The biggest trend in contemporary restaurant interiors over the past few years has often been described as ‘industrial chic’. It works best in buildings that have a bit of a history to them – especially if that history was as a warehouse or similarly hardworking space. This means that parts of the original architecture can be focused upon and exposed to reveal the structure’s past life, adding a sense of heritage and atmosphere to the venue.
As with many popular design trends, though, this look can quite easily devolve into cliché – simply add a bit of raw brick, some unvarnished wood and a few metal shelves and voilà, there’s your ‘authentic’ new coffee bar in the middle of a mall… Which is why, when an interior in this style is as beautifully executed as it has been at London’s Clerkenwell Grind restaurant, it’s worth celebrating – not to mention exploring in detail and putting on the ‘must-visit-when-next-in-London’ list.
Grind owns a number of coffee shops, cocktail bars and restaurants in the UK capital, and Clerkenwell Grind’s elegant interior design is the result of Grind’s eighth collaboration with Melbourne-based design firm Biasol. With a prime location in London’s up-and-coming Clerkenwell neighbourhood and the rich heritage architecture of a restored Grade II heritage-listed 1870s warehouse, the building has an intricately patterned brick and terracotta facade. Behind this lies 260 square metres of interior space, spread across two floors and with four distinct zones – at ground level, the main dining room accommodates 60 diners, with a cocktail bar and private dining space, while the basement area houses a more intimate bar and night spot, alongside the open kitchen and amenities.
‘We sought to create a vividly coloured but elegant interior that would contrast with the architecture while respecting its heritage,’ says designer Jean-Pierre Biasol. And appropriately for its location in a city that has long welcomed the world to its doorstep, the project’s materials palette draws together custom design elements and products from places near and far – Denmark, India, the United States and Australia, to name a few.
In the main dining room, a plush banquette in a navy blue velvet hugs the walls, below navy timber panels with a chevron pattern. Slender brass lamps and beautifully worn timber floors nod to the building’s history, while overhead, angled oblong mirrors create unexpected connections between groups of diners. The furniture is light and elegant – marble-topped tables in circular, square and rectangular configurations and Ferm Living chairs upholstered in up-to-the-minute ‘Millennial pink’ velvet.
The casual dining zone also features banquette seating – upholstered in pink velvet – which looks towards the main bar clad in herringbone-patterned Carrara marble tiles. Behind the bar, brass display shelving continues the brass theme. Opposite, a neon artwork by Toronto tattoo artist Curt Montgomery is a playful addition.
Downstairs, the intimate bar has a relaxed, feminine atmosphere, with delicate materials and a finely resolved colour palette. ‘There is a dramatic change of mood between the two floors,’ says Jean-Pierre. ‘The main dining room is open and elegant, but we wanted the basement bar below to feel more fun and feminine. The materials, colours and lighting play a big part in that.’
Structured around a bar topped with cool Verde Guatemala marble, this room features slim, elegant furniture – high and low marble tables, brass-legged stools and sculptural Gubi Beetle chairs upholstered in pale pink felt. Chevron timber panelling reappears, this time in a rich green above a teal velvet banquette. Along the bar, countertop lamps with a bulbous, almost retro form create a moody lighting scheme, perfect for late nights and good times.
Says Jean-Pierre, ‘Our design concept for this project drew upon the rich history of the site, in line with the distinctive visual language we developed for the other Grind locations, and a desire to create a high-end space for the quintessential British dining experience.’