Modern Restaurant Design Trends

It's a reversal of last year's all-things-rainbow phase

After years of witnessing the knee-jerk preference for dark granite in nearly every home makeover show, white marble became the go-to choice for countertops. The change didn't happen overnight. First came the faux brasserie restaurant decor trend, then came Instagrammers who posed their lattes just-so on white marble counters, and next came Joanna Gaines, who included white marble in her holy trinity of home decor (along with unusually large old-timey clocks and shiplap).

While we'd never say that white marble is completely "out," its ubiquity might have led to a reactionary trend towards the dark side, with counters and other surfaces in varying shades of black popping up in design-conscious restaurants and bars. Usually paired with an overall dark interior color scheme, the look is a drastic turn away from spare, white, bright hyper-modern interiors—also known as "what every juice bar looks like now."

At the Cold Drinks bar at China Live in San Francisco, a slab of black marble tops the wood bar (and, if you look closely, another also stands in as a footrest). Together with black leather and brass-finished high-back stools, dark flooring and walls, the detail gives the 50ish-person-capacity Scotch bar an opulent feel in keeping with its Shanghai jazz-era theme.

The effect isn't as dark at Le Coucou in New York,— mainly because of the huge windows that flood the space with light. Yet, the black bar still lends an element of drama that complements the gray walls, whereas a white counter would distract from the beautiful mural behind the bar.

The Bennett in New York also tempers dark with light, though the balance is achieved through a white ceiling and aged mirrored panels that reflect the modern chandeliers and sconces. The black bar and flooring bring an element of warmth to the open room. Basically, it's the modern interpretation of cozy.

The black marble (or just black) bar also signals a turn back towards decor that used to be the mark of an '80s restaurant, along with that era's polished wood and hints of brass. Yet unlike other seemingly un-updatable things from that decade—like scrunchies, songs with saxophone solos and trickle-down economics—the look seems fresh now that time has passed. 

"I think black marble is coming back into fashion now because white carrara is so loved. People are already comfortable with marble as an option. Using black marble on table tops and and consoles feels familiar because it's marble, but creates an unexpected drama," says Alessandra Wood, design historian and director of style at the high-tech home visualization site Modsy. "It's slightly more unique and certainly a statement piece, which aligns with how people are curating their own spaces. Also, in general, we're seeing trends speak to the luxe vibes of 70s and 80s high design, and black marble certainly fits that bill as well."

Though it may be awhile before black counters come back into the home kitchen, there are some signs that show shifting tastes. At Anthropologie and Crate and Barrel, you'll now find serving trays and decorative accessories in black marble. From the tabletop, it's only a short jump to the table itself.

Brie Dyas is a contributing writer for Tasting Table and an avid collector of your grandmother's fine china. You can find her occasionally sharing photos on Instagram at @briedyas.