In restaurants around the world, maximalist interiors are outshining the artfully plated dishes, proving that when it comes to design, more is indeed more.
Whether you dine out on the regular or just do a quick scroll through culinary destinations on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed that restaurants aren’t the austere, minimalist temples of cuisine they used to be. Gone are the neutral palettes and quiet finishes that telegraphed seriousness and placed the focus on the food. In recent years, designers have taken an I’ll-have-everything-on-the-menu approach to restaurant interiors that reflects a greater trend toward maximalism. Both Martin Brudnizki’s lavish revamp of Annabel’s private club in Mayfair, and the Glade at Sketch London represent the movement at its full-tilt, over-the-top best.
Artist, designer and photographer Carolyn Quartermaine says she was given carte blanche to create the surreal, Technicolor forest interior at the Glade. “The design encourages the eye to weave in and out, never settling, and this allows the mind to dream,” she says. “For us, it’s more installation than decoration.”
Designers on these shores are taking a subtler, but no less ornamental approach. For the Pink Cabana at the Sands Hotel in Indian Wells, California, Martyn Lawrence Bullard combined a melange of Moroccan, midcentury and preppy motifs to create an eclectic, old-school country-club vibe. Conjuring a sense of place through layering is essential to Bullard’s process. “It’s about escapism. You’re creating a fantasy you wouldn’t necessarily experience anywhere else, so there’s not only a memory of the food, but also the memory of the environment,” he says.
Los Angeles-based designer Matt Winter shares a similar ideology: “Life is hard–sometimes you need to hit pause, get out of your headspace and enjoy your surroundings for a little while, and the best design accomplishes that,” he says. One of his recent projects, the tiki-themed Lono in Hollywood, is a mash-up of South Pacific and French Colonial influences that leaves almost no surface in the bar area unadorned. Designer Daniel Alonso of the Bonhomme Hospitality Group took a similar tack when concepting the Chicago boite Beatnik, which mixes Moorish, Mediterranean and Balinese elements in an ornate setting indicative of its bohemian theme.
“I think people today gravitate toward places that evoke a sense of history,” says Winter. “A lot of major hospitality groups are using designers who understand layering, and create spaces that are unique, and feel rich and lived in. It’s an antidote to the white glass boxes of the past,” he says.
“Minimalist interiors can sometimes feel homogenous,” says Bullard. “A space could read the same in London, Paris, New York or Palm Springs.” By contrast, maximalist design feels more bespoke, distinct and interesting: “If you create a truly individual experience, people get excited about design again and become inspired,” he says. Quartermaine adds, “Sitting, eating and drinking in exquisite surroundings–these are things that feed the soul.”