In conversation with India Mahdavi
October 3, 2020
March 16, 2021
In Brief: two Hebden Bridge restaurants in need of a brand new look. One a day time café over two floors, the other a popular brunch spot that turns into a classy cocktail bar/dining spot at night. One floor per designer. Simple, right?
A restaurant is as much about the atmosphere as it is the food. You eat out for the experience of transporting yourself away from the mundane; to not be cooking or doing the dishes afterwards. It’s about conviviality and community, the modern meeting place for family get togethers, for friends catching up or romantic dinners. Well at least it used to be, and boy are we looking forwards to doing that all again once Covid-19 becomes a distant memory.
In many ways then this challenge really is again a confluence of all that’s come before it. We need the kerb appeal explored in shops. The understanding of the community seen in offices. The transformation potential of showhomes. The fun of beach huts. And the awareness of the ‘customer journey’ practised in salons. Did I miss anything out? Oh yes, add in too the instant impact requirement of the hotel bedroom!
But the special considerations to be played out in restaurants are the day to night dynamics. How do you create a decor that works for just daytime, versus one that has to sparkle in the evening too? Clue, clever lighting helps. How can a space still feel cosy, even if it’s half empty? Especially if social-distancing might require a more-spaced out layout than usual? The dilemmas of design!
One way to achive the above, is that everything is considered. And in this case, I don’t mean that you’ve thought really carefully about which shade of sage green or damson to use (that’s a given!), but that the placement of every single detail, trim and stick of furniture is for a reason. Nothing can be arbitrary. Unless it’s deliberately un-related to all around it, in which case it’s still a considered decision for aesthetic ‘friction’. And should be an obvious star piece as such.
Placement rationale is about dynamic connection. It enables everything to co-exist seamlessly, because everything is exactly, and only, where it should be — where curtains start and finish, where shelves or pictures are hung, where lights are positioned. Nothing feels awkward or uncomfortably squeezed in because everything has been thought about in terms of its contribution to the whole. No last minute, oh I’ll just stick this here!
A lot of this can be worked out in the first instance by drawing a plan of a space and aligning all obvious pieces — built-in furniture, very large paintings, wall-hung storage etc. However, if everything is pre-planned, there is a danger that a space can feel artificially regimented and tight. With experience you learn when to tweak something on site by trusting your eye alone, simply because it feels better longer, higher, shorter or in some cases not there at all.
Nisha Katona is the founder of Mowgli Street Food restaurants. She is a food writer and author of a clutch of great Indian cookbooks and she regularly appears on television and radio as a restaurant, food and business expert. And yet, for 20 years before all that she worked full time as a barrister! We’re all definitely better off for her pivot towards her true passion and in 2019 this was recognised with an MBE for services to the Food Industry.
And Nisha’s snippet of genius to pass on? “The beautiful thing about good design is that it pulls at the heartstrings and teases the imagination. You can judge success by the shining eyes of those who walk through your creation.” Agreed!
Briefing: Oscar De La Renta pink top (bought from The Outnet an age ago again I’m afraid); silver S’MaxMara trousers; Jimmy Choo pink patent heels (an impulse buy on a work trip to New York many moons ago! Barely worn but I KNEW they’d come in useful one day;-)
Viewing: Navy blue S’MaxMara jumper; S’MaxMara rust-coloured linen coat; See By Chloe navy wool/linen trousers; navy Celine boots.
Judging: Pale pink Tibi top; See By Chloe navy wool/linen trousers; Jimmy Choo silver jewelled flats.
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Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.