magical way.

Parini's Mad Nice project showcases their ability to create immersive and captivating spaces that defy traditional expectations. Prepare to embark on a journey where worlds collide, flavors harmonize, and design defies convention at Mad Nice in Midtown, Detroit. Did you enjoy immersing yourself in a whole new environment? Check out Fat Rosie's Taco and Tequila Bar, a space that transports you to a resort-style environment that is reminiscent of a vacation in Mexico. 

Photography by Diana Paulson at Linea Photo.

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