London Hospitality Design Trends
In London recently, my hospitality design appetite was treated to a variety of interior design styles and elements brought together in spaces seamlessly and it made me happy. I visited some great restaurants for their award winning design, including one by a Michelin starred chef. I also visited one of my favourite places in the whole world, the V & A Museum and in general my senses were overloaded with beautiful things to see, touch, smell, feel, and hear.
My London hospitality design adventures started with the German Gymnasium in King’s Cross. In the last few years King’s Cross has experienced an amazing rejuvenation with a new tube station, new apartments and a general gentrification which has led to outstanding additions such as the award winning German Gymnasium.
This restaurant used to be an actual gym but has been renovated to high quality incorporating a café, restaurant and bar. I ate in the café and was duly impressed by the grandeur achieved simply by the height of the ceiling. The centrepiece of the café is a 4 curved booth configuration which is striking by the quality of the finishes, leather, velvet, wood. What I noticed most about the German Gymnasium was the lighting, in fact beautiful lighting seemed to feature in all the restaurants I visited.
Next I visited Berners Tavern, by Michelin starred chef Jason Atherton, which is absolutely stunning. Eating here is a truly memorable experience. Again, the architecture and original architectural features found on the ceiling set the tone for this space which is enriched by art, and lots of it. I actually wondered if they have art tours? All the images, frames, sizes, styles of art make the Berners such a joy to be in. And the lighting was on point, to feature the art but keep the feel atmospheric.
An old favourite is Comptoir Libanaise, which is a chain of Lebanese restaurants and this space is a feast of colour and pattern, it’s everywhere from the floor, to the walls and even the chairs. Despite all the colour, all the patterns and all the textures this space works.
Finally, I visited Lina Restaurant, a small Italian restaurant housed in an old Georgian cellar. It was simple but interesting for the minimal features such as the pistachio tile colour backrest and mix of styles where the table tops had an Art Deco pattern but the chairs where Mid Century Modern.
This is what I noticed most about the hospitality spaces I visited in London;
Lighting is an amazing interior design element which I think is under used in Melbourne hospitality designs. I noticed some amazing pendants used to great effect from traditional Victorian style lampshades with fringe to Morrocan style brass pendants and this was in the same café. What I liked the most is how lighting like this has street curb appeal. Positioned strategically to create interest for foot traffic outside. Even a fairly basic local Indian restaurant used the replica artichoke pendant to great effect.
Classic styling typically refers to traditional French or English style from Victorian to Country, think Downtown Abbey and it makes sense that this style is featured in London hospitality design but what I loved was how this classic styling was mixed with other styles like at the German Gymnasium the curved booth seating has a classic Chesterfield feel but the chairs are more Scandinavian style.
In hospitality design in Melbourne you will find a strong leaning towards Industrial style, and there are spaces that venture beyond Industrial but in London I was immersed in a wider variety of styles from traditional French and English styling, to Art Deco, Mid Century Modern, all of these styles found in buildings with natural Industrial elements which were featured but indirectly, for example the height of the ceiling like at the German Gymnasium or the distressed brick wall at Lina Restaurant. Using a mix of styles adds so much depth and interest to hospitality interior design.
Colour and Pattern
There was also an abundance of colour and/or pattern I noticed in the hospitality spaces I visited with Comptoir Libanaise and Lina being the standout examples. But even the German Gymnasium with a more neutral colour palette had pink bar stools and purely because the number of stools this made for a striking feature. Colour is so powerful and can be used to great effect in any hospitality interior design.
I saw a lot of velvet or faux velvet in the spaces I visited. Leather tub chairs at Berners or curved leather booths at the German Gymnasium. Lighting with a metallic finish also adds a luxurious feel. Deep dark woods that communicate a certain richness. Also incorporating a curved line into a space gives a very fluid luxe feel which was incorporated mostly in the seating. And purely the volume of space lends itself to luxury, if you think of some small local cafes in Melbourne that feel cramped, having space to move around is quite a luxury.
Tiles featured heavily in most spaces, even a simple take a way shop like Pret-a -Manager had a tile feature wall which looked great. Restaurants that used tiles with great success include Comptoir Libanaise here the tiles on the floor and wall are a standout but the most unusual use of tiles I experienced was at Lina Restaurant where pistachio colour tiles where used as the backrest for the seating.
I love using tiles in my projects, where appropriate, they are colourful, textural and can be applied in interesting patterns so I was very pleased to see them used in London hospitality design.
Beyond interior design what I really enjoyed about the places I visited was the holistic approach where there was a strong vision for the business realised in synergy, through interior design, graphic design, marketing and customer service. Each step in the customer journey was thought through staring from making a booking on the website (check out https://sketch.london/ it has an amazing interactive site).
Also, the retail aspect of the business, if there was one, was incorporated seamlessly and not an afterthought and the variety of objects available for sale was large from books to other merchandise. This retail aspect added value to the overall experience, you wanted to buy something to remember your time in the space, like a souvenir, it was incredible to watch and experience how people were interacting with the retail aspect of the hospitality business.
And finally, the standout for me was the customer service. Wherever I went either a pricey place or not, I was greeted at the door, taken to my seat and served water immediately. I was asked regularly if I needed anything, the food was explained, and suggestions were made to complement my meal. One waiter even suggested I change my wine choice to an option that better suited my meal selection. For me the bottom line for a memorable experience in any hospitality business is the interaction with people and I enjoyed being looked after and I felt like a valued customer.
I believe there are 7 pillars to a successful hospitality business;
- good food,
- good price,
- good service/experience,
- good marketing,
- good location,
- good interior design,
- good graphic design.
When all of these equally important pillars come together, magic happens and I certainly experienced magic on my London hospitality design adventures.