A Diner’s Favourite Habitat: A guide to Good Restaurant Design

Following a recent discussion with a renowned furniture designer, I was informed that 48 inches was the perfect width for a dining table. 

This figure apparently allows enough space so as not to feel too cramped - whilst also allowing diners to feel close. 

 People are no longer looking for a formal, grey space to spend their precious free time but one of interaction and intimacy, and restaurants are responding to this with cool, open settings.

 

Social eating at Counter Culture, Clapham

 

With the rise in affordable design-led interiors, restaurants aren’t solely relying on their menu to entice diners. The design of a restaurant can influence social interactions and contribute to whether a new restaurant sinks or swims. 

From restaurants to kitchens, traditional spatial separation between cooking and eating is dissolving and it’s increasingly popular for restaurants to have open plan kitchens. 

Apart from the visual and sensual connection to the food, the informality reminds guests how a kitchen is a space for both living and entertaining. 

Restaurant interior designers are combining purpose and beauty to reflect the character of their brand. An eatery leading the charge on this trend is Counter Culture in Clapham. Their dark wood side counters, beautiful stone sharing dishes, low lighting and 15 covers creates an intimate, natural environment where you still feel connected with the ingredients. It is no wonder this style of dining is a fast-growing trend around the UK.

Dark and stormy isn’t the only way to do cosy, though. The interior of Sketch, one of the most photographed restaurants in London is bursting with baby pink hues. Yet the enclosed dining booths give you a sense of privacy and the low seating allows you to feel included, whilst enabling optimum food /people watching opportunities. 


 
 Sketch, London 

Sketch, London 

 
 
 MOOOI Gallery, London

MOOOI Gallery, London

 

The right to decide your own ‘open plan' is therefore - well - wide open. Curating your space with unique and lesser known furniture designers is a sure fire way to stamp your own style. One of my favourite interior brands Ochre, creates pieces which are slim lined and elegant, and not too intrusive. Ochre designers, Joanna Bibby and Harriet Maxwell MacDonald have a knack at creating furnishings which showcase understated beauty with a connection to nature.

Another particularly inspiring collection is housed by MOOOI Gallery. Furniture and lighting designers such as Marcel Wanders, most significantly his piece - Heracleum II, which focuses on the use of light and delicate materials are an example of their furniture prowess. Marcel create pieces that can be perceived in different forms, which encourage curiosity yet are also self-explanatory. 

Lighting is another secret weapon that has the power to evoke a physical effect as well as visual. There is a reason we ‘soften the mood’ with candles or low lighting - to create a sense of calm and relaxation. It is important to understand the connection between lighting, reflections, components and angles in a room. If placed incorrectly, blaring spotlights can create a cold, sparse environment, enlarging a room and making a diner feel ‘on the spot’.

Carefully choosing furniture, lighting and art not only ties a room together but also reflects your food and restaurant’s unique personality. This is the thing that travels on social media, blog posts and magazine/newspaper coverage. 

In my opinion, they key to perfect design is made up of three elements: 

  • Eye-catching decor
  • An understanding of the creative curation process
  • A space that encourages the flow of conversation, methodical movement and enjoyment of food 

If you are curious about how to create conscientious design in your own space whether that’s a home or in a restaurant, think about the impact you want your space to have on the people in it then find designers with the same mentality. Backtrack to places which have caught your eye and don’t be afraid to ask for names and contacts, networking for designers is invaluable and they can only admire your attention to detail!