As anyone who has ever worn eyeglasses for more than six consecutive years can attest, fashion is fickle. What once was cutting-edge now seems quaint, and just hearing the words "tortoiseshell wire rims" makes you cringe.
Farsighted interior designers are constantly seeking aesthetic evolution. The best in the business maintain their distinct points of view while incorporating local tastes, global influences and, in some instances, à la minute cultural conversation.
This is particularly evident in restaurants. The space where guests eat plays a major role in how they experience the menu. Outdated decor can eclipse innovative cooking, and that taxidermied stag head can seem startlingly out of place when the chef embraces a plant-centric ethos.
We poll some of the hottest architect and design firms to identify which trends will pilot restaurant design in 2017 and which formerly popular movements are going the way of those Oliver Peoples bifocals you wore in the 90s. Here, nine designers share their predictions for the hottest restaurant trends in the months to come.
Your Burger Joint and Special-Occasion Restaurant Will Share an Address
"We’re working a space right now where there’s a big lounge area, and you go through a secret passage. Then you’re in a game room where you can get burgers, and you go through another passage and you’re in a fine dining restaurant. It’s like, how much fun can we have with this experience?”
Jeremy Levitt and Andrew Cohen, Owners, Parts and Labor Design
Edison Bulb Fatigue Has Set In
“Everyone is getting sick of Edison bulbs and barnwood and industrial chic—that dark, heavy look from Grandpa’s house. . . . People are looking for something new, and a healthier slant on cuisine has made people look more at California. The white, bright, fresher look, the California boho-chic look, is the trend. We're] going away from dark and going toward lighter colors.”
Amy Morris, Cofounder, The MP Shift
Tiles Aren't Just for Bathrooms
“A lot of restaurants over the past few years have used handmade plates and bowls, and what I think we’ll see next are . . . handmade artisan tiles by local artists. Kelly Wearstler has her own line of tiles that Ann Sacks put out, and I think it’s just really hitting. I think we’re going to see tiles on backsplashes on bars and accent walls in restaurants; they're too nice for bathrooms.
Ana Henton, Designer, MASS Architecture & Design
Photo: Andrea D’Agosto
Pastels Are the New Neutrals
“What I see having a place, certainly in the Miami scene, is something I refer to as tropical modernism. You're seeing light/airy tones in spaces, furnished in a curated bohemian style in terms of furniture. We see a lighter, brighter and calmer vibe than the heaviness we have been getting for the past five years or so. A touch of midcentury, embracing playful colors and connecting the interior with the exterior. I’m seeing it nationally as well, and I have to think there's a little Miami influence when you see lighter pastels and seafoam green and natural textures in places like New York.”
Michael Dolatowski, Creative Director, Deft Union
Garden Party Chic Is the New Urban Farmhouse
"You’re seeing plants everywhere: Everyone’s gardening out of their restaurants. Either a full-on greenhouse look with the arched roof and glass and tons of plants, or, if not [actual] plants, you're seeing floral or plant wallpaper.”
Paul Pruitt, Principal, New School
You'll Want to Take Off Your Shoes (but Please Don't)
“The biggest trend in food has been accessibility to amazing chefs and fantastic food that wasn't as accessible to as many people as it is now. [Before], when you thought about a great restaurant (with amazing food), you thought about a stodgy, special-occasion place. More and more, as [great food] becomes accessible, we feel the design trends are the restaurants opening up that flexibility to people.”
Laura Flam, Principals, Reunion Goods & Services
Neon Will Go Dark
“It's not time to dust off the old Nagels quite yet, but neon is making a huge comeback. Neon has both a slightly dirty, retro feel, which we all love, of course, but also can channel a contemporary, edgy, artful angle along the lines of neon pioneers Bruce Nauman and Tracey Emin. The right color choices can also, and maybe surprisingly, create a very moody and surreal atmosphere, which reminds us of our favorite Chinese director, Wong Kar-wai and his movies like In the Mood for Love and 2046.”
William Harris, Kristina O'Neal, Adam Farmerie, Greg Bradshaw, Principals, AvroKO
Photo: Courtesy of AvroKO
Warm and Modern Are Not Mutually Exclusive
“It feels to us that restaurant design is moving into more of a contemporary architecture phase. The era of the overstuffed, busy, classic restaurant look seems to be receding in favor of a much more streamlined, spare, luxury residential vibe. One trend we think will continue and that we enjoy working on ourselves is customized open flame, wood-burning cook spaces, like the hearth at Lilia. There is a lot of fun to be had in customizing those elements.”
Matthew Maddy, Designer, Sweet Nuthin' Hospitality and American Construction League
The Best Trend Is No Trend
"There's so much trendiness going on; I think people want what they know and love. So we’re seeing more classic, timeless interiors. Our goal now is to not be able to tell when a restaurant opened, so we’re not using any light fixtures that are going to end up at Design Within Reach in a few years. . . . More and more, my favorite restaurants are ones where you can tell the owners have worked on it—things have gone in and out of style, they’ve kept things, they’ve added things, they’ve edited it over the years. There’s a lot of layering, and to me, that’s what makes a great interior.”
Larry McGuire, CEO and Cofounder, McGuire Moorman Hospitality