Tara Bernerd founded her Belgravia-based architecture and design practice back in 2002, after spending a number of years at Philippe Starck’s prestigious global property company, where she spearheaded the launch of the agencies’ boutique arm, Yoo Too. Her intelligent layouts, rich use of texture and colour, and flair for creating a sense of atmosphere lend perfectly to the hospitality design sector, within which Tara and her talented team work extensively. Here, she discusses her work in bar and club design specifically.

"To me, the most important aspect of design for any project is seeking what is authentic to both the space and the location and what will stand the test of time"

What would you say are the top three trends influencing bar/club interiors at present?
Trends are something that I have for the most part avoided. To me, the most important aspect of design for any project is seeking what is authentic to both the space and the location and what will stand the test of time. It is about establishing a design DNA that infuses the space with a sense of character, whilst remaining indigenous to its surroundings.

Luxury is changing; we are seeing a move away from traditional luxury towards a more informal luxury. Whilst traditional luxury still has its place, we are finding that there is a strong demand for a more contemporary luxury, where luxury itself has been redefined as authenticity, quality of materials, space, indeed the experience itself.

Along with this, increasingly we are seeing a move away from traditional restaurant dining, towards all-day dining in the bar. At SIXTY SoHo in New York, we reimagined the lobby bar, Gordon’s, giving careful consideration to the space planning of the lobby allowing more cocooned areas and different seating zones.

This has been a great success, significantly increasing the amount of traffic during the day, as well as the evening.

What would you say is the most memorable or unusual bar/club you’ve worked on, and why?
I become engrossed in every project we design, therefore I find all our projects memorable for different reasons. With each project we start with the layout of the space before we do anything else. At Thompson Chicago we were able to do this with the most dramatic results. The building itself dates from the 1980s and the property had a Porte Cochere, so typical of its era.

By bringing the façade forward and relocating the elevators, we were able to add a significant amount of space to the ground and first floors of the building, enabling the insertion of a signature restaurant and bar: Nico Osteria and Lounge.

We found a great synergy working with Donnie Madea and his team at One Off Hospitality, whose vision for the menu and staff uniforms added to the entire feel and experience, which makes all the difference to a design.

What design challenges do you feel are unique to bar/club design?
One of the hardest challenges is to create a mood and atmosphere, so that the bar/club is a place that people want to go to and be seen in. A large part of this can be achieved through design, by ensuring that the design has layers and thus a feeling of integrity rather than mere newness.

"One of the hardest challenges is to create a mood and atmosphere, so that the bar/club is a place that people want to go to and be seen in"

At The Russell Hotel in London, where we are working for Starwood Capital, the challenge was to reinvigorate and bring back to life the Palm Court, which had become a tired, overlooked space.  The property is Listed, so we have had to work with the original features, reinstating its elegance whilst also introducing some new features, which I am not allowed to mention just yet.

How do you ensure your projects stand out in such a fast-paced and heavily populated sector?
It is essential to stay true to the project and keep in mind its end users. It always helps if you are working with a good client and thus far we have been blessed in this regard!

At Four Seasons in Fort Lauderdale, we have harked back to an earlier age, when Fort Lauderdale was in its heyday. An era of Riva Yachts and Capri Pants, and we have sought to imbue this feeling of understated elegance into the design.

Have you got any new projects under way or on the horizon you’re able to share with us?
We have just been appointed to work on The Hari, Hong Kong and are currently working on Thompson Hollywood in LA as well as continuing work on Four Seasons, Fort Lauderdale and The Russell, London.