Designers are now embracing an eclectic diversity of textures and finishes, with surfaces in particular given key importance in this collection of ultra-tactile projects
Words by Kay Hill
Vyta Covent Garden, London
Structural design Richard F Gill & Associates
Construction CJN Concept
Custom furniture Carimati
Custom tapestry Horo Divania
Furniture Gebruder Thonet, Tacchini, Bend Goods, Midi
Lighting Illuminati, iGuzzini, Luum, MM Lampadari
Vyta Covent Garden is a new restaurant fusing gourmet Italian cuisine with contemporary design, created by Rome-based Collidanielarchitetto. Company founder Daniela Colli says that the interior design draws heavily on the Italian architectural culture of the 1960s, with its refined decorative details and geometric stylisations. ‘It’s a wonderland of colours and shapes, designed to surprise, celebrate and entertain people who are looking for a world of pleasure and emotions,’ she says.
The 510 sq m restaurant is set over three storeys in the beautifully refurbished building, with a rosewood and green Alpi marble staircase decorated with gold-coloured wallpaper and ethereal brass-leaved chandeliers connecting the levels. At the heart of the design is the rhombus, which is woven into almost every surface detailing, but reaches its zenith in the polychrome marble floor, inspired by the artworks of futurist painter Giacomo Balla and made from over 7,000 geometric pieces of marble. Tactile velvet upholstered furniture adds to the richness of the experience.
Design Anett Ficzere (Muzsai-Ficzere)
Structural design and fabrication Hello Wood
Project leader and architect László Mangliár
Image: MÁTÉ LAKOS
The central feature of Budapest’s newest fine-dining spot is a tree-like wooden structure envisioned by interior designer Anett Ficzere and brought to life by architectural and design studio Hello Wood. Based on the mathematical principle of Voronoi cells, the organic structure spreads across the space like a canopy of branches. The centrepiece is made from glulam pine blocks with more than 500 individual junctions, while the pattern continues on wall panelling and filigree screens and is complemented by the geometric floor.
Berlin Bar, Moscow
Design Thilo Reich
Image: IVAN EROFEEV
When he was commissioned to design a Berlin-themed bar in Moscow, German architect and designer Thilo Reich decided to quite literally bring the streets of Berlin to Russia. He spent weeks walking the streets of his home town finding interesting pavement patterns and casting them in concrete before using them as cladding, bar and even table tops in the new venture.
He took pavement casts from historical spots such as Checkpoint Charlie and the district of Charlottenburg with its large Russian population, as well as of the more mundane five prefab concrete styles of everyday Berlin paving stones. The massive bar combines all five types into a single sculptural object.
The other finishes in the 180 sq m bar are also carefully chosen to capture a flavour of the urban beauty of Berlin – the lamps are made up of modules from East Berlin street lights, the brown leather benches are a traditional Berlin style, the chairs are vintage German industrial, and even the mirrors are made from recycled Berlin window panes.
Alice & Fifth, Johannesburg
Design Tristan Plessis Studio
Fit-out Blackline Group
Custom furniture Guideline MNF
Image: GRAEME WYLLIE
Alice & Fifth, designed by Tristan Plessis Studio, is South Africa’s first cabaret club/restaurant, set in the prestigious Sandton Sun Hotel. According to interior designer Tristan du Plessis: ‘The brief was to create a sumptuous and decadent space juxtaposed with a raw, unrefined, underground edge. I drew inspiration from the opulent cabaret clubs of years gone by in cities like Paris and New York, and brought that into the contemporary world of African luxury with features like the wall panelling curving up into the ceiling.
‘We used lush velvet and hand-picked rare marbles across various colour spectrums to infuse the space with colour, and created a dramatic backdrop using handcrafted walnut wall panelling, as well as curved French panelling and exposed raw concrete columns.’ The finished look for the windowless 1,400 sq m nightclub has a dark, masculine, retro feel with velvet upholstery, dark wood, brass fittings and heavy drapery, while the entrance has a stunning hand moulded, polished stainless steel ceiling like liquid mercury.
