By Linda F. Jarrett
When you go into a restaurant, are you so intent on the smells that you fail to notice the décor? Look around. Many times, interesting décor equates with interesting food. Years ago, restaurant goers were ushered into dark, heavily wooded rooms with timbers crossing the ceilings. Shields, swords, and axes adorned the walls.
A true medieval experience.
NEW TRENDS IN RESTAURANT DÉCOR
We are seeing a lot of higher ceilings, exposed brick, and concrete floors in new restaurants,” says Laurie Dowling, interior designer for Rosemann and Associates. Among restaurants designed by Rosemann are The Dubliner and The Gelateria, both on Washington Avenue downtown.
The firm is currently in the process of designing the Golden Bean and Phi Bar at Hotel Indigo in Clayton. Rosemann Interior Designer Mickey Warriner characterized the style as “The Golden Mean, a mathematical constant found in nature that for centuries was the definition of beauty.”
The design will encompass curvilinear shapes in a dynamic atmosphere with organic materials such as hardwood flooring, and natural stone countertops.”
In the Dubliner, Rosemann incorporated an authentic Irish theme and custom-designed millwork to resemble a traditional Irish pub, with “snug style” booths for an intimate seating arrangement.
“It was an historic renovation,” Warriner says. “The owner went to Ireland to see what an authentic pub was like. The booths have the high back that typifies an Irish pub, and we utilized an existing mezzanine for dining.”
Tom Neimeier, owner/architect of Space LLC, says he was not convinced that an overall trend exists. “I would say that the restaurants that are locally owned seem to be more interested in making their restaurant a space that projects a holistic image for, not only the design, but their personality. The food and the atmosphere need to coexist and we try to preach this.”
Space LLC’s projects include Stratton’s, Clayton, Mo.; Gianinno’s Bar and Grill, Amigo’s Cantina, Kirkwood, Mo.; and Franco which won an American Institute of
Jeanine Bequette, ASID, IIDA and vice president for Commercial Design of Directions in Design says that they do not “necessarily” follow a particular design trend. They find the trend that the client wants to create in his or her own ambience according to location, menu and desired clientele.
“Color palettes and finishes are sophisticated with more natural finishes with stone, and metals such as satin aluminum and copper,” Bequette says.
WHAT PATRONS LIKE
Ferreting out what the diner wants is a constant challenge to new and established restaurants.
“I’m the first to admit that if a restaurant serves great food, they might survive without the great environment,” Neimeier says. “But you can never have it the other way around.”
Warriner says their clients have “a pretty good feel of the target audience and what the
“Creating an atmosphere to serve good food and drink is our forte,” Bequette says.
Melissa Mozell, ASID with Directions in Design, says the menu and “desired mood” should determine the ambiance of the restaurant. “For example, some fast food chains are changing their menu to add healthier choices with more upscale labels and, at the same time, are upgrading the interiors to be more comfortable with inviting seating, lighting and new finishes.”
Neimeier is currently working on St. Louis restaurateur Zoe Robinson’s newest project, Bobo Noodlehouse.
“It’s important that the restaurant capture a unique image that fits the personality of ownership and food. I think Zoe is an example of someone who really knows how to do a successful restaurant. She busses tables, talks to customers and makes you feel like you’re in a special place.”
Following the lead of current construction trends, restaurants realize that if discriminating diners want organic food, it makes sense that the décor follow in line.
“I think fresh and organic is a big thing,” Dowling says. “Our clients want organic food and carry it over to the design, and we try to emulate that atmosphere.”
Neimeier gave Franco and Amigo’s Cantina as examples of restaurants that are following the “green” line of thinking.
“Franco looks like a restaurant that has been there awhile,” Neimeier says. “But we wanted to use a hip, happening flair to it, so we salvaged material, had a barn torn down and used the wood from the barn to create the wine storage wall which is the back wall of the bar, to separate the bar from the dining area.
With Amigo’s Cantina, Space used material from demolished buildings, including lumber and corrugated
“They wanted to project the image of an old cantina,” Neimeier says. “We went in and stripped all the finish from the floors and got it down to bare concrete which we stained. Basically, the whole space is built out of material that would have gone into a landfill. It takes time to artificially distress wood, and this was already distressed.”
Being energy efficient is part of the green movement, and this would include lighting. While that may seem like not such a big thing, the new energy efficient guidelines being developed are having a big effect on lighting from malls to restaurants.
“Lighting is part of the ambience,” Bequette says. And, in some cases, the actual ‘art’ is probably the biggest change we have seen.”
Neimeier agrees. “There’s not much more in the architectural world, as far as interiors go, that’s as important as lighting to set mood. It has to change from lunch to dinner, and that will be a challenge to do with these coming guidelines.”
“California has adopted some very strict energy efficient guidelines,” Neimeier says. “Those are making their way here, and there will be only a certain amount of wattage on a square foot basis that will be used.”
DINING AS AN EXPERIENCE
In the current economic climate, prices have escalated and when diners go out, if they are going to pay the price, they want the entire experience. Coming together for a meal with friends makes a special evening, and since St. Louis does not want for good, if not excellent, restaurants, the competition for the dining dollar is keen.
“Many of our clients have loved the trend that dining out has become such a part of today’s entertainment as well as part of our social structure,” Bequette says. “Often, the first thing people think about when they want to get together with friends is to meet for lunch or dinner.
”With that thought in mind, we feel that restaurant goers are looking for a way to get out of their everyday life and have a change of pace and experience in a
“What gives you your uniqueness is the fact that you’re locally owned,” Neimeier says. “And you care about the product that you’re producing locally for St. Louisans and the restaurant should have its own unique personality as well.
Designers & Decorators
By Linda F. Jarrett
When Kevin Kenny opened the Interior Design Center of St. Louis in April of 2007, he answered the prayer of hundreds of area designers and even more high-end homeowners.
Those in search of luxury home furnishings from beds to refrigerators, from counter tops to tapestries had to travel to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, or to the left or right coast to track down these special finds.
Kenny, CEO and president of KDR Designer Showrooms, bought the Sunshine Drapery Plaza on Page Service Road in Maryland Heights and knew he could bring a new era of shopping to the St. Louis interior design industry.
The $7 million, 95,000-square-foot design center encompasses two buildings, with the spectacular 58,000-square-foot KDR Design Showroom anchoring the development.
“I had the idea for several years,” he says. “I knew the demand was here and a lot of it was leaving for Chicago, New York and Dallas. People here spend a lot on their homes, and while KDR was the largest volume trade show room for the last 10 years, our old show room was only about 28,000 square feet.
“I really wanted to do a center geared to high-end interiors where the developers, homeowners, remodelers, all those people would have to go to only one place,” he says.
In the second building, designers and clients will find stores from such state-of-the-art dealers as AUTCOhome, the distributor for Sub Zero/Wolf appliances, Beck/Allen Cabinetry, the exclusive dealer in St. Louis for Poggenpohl Cabinetry, Working Spaces for high-end commercial interiors, Accessories by Design, and Premier Plumbing Studio, a division of Wholesale Plumbing, and Bedrock International, among others.
While many economists continue to project gloom and doom, Kenny says the high-end of the housing market is still doing well.
“When they read about the devaluation of homes, they say ‘My home is worth $2 million, and I’ll only get $1.5 million, so I’ll do $500,000 in renovations and stay here till the market gets better.’ And they can come here!”
Kenny appreciates designers and the work they do, and if there is a playground for designers and decorators, Interior Design Center with its KDR Showroom is it.