From the rustic feel of exposed beams to eye-catching feature walls, restaurants go to great lengths to create a stunning, yet relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere. Perhaps that’s why we’re seeing more home design inspiration come from restaurant interiors than ever. People are trading in the shelter magazines (except Kukun’s, of course), enjoying dinner out, and coming home with dining room design inspiration.
While your inner chef may long for a restaurant-worthy, spacious industrial kitchen, don’t let your restaurant inspiration stop at counter space (after all, dining out isn’t just about the food – atmosphere has a lot to do with the experience). Here’s a roundup of ways that you can bring elements of your favorite eatery into your living space. So get ready to put your fork down, and start planning a new look for your foyer.
Look to the walls and ceiling
The Polo Bar, Ralph Lauren’s new equestrian-themed subterranean restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York City, looks like an old-world library straight out of the Age of Innocence. To translate the clubby atmosphere and timelessness of the design to your own home, look at the walls and ceiling. The restaurant is encased in gleaming wood paneling, and topped off with a honey-hued coffered ceiling with rich, substantial wood beams. Sure, these things would make for a great library or formal living room, but you could also put them in a space that is often just splashed with paint, like your dining room. Swap out the plain-painted walls and put up paneling. If you don’t want the entire area to be wood-paneled, stop mid-wall (where a chair rail would be) and paint the rest of the wall in a warm color.
We also love this restaurant’s coffered ceiling. A coffered ceiling will make your dining room feel rich, warm, and cozy. It also adds structure and visual weight to the room, creating a custom look.
Murals and mosaics
By definition, a mural is a painting that’s done directly on a wall, and whose images and themes are of your choice. Sure, not every space can pull off a mural (and if you’re looking to sell soon, murals won’t be the way to go), but with the right look and style of home, they can provide a certain gravitas to a room that wallpaper and plain paint just can’t match.
A lot of restaurants we like use murals in their dining areas, likely for the same reason – personalization. When you commission an artist to create your mural, you’re putting your personal stamp on your wall. Make those images into an overall extended scene that overlaps around your walls, à la Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City (which would make an awesome addition to walls for childrens’ rooms), and you’ll have a room in your home that you won’t want to leave.
You can also bring wow to your walls with colorful mosaics, as seen at Centre Street Cafe in Boston. The bright colors of the mosaics pack a punch against the white walls and tin-style panels that conceal them. We love how the neutral colored panels pull back to reveal bursts of color.
Eschewing monochromatic tiles for colorful versions helps create a less predictable space and can add a Mediterranean vibe. Like murals, mosaics also lend a great deal of personality to a space. Putting large mosaic panels on your walls is like putting up a beautiful painting. If you aren’t feeling that adventurous, but still want a pop of color that a mosaic can provide, you can use mosaic tile as a backsplash in your kitchen, as a flooring accent, or on your steps.
Mosaic tiles are also great for outdoor spaces because they’re easy to clean and their colors won’t fade. There are so many aesthetic possibilities that mosaic tiles can provide, making your home one of a kind.
The restaurant kitchen
When we talk about translating ideas from the hospitality industry to your home, we’re really saying that we want to recreate the atmosphere, the conviviality, and the energy of a restaurant. And nowhere are those feeling more important (and, usually, apparent) than the kitchen. No room in your house has as much of the hustle and bustle of a restaurant as your kitchen.
Restaurants and homes are both adopting open kitchens. For homes, this means a modern, open layout. For restaurants, this means diners can see behind the scenes, and kitchens have to be more than functional – they have to be stylish as well.
The most copied element of a restaurant kitchen is its industrial feel. To get the look, use a lot of stainless steel or brushed stainless steel. Buy appliances like stoves that boast five powerful gas burners for professional-level performance and aesthetics. Instead of an island topped off with carrara marble, replace it with one made of steel. Hanging pots, pans, and utensils instead of putting them in drawers will also add to a restaurant-worthy kitchen feel.
Other restaurant-inspired kitchen design elements include open shelving, as seen at Gracias Madre in Los Angeles. Different bottles provide pops of color and are a nice contrast to the white shelves. Steal this look and put cherished pieces or favorite dishes on display while enjoying easy access to appetizer plates when you’re rushing to get ready for guests.
We also love the bar seating at Gracias Madre. While that look is now ubiquitous in home kitchens, it should be noted that bar seating provides an informal, yet inviting setting. It also allows diners and home cooks to easily interact with each other.
Restaurants use banquettes not just to fit more seating in a room, but to make diners feel cozy as well, as seen at Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale in Boston.
Banquettes can be used in your informal, in-kitchen dining area to provide texture and break the monotony of a plain wall. They also provide a way to carve out a nook when space is at a premium.
While a true banquette is a permanent, built-in structure, you can still create the look by using benches with comfy pillows and sofas set flush against a wall. If you really want a restaurant-worthy banquette, add task lighting above, sconces on either side, or candles on the table. Leather and velvet kick the restaurant vibe up a notch, as do deep button tufts.
Banquettes at home provide the relaxed atmosphere of a bistro. They let you slouch while drinking your morning coffee, or have an intimate tête-à-tête with your best friend. Banquettes and booths are popular restaurant seating requests because they instantly create a room within a room, or a private space in a public place.
From farm-to-table, to your home
Restaurant standard white china is out. Many modern restaurateurs are using handmade dishware with a custom, artisanal look. Unique and beautiful glazed ceramic and enameled iron servingware are taking the place of mass-ordered generic dishes, and it’s not uncommon for chefs to know the potters and ceramists behind the dishes that make their culinary creations look extra divine.
The ceramics lend restaurants a farm-to-table feel, and many customers are now tracking down artisans who cater to eateries in order to get a similar look at home. Nowhere is that more evident than at the organic eatery, The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, in Lovettsville, Virginia. The concept here is totally farm-to-table, with the restaurant using its 40-acre farm to grow all kinds of organic vegetables and raise chickens for fresh eggs.The restaurant furthers its custom, fresh feel with handmade dishes and appetizer plates from Cloud Terre.
Handmade ceramics are heavier than standard, mass-produced dishes, making them more substantial. Plates have texture, something that porcelain can’t replicate. Chefs are now looking for surfaces that aren’t as shiny as white porcelain, because a darker matte finish makes food appear more vivid.
As Dan Barber, the chef and owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate New York, said to Bon Appetit, “Handmade ceramics encourage a more thoughtful presentation. Hastily made food just doesn’t jibe with a one-of-a-kind plate.”
Even if your food doesn’t usually come with restaurant-worthy presentation, opting for intriguing, unique dishware can bring a bit of the elegance associated with dining out into your home.
The next time you’re dining out, take some notes and pictures. Whether it’s ideas for your living room walls, a kitchen remodel, or inspiring tableware, there are plenty of ways to marry the atmosphere of your favorite restaurant with the comfortable vibe of your home.