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STORY BY Rebecca Kirkman      PHOTOGRAPHY BY Mary C. Gardella

November/December 2017 Her Mind Magazine

Lena Munther never does the same thing twice. The Swedish interior architect based in Howard County says, “Even when a client comes to me and says they would love something similar to my previous work, I always try to make it custom, so each client gets their own feel and their own touch.”

This custom approach won Munther the attention of restaurateur Steve Wecker, who hired Munther for his long-awaited project at One Merriweather. Cured, a farm-to-table restaurant, and Eighteenth & Twenty First, a speakeasy, are slated to open in January.

Since establishing her Maryland firm in 2003, Munther has grown to a team of three, all women, and completed ground¬breaking local projects including FX Studios Salon & Spa in Hunt Valley and the Creig Northrop Team offices in Clarksville.

From a desk in the office—a remodeled garage adjacent to her Highland home, a space flooded with natural light from windows on three sides—Munther gestures toward two concept boards loaded with material swatches.

On one, concrete with a matte, leather-like finish; a scrap of copper metal; and a photo of factory-style windows show the hip and industrial vibe planned for Cured, a toe-to-tail butchery focusing on Old World methods and forgotten cuts. The design will incorporate rustic materials, including wood milled from trees that once grew on the site. “It’s a combination of modern touches with classic, old-style finishes,” explains Wecker, owner of Columbia’s Iron Bridge Wine Co.

Past Cured’s custom-designed wine cellar made of factory-style glass, a hallway leads to the jazz speakeasy, Eighteenth & Twenty First. Its inspiration board channels the Roaring ’20s through sumptuous textiles, and deeper colors and textures. “You can just see, looking at the colors and heavier materials, that it’s richer and darker,” says Munther. “It’s the old Gatsby style, but it’s done in a functional, more contemporary way.”

The two restaurants, each unique in design and price point but sharing a kitchen, grew from the expansive space available on the ground level of One Merriweather, a 208,000-square-foot building anchored by MedStar. At the corner of Broken Land and Little Patuxent parkways, it’s part of the larger Merriweather District, an urban downtown development by Howard Hughes Corp., which is leading a $2.3 billion revitalization of downtown Columbia.

“I didn’t want a flat-out restaurant designer, because what I’ve discovered with some of those designers is they all kind of look the same, and I didn’t want the same,” says Wecker, whose business cards read “Idea guy.” He continues, “I wanted someone who would take our thoughts, our input, and incorporate it into the design—somebody I could work with closely.”

More than seven years in the making, the restaurant and speakeasy will bring a unique experience to Howard County diners and denizens of nightlife. “We’re trying to do some things that haven’t been seen locally,” says Wecker.

With a background ranging from luxury cruise ships to state-of-the-art veterinary hospitals and homes built from the ground up, Munther’s designs are anything but cookie-cutter.

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