Looks ahead: interior design report

From industrial-style furniture to bold graphics and colours, Mark Ludmon examines the trends set to inform bar interiors in 2013

Design is at the heart of the success of the expanding Baa Bar Group, says its chief executive Elaine Clarke. “With 11 bars already, and plans to open a further 10 in the next five years, our brand identity has never been more important.” For the design of its latest venues, the company is working with Neil Dawson of Snook Architects, with a commitment to be innovative. “Bar design and the perception of a brand work very much hand in hand: one can’t exist without the successful delivery of the other,” Neil explains. “You could have the strongest and most focused brand in the industry but if your venues don’t reflect the aspirations of the brand then all that hard work is wasted.”

Baa Bar Leeds, which opened in October, features creative lighting, bold graphics, interactive displays and group seating areas designed to create a venue that is relaxed and comfortable for the daytime as well as dynamic and vibrant at night. But Baa Bar brand manager Iain Hoskins adds: “There is a balance to be struck between innovation and consistency and we acknowledge the importance of tailoring each of our bars slightly, dependent on the location. All of our sites are instantly recognisable as Baa Bars but we think using different ‘shades’ of certain brand aspects is important to retain an element of independence.”

A new survey confirms that décor as well as atmosphere are the most important factors for consumers when choosing a bar or pub for a night out. While drinks and pricing have some influence, over 76 per cent of respondents said that bad décor would deter them from returning to a venue, with seating cited as the most significant factor. Over 80 per cent confirmed they were more likely to stay in a bar or pub if it had comfortable seating. “Pubs, bars and restaurants need to look at how they get customers through the door,” says Rob Price, managing director of hospitality furniture specialist Trent Pottery which commissioned the survey.

Despite economic gloom, investment in new bars, clubs and restaurants was at phenomenal levels in the UK last year, particularly in London and other UK cities such as Manchester, and this looks set to continue as we enter 2013. Vintage designs have been very much in vogue, such as mid-century furniture from the 1950s and 1960s. Ken Smith, managing director at bespoke joinery specialist Crafted & Co, notes that this vintage trend continues to “reinvent” itself. “It not only creates a fashionable interior but is popular due to the cost-effective nature of using recycled materials such as old tiles and fabrics.”

Linked to this is the dominant trend for industrial style in furniture and interiors, from exposed pipework and metalwork to lighting recycled from factory fittings. Hospitality furniture specialist Andy Thornton continues to report big demand for its Urban Vintage collection which was launched last year, ranging from armchairs and sofas in aged leathers and fabrics to heavy-duty cast-iron refectory tables. Projects in 2012 included Dach & Sons in Hampstead, north-west London (pictured below).

It is a look inspired by bars in Manhattan and Brooklyn, says Dan Einzig, director of design agency Mystery which has worked on the likes of Adventure Bars and Giraffe. “I have seen the trend for industrial-style interior design mushroom through 2012 with an explosion of New York loft exposed brickwork, industrial salvage lighting, peeling plaster and textured wall finishes to the point where London feels more like New York now than New York.”

However, he adds. “Ironically, it can be a very warm style where customers feel comfortable and relaxed, not feeling out of place or like they are not smart enough for the bar. It’s the sort of style that you can dress up or down, and it represents a certain urban lifestyle that people aspire to. My fear is that it’s becoming a bit generic and, unless they have strong distinctive brand identities, it’s starting to be hard to tell the difference between several places.”

Dan’s predictions for 2013 include a revival in personalised interior graphics. “Bars that distinguish themselves by creating a unique personality will prosper as their customers connect with the brand experience. We’ll start to see more pop-ups finding permanent homes and a subsequent trend for lo-fi make-overs using paint and graphics to transform a space at low budget, rather than investing heavily in expensive finishes.”

He says Mystery is working on two examples of this: a bar in Farringdon, London which will be flooded with a collage of imagery, and another in Croydon which will become a secret destination location. “The standard corporate replication of generic interiors has had its day,” he adds. “I understand that businesses need to create scalable concepts, but there is always a need for an element of personalisation for each location to ensure the design is tailored to connect with the local market.”

The rise in street food concepts with more casual dining environments last year is influencing restaurant and bar interiors, says Abi Perry-Jones, principal interior design associate at Catering Design Group. “What this means from a design perspective is that consumers are now happy to eat perched on a bench, sharing a table with strangers.”

The spread of South American cuisine in the UK in 2012 is also impacting interiors, she adds. “What this means for design trends in 2013 is that you can expect a light-hearted but carefully styled mix of bright colours against a backdrop of low-cost and recycled materials such as ply, stainless steel and plastics. This trend has a real urban feel which is becoming extremely prominent in bars. It is complemented by a laid-back approach to graphics and logos with graffiti styling and large sociable space-saving bench seating against long tables.”

However, Abi notes some once-popular design trends are on the way out, such as velvety, shiny fabrics with contrasting furniture. “We’re also moving away from that home-from-home domestic feel,” she adds. “Consumers are looking for escapism, an experience that in no way reflects their home environment. We have at last started to see less monotone and restrained colour palettes which I believe will continue to emerge. Splashes of carefully placed colour are especially welcome. We’ll also be seeing bars go for a more eclectic feel. Mixing fabrics and textures is definitely the biggest trend for 2013. As to flooring, there is so much choice spanning ceramic tiles, patterned and mismatched.”

