Most parents tell their kids to stop playing so many video games, or perhaps to stop squabbling with their siblings. Interior designer Ashley Rose’s mom used to tell 10-year-old Ashley to stop moving the furniture around their Nutley living room. Little did the Rose family know that they were actually witnessing a budding interior designer figuring out her craft.
Fast forward to 2014, where this graduate of the New York School of Interior Design is the real deal. Her brother, Chef Adam Rose, and his business partner,VJ Moscaritola (owner/creative director of Gumdrop Hairdressing, also in Montclair), opened Villalobos in Montclair in August, and Ashley brought her design talent to the table. Actually, she brought her talent to all of the tables. And more.
From the first discussions of what the general look of Villalobos would be to the most recent, minute details, Ashley Rose was on the case. A true appreciation for the art and culture of Oaxaca, Mexico, permeates the South Fullerton Avenue eatery, and many of the items around Villalobos come straight from Oaxaca. Other items are locally sourced or from interesting, sustainably-minded businesses. The thoughtful cross-section of industrial, rustic, Oaxacan, and reclaimed items sets this restaurant apart from most, creating an atmosphere that’s at once relaxing and stimulating.
And it seemed only fitting to discuss the restaurant’s design today—November 1—the Day of the Dead. “El Dia de los Muertos, aka Day of the Dead, is an important holiday in Mexico,” Rose says. “It reminds us to celebrate the lives and love we are surrounded by every day. Villalobos is the start of a new chapter for our family and our careers. I am so happy to share the design and culture that has been put into this space.”
Speaking of the space, Rose took me for a tour around Villalobos, sharing the stories of the items that help bring the eatery to life.
The ceiling beams, back wall and the space below the bar (which the very hands-on Rose grouted herself) are all made from reclaimed barn wood from Real Antique Wood in Irvington. “They have a huge warehouse where they store wood from old barns,” explains Rose. “We were able to pick out every color and slab we wanted and give old items new life.”
The tabletops are also reclaimed wood, from various locales around the world, and the table bases are from Brooklyn-based shop from the source.
The most interesting spot in the restaurant, to me, and the inspiration for this article, is the homemade shelving unit on the main wall near the entrance (pictured above). This piece houses Oaxacan pottery, photos from Oaxaca, some of Chef Adam’s favorite cookbooks, and even a few old-school baby blocks—a contribution from the Roses’ proud mom. You’ll also find mason jars filled with beautiful Mexican chiles, but Rose warns, “You can’t open them or they’ll burn your face. They’re really serious chiles.”
The design process took several months, and was done on a budget. And while Rose was at the helm, she was certainly not alone in the effort to make the Villalobos space what is today. “We have an artistic crew here, so it was cool to get everyone’s ideas,” she says proudly. “And our partner, VJ Moscaritola, offered a lot of help and insight as well.”
When I ask her if there were any arguments as the plans came together, Rose says that everyone really was on the same page along the way. She goes on to say, “It was such a family project, and Villalobos is like home for us.” Of course, the ideas just keep coming, so when I ask Rose if the restaurant’s design is complete, it comes as no surprise to hear her exclaim, “Never!”
6 South Fullerton Ave.
Red cooler photo courtesy of Chelo Keys. All others courtesy of Ashley Rose.
Ashley Rose can be reached at ashleyarosedesigns@gmail.
Editor: Rachel Bozek is a writer and editor based in suburban Essex County. She loves interviewing chefs and restaurateurs—especially the ones who love New Jersey. She grew up in Bergen County, and has lost track of how much time she’s spent on LBI and in the Wildwoods. After graduating from James Madison University, Rachel spent 10 years at Nickelodeon, where she was an editor at Nickelodeon Magazine. Now she does a range of editorial work, including trivia writing for audiences of all ages, kid-friendly content, marketing research, and of course, writing for and editing Jersey Bites! Through it all, her search for the perfect pancake continues. You can find her on Twitter (@rachelbozek) or view some of her work here.