Trying to satisfy our aesthetic appetite, we turn to three designers to reveal the most delicious trends in the restaurant industry.
In Tom Ford’s 2016 film nocturnal animals, Amy Adams as Susan Morrow suffers the bitter aftereffects of heartbreak when her ex-husband Edward Sheffield, brought to the screen by Jake Gyllenhaal, raises her for dinner at an unnamed restaurant. As the camera pans out to reveal Morrow zoned in sadness, in the best traditions of nerd cinema, it shows a beautiful green Japanese watercolor panel framed in dark wood. He belongs to a restaurant inside the Yamashiro Palace in North Hollywood.
Spaces tell stories as much as clothes or books. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s delightful descriptions of Buchanan interiors in Gatsby the magnificent paints the perfect picture of its wealthy residents. “A breeze blew through the room, blowing curtains at one end and the other like pale flags, twisting them towards the frosted wedding cake from the ceiling, then rippling across the wine-colored carpet, casting a shadow on them like the wind blows on the sea.
The flying curtains in the Buchanans’ living room is the image that came to mind when James JJ Acuña, creative director of architecture and interior design firm JJ Acuna / Bespoke Studio, mentioned Le Coucou at New York. “Everything at Le Coucou is very domestic. It feels like home,” he says. “We try to make our spaces an extension of the house.” Without forgetting that Le Coucou is favored by the Great Gatsby of our generation, the whimsical socialite Anna Delvey.
When it comes to interior design trends, Acuña sees two almost polar aesthetic movements gaining traction among its clients. First, anything that helps restaurateurs and their customers quench the evolutionary thirst for oneness with nature – on some level, at least. “There is a trend towards natural materials,” he explains. “We’ve always had wood, but I think people prefer terracotta, clay, rough textures of concrete, like marble and stone, done with a lot of grain. People want something more serious and authentic, even if it’s a luxury space. Acuña then notes hand-painted panoramic wallpaper depicting ancient landscapes and pottery as ubiquitous decor elements; a variation of this interior design direction is evident in the recently opened German gourmet restaurant Heimat, which Acuña and her team designed for former Ritz Carlton Hong Kong executive chef Peter Find. Its inspirations stretch far and wide: the floors reflect the traditional Schleswig-Holstein barn, with its concept of the family living upstairs and the farm animals downstairs. Marble, wood and tile are all comfortably housed in one space, along with panoramic panels, although here they are abstract rather than the panoramic wallpaper the designer is referring to.
And then there’s a trend for what this writer – unhindered by a lack of architectural education – describes as “sanitized beauty”. “There are a lot of modern contemporary art gallery and museum interiors with clean surfaces, white walls, concrete and glass in different colors,” says Acuña, an aesthetic choice that can be mistaken for minimalism. , but which, according to Acuña, has given up its throne to more informed interiors with references that span centuries while presenting a modern flair. “Many of our clients travel the world. They see architecture from all eras and they want that perspective in their space,” he says. “To me, modernity is about taking these references from around the world and lightening them up a bit, giving them a certain lightness, either by using color or material, or by changing the profile of the detail a bit.”
An example of such an approach is Korean foodie destination Hansik Goo, which JJ Acuna/Bespoke Studio designed for award-winning chef Mingoo Kang. The vertical surfaces of the Private Room are influenced by 14th-century Bukchon Hanok villages in Korea, while the white sliced limestone and cast-in-place terrazzo provide unique floor patterns evoking the concrete walls that protect Hanok houses (the floors are reminiscent of surfaces common to Soviet houses – cultural institutions and universities of the time, executed in a postmodern way). “It captures the essence of Seoul without it being a traditional Korean house aesthetic. Hansik Goo is unlike any Korean restaurant you can think of in Hong Kong,” says Acuña. “We decided to be more poetic and ambient about it rather than [it being the] Disneyfication of Korea.
Terrazzo is another element that seems ubiquitous in restaurant design, as Kevin Lim, chef and founding partner of the award-winning interdisciplinary design studio, OPENUU, which he runs with his wife Caroline Chou, tells me. “Terrazzo is everywhere. Growing up, we used to see it in Hong Kong. A lot of stairs are made with it,” he says. Lim also laughingly recalls spotting terrazzo on various “not to follow interior design trends” lists.
For some, however, minimalism remains at the forefront of interior design trends. According to Yuki Yasukagawa, creative director of Design East International, “there is a trend towards a minimalist style, not overly decorated. [interiors], using materials that speak for themselves, such as stainless steel and contrasting it with concrete and semi-transparent glass. Some of Design East’s projects bucking the trend are Jordan’s Yakiniku Ichiro and Wan Chai’s Tenzushi.
Much like JJ Acuna/Bespoke Studio, however, Design East also takes an eclectic approach to design. Yasukagawa explains that his latest project, the soon-to-open American-Italian restaurant Oro on Stanley Street, combines a “subtle balance between old and new, using old materials, retouching them and rethinking their appearance. “. One of the most notable elements of Oro is the staircase, which “connects the 30th and 31st floors, and it is small. I made it entirely mirrored to enlarge the space and make it a completely neutral zone. I love the effect of walking through a space with so many different angles and reflections,” she says.
On the furniture side, Yasukagawa cites the creations of Kelly Wearstler as a source of inspiration. “She taps into jewelry design with her furniture,” she says. “It’s all very busy – it’s very different from Japanese minimalist design philosophies.”
It’s hard to analyze interior design trends without pointing out all the different breeds of Instagrammable spots. According to Acuña, “people are getting rid of the concept of Instagrammable spaces”, which he describes as “too sweet – they look good at first, then you take a picture of them. After you leave, you realize that you don’t want to go back in. His approach to the demands of such spaces is part of a holistic approach to design.” It’s the designer’s job to draw [the client] back and ask, ‘After [the customers] take pictures, what are we going to offer them? How did it become part of their daily life? “How many pink interiors or brass lighting finishes and round selfie mirrors can we really have?” he asks with a laugh.
On the other hand, the trend still seems to have dedicated followers, including Lim. “There’s usually a corner where people line up and take pictures. I’ve noticed that in some restaurants the lighting has been helpful in illuminating the food,” he tells me. Yet he also argues the concept of holistic design.
“We try to do it organically,” he says. “We always try to make the whole space Instagrammable, so no matter where you sit, it gives everyone a fair chance,” and adds a point about comfort. “As Instagrammable as [certain spaces might be]they don’t necessarily consider comfort too much as an afterthought.
Whatever the new or well-forgotten trends in interior design, it seems that thoughtful designs with rich references are the way to go. Because, as in all good literary fiction, the character is the engine of the story.