Sure, the hot new restaurants in Atlanta have some amazing delicacies to eat but, luckily for us, they’re also hot in the fab restaurant design department. As part of the overall dining experience, customers turn to places that are as visually interesting as they are delicious. So what do hot spots like The Mercury, Bread & Butterfly, and The Cockentrice have in common? Atlanta Square Feet Studio design firm was behind them all (along with Staplehouse, Saltyard, and Kimball House, in fact)! Square Feet, made up of architects, interior designers and other creatives, has won numerous awards for its projects and, unsurprisingly, they are located in downtown Atlanta, right next to Beltline. , at the epicenter of their best projects.
We interviewed Laura Jenkins, one of the interior design brains behind these trendy restaurants, to deepen the thought process.
Back in your days at Georgia State University, did you ever think Atlanta would have a restaurant design culture?
When I was in college, the culinary culture was not as developed as it is today and restaurant design was not a design specialty. So it’s been a lot of fun watching the Atlanta food scene grow and seeing the chefs come home to help further develop the food culture here. Since the restaurant business is a competitive world, there has to be more than great food to help a restaurant stand out. A restaurant has to tell a story, and there are many elements that help tell that story, such as the interior design, graphic design and, of course, the menu.
How does corporate cuisine affect the design of your restaurant? The frame also plays such an important role, right?
Our design process usually starts with a meeting to understand what our clients’ goals are and it usually starts with a menu or theme. Most of our clients select their space based on the best location and then look to us to help them realize their vision in a particular space. Each empty shell presents a different challenge.
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For example, our clients from Bread & Butterfly came to see us with a very specific mission: they were looking to create a small cafÃ© with an intimate environment inspired by Parisian bistros. Their space was in a new building, so our team was tasked with creating an interior and exterior that looks old – much like the cafes you’ll find in Paris. In contrast, the Mercury team wanted to create a classic steakhouse on the second floor of Ponce City Market. We presented three different general concepts for look and feel and they chose a mid-century modern inspired design direction.
Where are the sets of some of your favorite restaurants? What makes design special to you?
Two restaurants that have stood out to me recently are The Butcher’s Daughter and The Musket Room, both located in the Nolita neighborhood of Manhattan. The restaurants have very different menus, but both allow quirky details of the space to become design cues while adding understated touches. In Atlanta, one of my favorite spaces is Miso Izakaya. This place has a fantastic vibe, as well as some of the best food in town.
In your opinion, what are the truly special attributes of your restaurants, both architecturally and in terms of design?
The Cockentrice: Our customers, who also own The Spotted Trotter, wanted a restaurant that showcased their homemade deli meats. Taking inspiration from period machinery, a light green cork wallcovering from Innovations covers the sub-bar, as well as a striking gold and chocolate wallcovering on the signature wall of the main dining room. Custom metalwork by a local craftsman creates the shelves and the bar top. Throughout the restaurant you will find vintage butcher’s tools, as well as antiques and collectible works of art. And bespoke charcuterie cases and a large glass cooler keep the butcher’s art a part of the show.
Mercury : The mid-century interior was inspired by the space race and Project Mercury. To complement its strong cocktail program, we have equipped the restaurant with a large bar with a stunning quartzite bar top that resembles moon rock. The characteristic lighting of Roll & Hill and The Future Perfect adds character to the various dining rooms. A custom walnut host and service stations were inspired by original mid-century furniture.
The entrance is anchored by an “Art-o-mat,” which is a vintage cigarette machine repurposed to distribute art. Mid-century art, accessories, and books complete this space, giving it a finished, lived-in feel.
Bread & Butterfly: Inspired by the cafes that line the streets of Paris, our client wanted to create an intimate bistro and cafÃ© open all day. To capture the vibe of a European cafe, we created a porch with a custom steel and glass front that can fully open or close to the street, depending on the weather.
On the right side of the space, an outdoor patio opens onto an adjoining courtyard and is covered with a green and white striped awning. A painted wooden bar with a marble top creates a coffee and pastry counter, as well as some seating for guests to enjoy a glass of wine. Navy and white Parisian cafe chairs sit alongside vintage chairs. Vintage artwork, mirrors and light fixtures found by the client are also featured in the space. Finally, a rich dark green was selected for the exterior and interior color, accented by a playful green tile wall with recessed mirrors.
The next time you dine at one of Atlanta’s delicious establishments, pay attention to the restaurant’s design, as well as what’s on your plate. It will be a feast for your eyes!
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