In the age of Instagram, a restaurant’s aesthetic is as critical as its menu, which is why the best eateries in the world are turning to today’s top designers. From New York’s Pasquale Jones, done by Leroy Street Studio, to London’s Aquavit, by Martin Brudnizki, these 10 restaurants are designed to be seen — and to be seen in.
Harry’s Fine Foods
“The restaurant is outfitted with vintage furnishings and fixtures, and the dining room features a bespoke L-shaped counter along with handcrafted tables and benches,” Tim Pfeiffer of Hoedemaker Pfeiffer says of his design for Harry’s Fine Foods, in Seattle.
“A salvaged 1950s refrigerator takes pride of place in the chef-grade kitchen,” Pfeiffer continues, “while a Victorian tobacconist’s case is used for storage and vintage Sheffield lighting fixtures illuminate the dining room.” The table and benches were handcrafted by Concrete Earth, and the hanging iron racks were custom fabricated by Anvil House.
For Pasquale Jones, in New York, “we custom designed all of the furniture pieces, with the exception of the lights, which are antiques from Morentz, and the chairs from Moe’s Home Collection,” says interior designer Sybille Schneider, of Leroy Street Studio. “Our inspiration came from the design of casual European restaurants, which seems effortless while seeking to respect the vernacular envelope of the existing site.”
In the revived St. James’s Market, the London outpost of Swedish restaurant Aquavit showcases Nordic cuisine and design. In his design for the space, Martin Brudnizki looked to Gunnar Asplund’s Gothenburg City Hall and the work of Josef Frank — one of Sweden’s most important 20th-century designers — mixing materials like stained oak, brass and green-blue Brannlyckan marble with fabric wall hangings by renowned talents Olafur Eliasson and Barbro Nilsson.
The adventurous husband and wife behind Gachot Studios imbued the Shinola Hotel, occupying two historic retail buildings in Detroit, with the same hip, authentic vibe that characterizes the luxury brand’s watches. In the hostelry’s resident restaurant, San Morello, the designers went for lived-in comfort. “From the outset,” says Christine Gachot, “we were focused on blending the historical aspects of the city and the Shinola aesthetic, which to us means high-quality craftsmanship that is warm and accessible yet special.”
Ledger Restaurant and Bar
“People love coming to Salem to experience its unique history. So, the obvious goal of our design plan for Ledger was to direct a rough restoration of this historic building, which was home to the second-oldest bank in America,” says Michael Diskin, cofounder of Assembly Design Studio.
“We literally peeled back the layers of development that have happened over the life of this building, leaving only decorative rough edges and details to tell the story of the past,” Diskin continues. “Exposed iron beams, original plaster ceilings and uneven brick and wood architecture became the restaurant’s purposely raw foundation. Gorgeous oversized windows, a massive fully functional safe and a collection of historic documents help tell the story.”
Tutto il Giorno
With Tutto il Giorno, in New York, “we wanted to create a warm and welcoming restaurant where Italian hospitality is felt through the simplicity and authenticity of the materials,” says D’Apostrophe Design’s Francis D’Haene. “The room is elegantly organized, with tasteful soft furnishings. Neutral hues paired with plaster walls bring a cool, contemporary vibe to the space.”
Eleven Madison Park
Best known for museum projects like his expansion of the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, architect Brad Cloepfil applied the same eye for detail to his luxe makeover of Manhattan’s Eleven Madison Park. Cloepfil not only reoriented the flow of the eatery — which always ranks within the top five on the annual list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants — but also designed the seating, textiles and fixtures, even the plates.
“I spent as much time on the restaurant as I have on museums,” he says. “There’s just something magic about interiors when everything comes together at once.”
The Colony Grill Room
Restaurant impressario Jeremy King and his antiquaire wife, Lauren Gurvich King, spin a stylish tale at the Art Deco–infused Beaumont Hotel, in London. King wanted a resident eatery “like 21 or the Colony in New York.” His solution: the Colony Grill Room, which serves classic dishes from both sides of the pond in a room with a Roaring Twenties–inflected decor, its walls adorned with murals and caricatures of famous faces from between the wars, all by artist John “Crash” Mattos.
The Beaumont is named for Jimmy Beaumont, a character King made up, who fled Prohibition-ridden New York for London and opened a speakeasy-type hangout for expats like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. “Once I had that, I knew exactly how it would work,” says King. “The lobby, the layout, the bar” — and, of course, the restaurant
ATRIO Wine Bar and Restaurant
Set within the Conrad New York Downtown hotel, the ATRIO Wine Bar and Restaurant was designed by MPdL Studios as a contemporary trattoria. The firm furnished the space with its own tables and bar chairs, along with chairs by Suzanne Trocmé for Bernhardt. “The materials and scale of furnishings were inspired by old-world Mediterranean restaurants,” says MPdL founder Mónica Ponce de León.
“Warm walnut is used throughout, combined with rich stone and glass,” she explains. “The ceiling is shaped to feel like a light canopy overhead. A series of precisely located folds and pinches in the ceiling’s surface navigates and responds to the existing technical systems of the space, forming an undulating, dynamic pattern.”
In the restaurant of the Green, a Dublin hotel designed by Bryan O’Sullivan, a brass and glazed gantry suspended over the new island bar enables it to use every inch of the space allotted, freeing up more room on one side for dining and socializing.
Offsetting the strong, contemporary architecture, the decor includes traditional elements like painted timber paneling, marble-topped seating dividers and a checkerboard-tiled floor. A pervasive palette of dark and pistachio greens contrasts with the dark burnt-oak floor and red and mustard soft furnishings.