I hate to say this, but..

I don’t often take an instant dislike to a restaurant interior. Usually if I don’t like it, is because I’m just not impressed. I think “meh.” and I move on. It’s rare that something makes me uncomfortable just looking at it, like a big old dose of “Do not want.” I always feel vaguely guilty, because from a photo I am not experiencing the space in 3 dimensions. Also the food and the service could be just great, despite an interior that is lacking. I am also far too aware that *someone* worked very hard on it, even if I don’t like it.

Every so often though I see something I just plain don’t like. Today is one of those days.

I am trying to catch up on a huge to-do list today, after losing a lot of time yesterday due to a lost but now found cell phone (I am very glad I don’t lose phones very often. This wasn’t fun at all.) and in my reading this morning, I saw this entry from Gothamist about a new bar/ restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

And I got that “oh, dear.” feeling. Because I have no idea if it’s going to be a good bar, and serve good food, or have awesome service and even better music. I have no idea. What I *do* know is that from looking at these photos, I am really turned off by the design.


First of all, it looks like the set for Jolly Farm Revue. It’s not kitschy enough to be whimsical, and it’s not realistic looking enough to look sturdy. Somehow it just looks like you’re eating/drinking in a corral on a movie set. In Brooklyn? Really? Though I like the reclaimed pine/ concrete combo on the bar, there’s something about that green that seems off. Perhaps it’s the photo. It looks too blue. Too close to a teal rather than either a weathered green or a good strong green like you’d see on a farm.


The flooring choice concerns me. It’s a loud, reflective surface. I’d say it was easy to clean except that anyone with a tile floor can tell you grout gets really nasty after a while, particularly if it’s high contrast with the floor tile. And if they’re planning on music on that platform, that place is going to be so loud that your ears will bleed.

The food sounds fine, and I of course wish the owners success. But it’s rare that a decor choice will rub me the wrong way *quite* this much.

Someone will love it, I’m sure. I just know that someone isn’t me.

The Problem. (now with photographic evidence!)

Let’s play a game.

See if you can guess what’s my all time, number one, with a bullet design peeve.

Wait. This will never work- too many of you already know. Okay, for the three people on the planet that don’t yet know, it’s when tables are too close together in restaurants. This makes me CRAZY. And in NYC, with over 31,000 restaurants and little space, it bothers me a LOT.

Right up front- I am passionate about food. I own and co-moderate one food community and I’m a moderator on another. I cook. A lot. I take photos of food. A lot. I am deeply passionate about restaurants and restaurant culture. Restaurant design is my favorite kind, because I get design and food in one shot. I read just as many food blogs as design and architecture blogs, and I read a lot of design and architecture blogs.

I am all about this whole restaurant thing, and I live in one of the single best places in the world to *be* all about the whole restaurant thing. When I *do* wind up with a residential project I would much prefer it be a kitchen, and more than that, be a kitchen for someone who is going to beat the holy hell out of it, too. Because I understand that mentality.

Last night, while I was toodling around Noah Kalina’s photography site, I was faced with The Problem.



And over.



…and over.



I understand, fully and without any question that the goal of a restaurant is to make money and that in order to do that successfully you are trying to make the maximum money per square foot/meter of space. I GET IT. I also understand fully and without any question that in a tight space you are trying to put as many tables in as possible in order to increase the amount of money per square foot/meter. Understood.

However the LAWS OF PHYSICS prevent people from being able to reform themselves into two dimensional objects with no thickness in order to be able to slip between tables that are placed this close together. There is *no way* to get in and out of these seating arrangements easily and cleanly. Not to mention it’s not just you. It’s your bag, or your purse, or your briefcase, or whatever you were carrying with you that day. Even a light jacket or sweater, which is not a bad thing to have on you in summer since a lot of restaurants are overly air conditioned.

At a *bare minimum*, ergonomically speaking, you need 18″ between each of those tables in order to be able to safely get in and out from behind them. I didn’t say comfortably. For that, you’re looking at a minimum of 24″. And if you honestly don’t know those numbers, I know you flunked design studio somewhere. Probably more than once, and you deserved it, too.

This doesn’t even begin to address that in these photographic examples, you’re practically sitting in the lap of the person adjacent to you on the banquette. Do you really want to overhear everything they say that badly, or vice versa? Being that close to adjacent diners screws with your sense of territoriality in a big way sometimes, particularly when it comes to putting things down like purses or bags or jackets. I’ve read countless stories of diners winding up at one another’s throats because of this issue. Is it *that hard* to pull one table out and separate the others to accommodate for the basic realities of physics? Just because your C of O says you CAN fit X amount of people into the space does it mean you have to *try*? I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t pay an extra few dollars for their meal (especially here in NYC- come on, we’re already paying a fortune anyway) just to not be breathing in the exhale of the people sitting next to them against the wall.

Don’t even *begin* to give me the song and dance about “people being bigger now”. Look at these (really illustrative) photos. People *were never* that small. And yet we continue to think that in restaurants the laws of physics are somehow not applicable. It’s NONSENSE.

