Ackenpucky is shaping experiences through interior design.

What do Black Sheep Burrito and Brews, The Peddler, Bahnhof WVrsthaus & Biergarten, and Christ Temple Church have in common? Ackenpucky.

No, that’s not a new curse word. Owner Jill LaFear named her creative design shop Ackenpucky because the word is an Appalachian colloquialism for a stew made of unspecified ingredients. “Within stew, each individual ingredient enhances the flavor of the others,” says LaFear. “Similarly, there are a lot of different things that make Ackenpucky special.”

LaFear’s design firm creates unique atmospheres using custom cabinetry, furniture, lighting, upholstery, and art, all done by local artists and craftspeople. “I have a real love for design and how design of a space affects people. I also saw so many talented artists in our state that didn’t have a way to show their work so they could sell it,” she says. “I wanted to create an all-encompassing design platform that incorporated local art in a space.”

One example of this philosophy is Bahnhof, a German-inspired restaurant in Huntington. “The word ‘bahnhof’ means ‘train station’ in German, so the goal was for the space to resonate as a European train station, but with a modern twist and artistic flair,” she says. “We wanted to create a space that was comfortable enough that people would want to sit and stay as long as they desired, but not so formal that they felt awkward popping in for a quick meal or drink.”

One-of-a-kind wooden murals resembling a subway map created by revered local artist David Seth Cyfers—who also happens to be LaFear’s husband—help to create the train station vibe. “We all thought it would be a cool touch to integrate that idea with maps of bahnhof lines,” says restaurant co-owner Jessica Bright. “The ones featured in the restaurant are Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Berlin. Seth’s color choices really make them pop.”

While the Bahnhof owners had specific ideas about how the space would look, LaFear says that’s not always the case. But Ackenpucky can help there, too. “Sometimes they don’t have a vision. So we ask, how do you want the space to make people feel?”

Ackenpucky offers a holistic approach to design, which is why the firm’s team includes custom furniture makers and cabinetmakers, artists, seamstresses, and graphic designers. In addition to the interior space, LaFear’s company can come up with a name for the business and design the logo and graphics. “For Backyard Pizza, we designed everything, down to the menu. Every single little detail matters and that is how we try to brand the entire space. We brand the atmosphere and by doing so brand the experience.”

In all her projects, LaFear works with a team of craftsmen and artists to custom design pieces that fit perfectly into a room. “Instead of shopping for a dining room table that will fit a room, we design it. And then the client has a unique custom piece that they aren’t going to see anywhere else,” she says. “I believe form and function are one and the same. You can have a functional piece that is also beautiful.”

Although LaFear does residential interior design and has traditional clients like churches and corporate offices, her company has become known for its work in restaurants from Huntington to Lewisburg, projects that often use salvaged materials. “When it fits the space, we try to use a lot of reclaimed material. Many times our clients are on a tight budget, and we have to think outside the box to meet the needs of the budget. We try to salvage as much as we can within a space,” LaFear says. “When you have a limited budget, you are forced into a level of creativity. I’m always thinking, ‘How do I get the most bang for my buck in the space?’”

Restaurant owners also must consider how the atmosphere can be replicated in another space, should they decide to open additional locations. “True interior design is how you move through the space, not just about the decor. We focus on creating the feeling. Great public spaces are about the feeling you have when you are in it. And art helps you create that feeling.”

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