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Design Works

Design Works

In 2019, look to the world for your restaurant or bar design inspiration

First, it was all about reclaimed wood and Edison bulbs. Then came more colorful motifs, palm frond wallpaper and rooms flooded with light. Then all things Instagrammable took over design trends. So, what should restaurant owners look for in 2019 when it comes to restaurant décor?

“I anticipate a big 1970s and 1980s influence, more retro in general,” predicts Erin Boone, principal of Boone Interiors in Chicago, who designed restaurants like Elske, Ronero and the Dawson. “Marble, more luxurious materials like velvet, more patterns in flooring and tile, punchy colors like saturated greens, corals and terra cotta.”

Boone says even though people still design with that “Brooklyn aesthetic” in mind, like the reclaimed wood and Edison bulbs, it’s time to move on. “We can all get away from subway tile,” she adds. “It’s enough already.”

Even though it’s easy to find trends through social media, be careful what inspires you so your place won’t look like everything else.

“Everybody should always go with their own inspiration,” Boone says. “If you’re going to be trendy, use it in a way it can be replaced, so when it gets outdated, it can be easily updated. If you want to use trend, use trend in accents.”

Other than social media, you can look through design magazines like Surface and Dwell to see what’s happening nationally and globally, but if you can hit the road, do it.

“Travel is a must”

“Travel is a must,” recommends Jeremy Levitt, co-owner of New York-based Parts & Labor Design, which has clients around the country like Chicago’s Pacific Standard Time and Scampi in New York. “You don’t have to go to 50 different places, but it’s worth a trip to New York, down South and certain areas of the states. It’s getting a better understanding of a culinary approach and customer experience than trying to see it all through social media.”

It seems like designing a new restaurant will cost an arm and a leg, yet you can find ways to do things on a budget. Look around for restaurants or bars that may have recently closed to pick up furniture or fixtures you can easily renovate or cover up. You might even be able to buy gently used restaurant equipment, which can otherwise be a huge expense, Boone says. 

“Things that are less conspicuous are good for gently used—so table tops or bottoms, or seating that’s in good condition, can be reupholstered,” Boone says. “Or consider having furniture like a painted chair that’s peeling, having those professionally repainted or upholstered, if it’s just the seat pad. That can be inexpensive.”

While we can’t get away from those “Instagrammable” moments that tend to drive chefs crazy, customers are going to still photograph their food and drinks and interesting parts of your restaurant or bar.

“Make sure your space has a good amount of light,” recommends Parts and Labor design director Danu Kennedy.

Otherwise, no one will see how you spent all that money making everything look great.

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