Move the damned tables.

On an entirely unrelated note- If you’re reading DGD from a feed? If you comment on the *feed* I don’t get it in my mailbox. I will only ever see the comment if I just happen to catch it. If you want me to see the comment you have to do it at the original post (meaning here, at the DGD site proper.)






So while I’m tapdancing- look! Shiny!

Late last night I had asked folks on my personal journal for suggestions on what I should talk about at DGD. Since I’m a designer, not a writer (nor do I aspire to be one, or play one on TV), and like it or not, blogging in public is well, blogging in public, it’s partially about who is reading as opposed to who is (grudgingly) writing.

I got a lot of suggestions, but the biggest problem I found with them is that they all tend to run into a roadblock somewhere along the way. Either they’re asking about things that I don’t have enough information about to speak on with any kind of firm knowledge, or they’re asking for in-depth things about past projects, which I don’t mind doing but I worry that it will get me further typecast into kinds of design I honestly am trying to break away from since that’s what people will see when they come here.

On the other mitten, I also worry about talking too much about projects I’m just starting to work on, or am conceptualizing. On the one hand, I am all for the free exchange of ideas and it is more about what kinds of design I’d like to be doing. What I worry about is more along the lines of intellectual theft.

And on the third mitten (just call me Kali…), I would like to do more here than just praise or criticize other things on the intertubes, because seriously, that gets old really fast, and I’m a designer, not a design critic, even if thoughtful critique is part of what we do. Granted, I can be a grumpy, critical bitch better than most, but still, I could probably rest on my laurels on that score *forever* at this point and still come out looking like a champ.

So any suggestions (though I am going to try to work my way around the slalom of suggestions I got last night) are welcome. Questions are, as well.

In the meantime, while I’m tapdancing, I wanted to go back to restaurant design for a moment. Okay, not for a moment, since that remains my favorite kind of design. But for now, a moment.

See, design photography is really difficult. It’s often hard to get a decent angle on a space. You’re using a wide angle lens in order to get the whole thing in, which creates a forced perspective and makes rooms look larger than they are. Most restaurants don’t have lighting suited to good photography. Even though it’s a room, and not a person (though sometimes there are people in the room) it’s hard to show what a restaurant really looks like without physically being there in a way that doesn’t “lie”, for good or bad. It occurred to me tonight that I hadn’t taken the opportunity to mention someone who I think does this better than anyone I’ve ever seen.

Noah Kalina(who, as far as I know, is of no relation to my dear departed friend Amy, and isn’t someone I know. I’ve just had his site bookmarked for ages and I think he takes amazing shots of restaurants.) By means of example (and hopefully a way to get everyone to go there and check his archives because they’re amazing), this is his photo of Bar Boulud:

Bar Bouloud, photographed by Noah Kalina

Since I know some of you are totally into restaurant design porn, that ought to keep you busy until I can figure out what I should be talking about here. I’ll be over here tapdancing (and knitting) in the meantime.

P.S. Tori, stop drooling on the keyboard.

Cool stuff.

Though there’s plenty of things I see in the design world every day that I don’t like, there’s also things I really *do* like. Dezeen serves up the goods today by bringing this, by Serie Architects.

Blue Frog, by Serie Architects

Whooboy, that’s nice.

More photos are available at Dezeen and the Serie site itself. Though I’d have chosen a horseshoe configuration rather than the more rectilinear one Serie chose for the table arrangement (Scratch that. I’ve now seen the plans. It’s a circle, not a rectangle. The angle of the photo I saw of the long view is too low to show it, so it looks like a rectangle. +10 points for the original plans. Carry on.) The results are drop dead gorgeous. So much good work is coming out of Asia and the Middle East right now. It’s very inspiring. I also remind myself that it’s somewhat easier to go nuts in a location with more space and fewer regulations (and *everywhere* has fewer regulations than NYC) . Still, restaurant design remains my favorite kind, and stuff like this is part of the reason why.

In other “cool things I found today” news, is the portfolio of Martin Žampach, a designer from the Czech Republic. There’s some wonderful stuff in there, and I’m happy to show him to people here(I don’t know this guy, btw. I just found him today whilst linkhopping.). Have a look. 🙂 It makes me wonder if I should put my portfolio in a format like that. Maybe, but the thought of that level of hassle is going to keep me from it for the moment. .pdf will have to suffice right now.

I got an idea for a group of furniture pieces today, which is good, since I’ve been entirely dead on the inspiration front since this time last week. It usually takes me at least several days to recover from a few really bad days, so I guess this is a good sign. I’m going to see if I can get a friend to help me with my idea, since it comes from a photographic angle, rather than from sketching. Also some ideas for the design solution to the Miami house are coming together. Unfortunately, I can’t commit them to CAD until midweek next week, when my much abused but beloved computer Chuck undergoes a major overhaul to become Chuck v.3.0. I’m trying to baby the system until then, lest it lock up and refuse to reboot (again.)

Still, even putting them in CAD next week puts me a week ahead of the game, timeline wise so that’s okay. Tiny steps. Tiny steps.