From heritage and English classics to Steampunk and casual dining, furniture is available to meet the latest trends in bar interiors
When choosing the right furniture for a bar or pub, the key is to balance the needs of efficiency and aesthetics. “The two don’t naturally go together, yet one without the other can spell disaster,” says Sally Huband, director of hospitality furniture specialist Pub Stuff. “When you get the balance right, you’ll achieve your desired return on investment and achieve a fabulous-looking venue too.”
Of the two, she believes aesthetics is probably the most important. “Customers will respond positively if, when walking into your newly refurbished premises, they can say, ‘Wow, this looks really lovely’. Once you’ve hooked so many of them that you’re turning them away, you can build in lots of efficiency!”
Over the years, Pub Stuff has responded to the needs of both aesthetics and efficiency with a modular approach to tables so they can be used flexibly. The company has now extended this to its newly launched Matrix Sofa system, with modular pieces as small as 555mm to allow it to be fitted into the most difficult of spaces. Aesthetics are covered by attractive faux-leather finishes in both Nevada Caramel and Nevada Truffle.
“Matrix will manage customers’ expectations of seeing a soft seating area and the explosion in a desire for the coffee shop experience,” Sally adds. For instance, the configuration of four corner sections back to back for a circular seat works well in hotels. “This versatile approach to custom configurations means that sections can be added and changed to fit changing demands.”
Design specialist Andy Thornton continues to add to its collections of classic and contemporary furniture suitable for hard-working hospitality interiors. New pieces include the luxurious Duke lounge chair and two-seater sofa with high backs and arms, available in any fabric or leather (pictured above). Its new Merano bar stool features a solid beech frame which can be polished to any colour and a seat and back that can be upholstered in any fabric or leather. Matching armchairs and stacking side chairs are available, upholstered or un-upholstered.
Another classic that shows no sign of disappearing is the bentwood chair. Hospitality supplier GO IN (UK) has added a new Grand Bistro design to its bentwood ranges, available in various stains from natural to pastel. Made from oak or beech, it can be enhanced with arm rests and supplied as a bar stool, both with the options of seat cushions.
English heritage and design classics are being embraced by designers seeking high-quality furnishings and décor for bar interiors, notes Jo Polmear, interior designer and director at Authentic Furniture. “Use traditional heritage colours such as deep reds, greens, blues, yellows and greys, with classic patterns such as tartan, check and Victorian florals,” she suggests. “Iconic British design movements such as Art Deco, Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau can also offer design inspiration.”
Choosing the right colours can also help designers and operators to pick up on the trend for bringing the outside inside, Jo says. “A colour palette of fresh greens, pastels, and neutral tones will create a fresh, bright and airy atmosphere, and introducing pops of colour like striking flowers or bright floral fabrics can add a modern twist.” Large tables with benches, perhaps with armchairs at each end, and garden furniture, such as wrought iron and Lloyd Loom dining sets (pictured above), can also add to the effect. “Create a well-lit space by adding strategically placed mirrors that will reflect the natural light and fill the area with joyous sunshine,” Jo adds. The interior can also take inspiration from what lies outside. “For example, a beachside setting could incorporate rustic, ‘washed-up’ accessories and furnishings and native elements such as stones, sand and natural rope.”
Another trend that Jo sees in bar interiors is Steampunk, the Victorian industrial aesthetic that comes from literature and films. “Taking stylistic cues from the romance of the Victorians, with a nod to the era’s industrial revolution, the result is a surreal yet comforting, elegant yet masculine aesthetic that brings an ‘other-worldly’ feel to a room,” she says. “Use natural materials that still retain their authenticity, such as reclaimed wood and leather, with industrial elements such as exposed bricks and metal pipes. Mechanical items such as gear wall clocks can also be incorporated to add a dynamic edge, which is heightened when mixed with elegant touches such as Victorian wallpaper and beautifully crafted furniture.” Along with softly glowing lighting and seating in dark leathers with traditional button backs, accessories and memorabilia are key. “Pieces such as antique maps, steam trunks, sepia photos, technical drawings and old books are easy to obtain and are a vital element to the Steampunk-style movement.”
Themed concepts, from pre-war to nautical, are proving popular for bars, notes Ben Small, marketing manager for Eclipse Furniture. Its latest project is Craft London, a restaurant being launched this month by chef Stevie Parle in London’s Greenwich Peninsula development, working with Tom Dixon’s Design Research Studio. “Sourcing furniture around your theme is the best way to get your business on the map,” Ben says. “Use vintage bar stools to represent your pre-war theme or incorporate outdoor picnic-tables inside for a more traditional English feel. Originality is of the upmost importance: finding a niche that sets you apart from the rest is a sure-fire way to source high interest.”
Ben notes there is a strong move towards relaxed “casual ambience”, focusing on furniture that draws people together but is also very functional. Favourites in its collections include the Sheldon side chairs (pictured above) which are made from solid beech and stained in a rich wenge colour, with the option of seat pads upholstered in high-quality brown faux leather. Ben adds: “If your furniture and décor encourage your clientele to relax and eat or drink with ease, you can rest assured that they will continue to return regularly throughout 2015.”
Pictured top: Georgia armchair and table from Eclipse Furniture
Case study: Kick off at Hotel Football
The new Hotel Football has been opened next to Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, by a team led by Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville. It features restaurant and bar Café Football serving signature dishes such as The Boss Burger and the Café Football Sausage Roll alongside cocktails, wines and craft beers. A wide range of furniture was supplied by hospitality specialist UHS Group including the armchairs picture above. UHS Group’s Memphis bar stools, upholstered and with swivel seats, have been used in the bar area. They are made of leather with two different fabrics, Crest Shelly Poppy and Crest Jade Green, and have metal bases with a raw steel finish.
Originally published in the April 2015 print edition of Bar magazine.