DesignLSM is an award-winning practice that offers interior design, architecture and branding services for hospitality, retail and residential properties. Based in Brighton, the studio is home to over 25 talented people who share a passion for great design. Although the majority of its projects are UK based, designLSM’s international portfolio is growing with design work in Europe, the Middle East, USA, India and China.

What would you say are the top three trends influencing restaurant interiors at present?

New York, Japan and Australia remain leaders within the restaurant design and certainly influence clients who brief us.

Hybrid design is a trend we are witnessing at present. Hybrid in respect of combining offers, i.e. a florist/bakery/restaurant set within a private members club. This was a design challenge DesignLSM had to overcome for a recent project – Pavilion. Looking at successfully designing all three areas as standalone entities that harmoniously flow from one to another.

Hybrid in product and food is also more prevalent e.g. Scandinavian mixed with Japanese. This is influencing the interiors and producing some interesting results.

Vintage/retro look and feel are still influencing design – strong classic forms. Specifically the 20s and 40s and the emphasis on detail and materials.

Neighbourhood is also a strong theme for our clients – looking at designing specifically for the location they are situated within. Creating a unique identity that enhances and complements its environment and local patrons. Larger multiple restaurants can be specifically seen adopted this, such as Carluccio’s.

DesignLSM designs the interiors for all of the Carluccio’s restaurants within the UK and Internationally – our designers adapt the interiors for a City location to make it feel more modern and sleek, using slightly different materials and colour palate; whereas the restaurants in the Home Counties tend to be softer and warmer.

What, for you, is the most critical element of effective restaurant design?
It is always important to establish the foundations and build upon a strong brand. Understanding the client’s strategy, vision and concept: what is the food, is there a story behind the menu, who are the intended patrons etc. The interiors need to form a part of this story, helping to create a seamless enjoyable dining experience for the customer.

For example, DesignLSM recently completed work on ChopBloc, a high-end steak restaurant in Chelmsford. Our branding team created a strong identity centered on the cuts and chopping marks of the beef. This concept was extend through to the interiors; creating strong features such as a glass walk-in meat room at the entrance to the restaurant showcasing the fine selection of hung meat, the filament lights suspended over the tables from abattoir hooks and the bespoke wall mounted light boxes depicting slogans such as ‘True love is rare – Like good steak’.

Lighting is a very important element to restaurant design. It is crucial to create the right ambiance throughout the day and evening. You can design a beautiful restaurant but the wrong lighting can kill an atmosphere and overshadow any design detail and features.

How do you ensure your projects stand out in such a fast-paced and heavily populated sector?
DesignLSM believe that by ensuring the interiors reference and enhance a client’s brand – it will bring the concept to life, helping it to create its own identity and stand out within a heavily populated sector.

Elements such as colour, signage and lighting help to create distinct environments as well as playing with a variety of materials suitable to the brand and environment. For example, DesignLSM’s interior designers were briefed to develop the concept for Kaffeine’s second unit on Eastcastle Street, London, W1. The client asked for the features to be kept to a minimum, allowing the interiors to form a backdrop to the theatre of the barista.

The designers created a central stage – a 5.5m long copper clad counter conceived as a monolithic block which draws the customer through the space and creates a warm ambiance. They combined this with a mixture of gloss and matt finishes with a variety of textures to animate the space; and injected the brand’s personality into the interior by placing a brilliant neon yellow ‘Kaffeine’ sign above the counter – creating the perfect platform for the production of excellent espresso coffee.

What would you say is the most unusual restaurant project you’ve worked on, and why?
The redesign and relaunch of the fine dining Indian restaurant – Bombay Brassiere – is a recent project we have worked on that has included many unusual and authentic elements. The restaurant is a large space, which has a variety of seating areas – relaxed, formal, private and a large conservatory – each of which needed redefining and harmonising with an overall interior concept.

DesignLSM drew upon the restaurant’s established heritage and emphasised its colonial style. This included sourcing furniture hand crafted from India, original photos from the period and commissioning artwork from a renowned Indian artist – which was painted onto a large canvas and carefully shipped to the UK for installation.

A distinctive feature of the restaurant is the large circular conservatory – the designers stripped this area back, removed cladding to expose the metal structure and with the addition of planting created a setting reminiscent of a tropical ‘orangery’. The lighting within the conservatory required careful consideration, to create different atmospheres dependent upon the time of day – fresh, vibrant during the day, whilst in the evening a more intimate warm setting.

DesignLSM worked closely with the client and its core team to create a truly authentic environment in which patrons can immerse themselves into Indian cuisine and culture, making a memorable dining experience.

How do you feel the UK’s restaurant scene compares on an international level?
The UK restaurant scene has a wide variety of concepts reflecting the diverse cultural scene in London. There also seems to be a shift towards relaxed dining, rather than more formal settings and a greater emphasis has been placed on the provenance of the food and the quality – utilising locally sourced, sustainable ingredients.

Have you got any new projects on the horizon you’re able to share with us?
DesignLSM are working on some large international projects for clients, such as Burger & Lobster opening in Europe and the Middle East, Carluccio’s in the US and Galvin in Dubai.

Alongside working with our respected clients, we are also producing exciting and innovative brand identities and interior designs for new restaurant and retail concepts – we are very much looking forward to watching them flourish and succeed.