Lampshades and Lushness Come to Restaurant Decor

What’s good for au courant restaurant decor may be finding a way into residential homes.


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Savvy decorators can find inspiration for their home decor by following the trends that popular restaurants use.

by Misha Bruk

Competition drives restaurants to stay constantly cutting-edge—not just in what they serve, but also how they look. Nothing spells doom faster than becoming known as “that passé fern bar” or ”the cafe that thinks it’s still 2006.”

That’s why trendy new restaurants are some of the best showcases for ultra-hot design trends—which clever observers can then install in their own homes. Inspired by those jaunty, party-colored paper lanterns at Oakland’s Blind Tiger or those swirly ceiling fans at Berkeley’s The Butcher’s Son? Easy peasy.

And what’s hot right now? As we speak, East Bay eating and drinking establishments are ditching filament-exposing bare bulbs, salvaged-lumber tabletops, and other staples of early-21st-century restaurant-and-bar design.

“Reclaimed wood will still be used as delicate accents, but current trends are pushing away from that heavy use we’d been seeing before,” notes architect Daniel Scovill, who with partner Adam Winig helms Oakland-based Arcsine, Inc.

The Arcsine portfolio includes such East Bay must-sees as District Oakland, Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café, and Habanas Cuban Cuisine in Alameda.

“We’ll still see the occasional open-filament lamp,” Scovill adds, but California’s new energy-compliance requirements are making those less feasible. “Designwise, the time-arc for these things is coming to a close. Actual shades covering light bulbs are coming back.”

Reclaimed wood and open-filament lighting aren’t exactly becoming ubiquitous in homes, but one emerging eating establishment design bent is: The most vivid trend, Scovill says, is—well, vividness.

“All those muted tones—those creams, whites, and grays we’ve been seeing for so long—are now giving way to lots of bright shades and engaging patterns. These turn up in painted wood and really exciting glazed tiles and metals treated with powder-coated colors.” Such elements can add flair to the home front.

No specific hue has reached trend status—yet. Who knows whether powder-puff pink, say, or jade green will be the new black.

“Along with diving back into colors and patterns, we’re also seeing lots of really lush matte finishes,” notably, on metal surfaces that would, in years past, have been polished or brushed, Scovill notes. That’s something moving to home kitchens, too.

Albany’s Café Eugene, which opened this year, was named after—and designed to visually evoke—co-owner Ryan Murff’s Oregon hometown.

“When I was growing up, people setting up houses and businesses were getting hand-me-downs from their parents,” Murff explained. “Stained glass was a big thing. This created an eccentric look. We honored that vibe here by acquiring a lot of vintage, used items from Urban Ore, Etsy and eBay,” as home decorators also easily can.

“And since repurposed wood has been done to death, I had ours shaved of all color, so that it looked cabin-y.”

Shiny tiles and blasts of blue—teal chairs, turquoise wall—brightened Salsipuedes, a short-lived North Oakland restaurant. “It was a beauty salon, and we demolished the whole thing down to a shell, then built it out,” explains co-owner Jay Porter. Those blues evoked the restaurant’s namesake Mexican bay and interior décor of the region. It featured an open kitchen with counter seating, an idea that has gained traction with homeowners whose guests want to be part of the culinary action.

“East Coast people are accustomed to having their food just show up at the table, its origins cloaked in mystery. East Bay people aren’t like that. They want to feel like they’re eating in someone’s kitchen, they’re at your house, at a party, watching you cook.

“East Bay people are also much more interested in what they’re eating than in expensive accoutrements, so we tried to make our space nice, but rather than spend a lot of money on decorations, we wanted to spend it on food,” he said, a nod toward minimalist décor that has made strides in homes.

Porter recently expanded his restaurant The Half Orange, transforming three curbside patio spaces of the Oakland business into a beer garden. “We made it into a communal environment, which, with its large mounted TV, is really convivial. People can watch sports events out there, which makes sense for a place that’s so close to the Coliseum.”

In addition to making an outside space a more usable living environment, this transformation also reflects another trend that Daniel Scovill notes: the reapportionment and reassignment of spaces within spaces “to push the boundaries of just being a bar or restaurant.”

Completed in 2013, one prescient Arcsine project manifesting this trend is Duende, which comprises several distinct sections—restaurant, bodega, wineshop—under a single roof. That’s right in step with a renewed effort to be creative using home spaces, with half of a kitchen becoming the defined entertainment area while a major corner sees use as a home office or study center.

Conviviality tends to be a prime vibe at home, as well. Few home entertainers are surprised when the party winds up in the kitchen.

2016-06-27 06:01 AM

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