Third Avenue Boutique, Dubai
Design H2R Design
Client Mohamed Hilal Group
Main contractor Arco
Image: NIKOLA STOKANOVIC
H2R Design was commissioned to create a fine dining restaurant in The Dubai Mall, and formulated a luxurious concept around the ideology of ‘food is fashion’, featuring high quality materials that merged contemporary and classic with a mix of interesting textures. ‘Our aim was to redefine the functional food and beverage experience and to add lustre, elegance, and allure to the space,’ explains Hasan Roomi, co-founder of H2R Design.
The marbled flooring in the 436 sq m restaurant mixes strips of Carrara White and Armani Grey stones to give a dynamic feel to the space, while the area is defined by a Piet Mondrian-inspired wall of vertical and horizontal panels of ribbed, black wood. The display counter is textured with emerald ribbed panels and painted tempered fluted glass cladding, while the soft, curvaceous chairs are covered in tactile velour in deep colours.
The Doss House, Sydney
Design Buck & Simple
Project team EDCO Group, Top Knot Carpentry
Image: TOM FERGUSON
The Doss House, Sydney’s newest whisky bar, is set in a listed building dating back to the 1840s, with a chequered past as an opium den, gambling house and boarding house. The 120 sq m space, taking in four underground rooms and two courtyards, was redesigned by local architect Buck & Simple with an emphasis on creating a tactile, atmospheric interior to complement the history of the building.
Sandstone walls, original fireplaces and dark timber floors are a warm backdrop to an interior filled with antique mirrors, velvet banquettes and antique leather Chesterfield sofas, while the bespoke wall-to-wall whisky cabinets are rich, American oak. Brass detailing, textured wood, tapestries and warm diffused lighting help to create a slower-paced environment perfect for savouring fine whisky.
Architect Peter Ahern, who co-founded Buck & Simple, says of the company’s philosophy: ‘We seek a return to craft, in its elemental form. Architecture should strive to explore the dimensional, atmospheric and tactile possibilities of a space and craft them to enrich the senses.’
St Mark’s Mayfair, London
Architect Donald Insall Associates
Service engineers Edward Pierce
Structural engineers Hurst Peirce & Malcolm
Main building contractor Grangewood
Specialist conservation Hirst Conservation
Stained-glass windows Arc
Fine decoration Hare & Humphries
The interesting textures were already in place when Donald Insall Associates took on the job of restoring and converting a Grade 1 listed church in Mayfair. The 19th century Greek revival building of St Mark’s was deconsecrated by the Church of England in 1974 and was on the At Risk Register by 1998 as its condition deteriorated. Acquired by Grosvenor Estate in 2014, it was repurposed into a vibrant mixed-use retail, restaurant and community space – including Mercato market-style restaurant – that was Highly Commended at the London Planning Awards 2020. Tanvir Hasan, director and head of Donald Insall’s London office, says: ‘We were keen to keep all the features which enabled the church to be recognised for what it was; therefore, the feel and majesty of the nave was maintained and not dissected so that it could be enjoyed as the single space it was designed to be. The chancel, baptistery, all the stained-glass windows and smaller side chapels were given equal status, and the fitting of the interior was organised so it respected and highlighted the beauty of the finishes and special features. There are various lush textures and finishes throughout the church, varying from elaborately timber carvings to fine painted and gilded canvas in the baptistery.’
IYO Aalto, Milan
Design Maurizio Lai
Client Claudio Liu
Construction management Francesco Dolce
Fit-out and custom furniture Poliform Contracts
Image: ANDREA MARTIRADONNA
Italian Architect Maurizio Lai created a contemporary take on Japanese culture for IYO Aalto, a second project by Michelin-starred IYO Taste Experience. The 320 sq m restaurant, with an open kitchen, wine cellar and separate sushi room, has a palette of luxurious natural materials, including walnut, porphyry stone, brass and leather, combined with technological elements like float glass plates and smoked mirrors. The mix of textures present a constant contrast, with rough-hewn stone cladding contrasting with smooth, movable walnut sliding walls. The elegantly grained wooden tables have brass swallow-tail inlays and a porphyry swivel plate in the centre, continuing the contrast throughout the dining experience.