Classic floor finishes have been in great demand for hospitality interiors in 2012, and this is likely to continue, says David Bigland, managing director of flooring company Moduleo UK. For Moduleo, which produces a range of vinyl floor tiles in different colours and finishes, some of its most popular finishes in 2012 were the classic-style Country Oak, Verdon Oak and Classic Oak, available in traditional luxury vinyl tile (LVT) construction or a Click system.

However, David adds: “While traditional hard-wood finishes will no doubt continue to be popular in 2013, there is a growing trend for slightly unusual and exotic finishes. An example of this is our product, Ethnic Wenge, which has proved extremely popular and is based on a rare, tropical wood from the Congo.” He adds that environmental factors are gaining increasing importance, driving demand for environmentally friendly products in 2013 and beyond.

Classic design trends are reflected in new furniture being launched by GO IN (UK) at this month’s Hospitality show at NEC Birmingham as part of its 2013 catalogue. It expects the retro style and flowing lines of its transparent Elysee chairs to make them popular for both indoor and outdoor use, with waterproof cushions available in a wide range of colours and materials. It will also showcase its new braid-weave Terrazza chair, a weatherproof twist on a classic design. Its ergonomically designed aluminium frame allows the weave in the seat and backrest to adjust to the shape of the body, offering comfortable seating for long periods.

Classic and industrial styles are in demand for hospitality interiors from contract specialist Geometric Furniture. Examples include a dining table that has been given an industrial look by putting its solid ash top through a series of sanding processes to create a distressed finish. Creative staining adds to its rustic feel, while it has a single pedestal base made from cast iron with decorative anchor bolts welded onto it.

For the more classic look, Geometric’s distinctive Chesterfields are particularly in big demand, says furniture designer Jennifer Brobbin. Built over a hardwood frame, the sofa has a sprung back and seat, with options including luxurious deep buttoning, piping and Renaissance-style studding, as shown in the three-metre-long Chesterfield, pictured above. “It is also available in an aged leather look where our leather worker carefully takes the hide through several stages to replicate the look of authentic antique leather,” Jennifer adds. “The original styling makes it extremely versatile, lending itself to both traditional and contemporary interiors.”

With Chesterfields still very much in demand, classic-style furniture along with industrial-style interiors look set to continue well into 2013.

Case study: Dach & Sons

Vintage industrial furniture was selected for Dach & Sons, the restaurant and bar that was opened in Hampstead, north-west London, last year, by Fluid Movement. The restaurant’s interior combines distressed timbers, white coursed-brick butcher’s shop tiles and bare bulb light fittings. Furniture sourced from contract furniture supplier Andy Thornton includes heavy-duty factory refectory tables with steel bases, legs and tops in a distressed painted finish, each with six bolt-on swing seats. It also supplied industrial-style pub tables, console tables and unique factory bar stools with worn tan leather seats.

Upstairs in the bar, Flat P (pictured), Andy Thornton supplied industrial-style bar stools with steel frames in a satin pewter finish with polished timber seats, which complement the panel-effect bar front and embossed gold-painted ceiling.

The DriftCase study: Drake & Morgan

This year will see bar operator Drake & Morgan add two new sites to its estate in the City of London. The Happenstance will open this summer in the new One St Paul’s development, followed by The Haberdashery in Sixty London, Holborn, in the autumn.

The interiors of other sites such as The Parlour in Canary Wharf were inspired by restaurants on America’s west coast while The Drift (pictured) was subtly influenced by Beirut and Istanbul. Working again with Fusion Design & Architecture, the management team are taking inspiration for the new sites from bars and restaurants in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo, such as Unlisted Collection.

Operations manager Taskin Muzaffer travelled with managing director Jillian MacLean and designers Sophie Douglas and Katie Whitfield to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing for research. While the interiors of the new sites have not been finalised, Taskin says they were impressed by the “lavish” design experience.

“Drake & Morgan is built on taking inspiration from a lot of areas around the world and bringing them back,” he adds. “Each site is unique. We don’t copy a style but it’s more about capturing the mood of different places around the world. It’s important to us to stay ahead of our industry in the UK in both our design and our offer.”

Case study: The Caledonian

A luxurious refurbishment of Edinburgh’s iconic hotel, The Caledonian, was completed last year after becoming part of Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria portfolio. The public spaces at the hotel, nicknamed “The Caley”, were designed by Fox Linton Associates. The long-established Caley Bar (pictured) retained its classic feel, themed on the grandeur of the Caledonian Railway in the 19th century, with overtones of the plush furnishings of the Orient-Express. The new Peacock Alley bar was inspired by the grand social promenade that connected the original Waldorf and Astoria hotels in Manhattan.

Case study: Taj Crowne Plaza

The Hamptons lobby bar at Taj Crowne Plaza London St James, close to London Victoria and Buckingham Palace, has been revamped as part of a redevelopment of the ground-floor lobby. Design practice Broadway Malayan drew on the late Victorian and early Edwardian architecture of the building by introducing modern but classic furniture and lighting pieces, such as eccentric wing chairs in velvet upholstery. The Hamptons Bar is managed by Daniel Crebesse, president of the UK Bartenders Guild.

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