TOM PARKER, Director and Co-Founder of FETTLE an international interior architecture and design practice, talks with our Editor IGOR CVORO about working on two continents, the design of The Draycott and upcoming projects.
You have offices in London and Los Angeles that work collaboratively across all projects. How does Fettle’s design process look like? Where do you start? – Modern technology and apps allow us to work as if it is one large studio spanning two continents. We talk through current projects every day and when we are busy the time difference actually really helps as we bounce ideas and workloads between the studios. London and Los Angeles are both contrasting and complimentary which allows us to generate ideas and schemes which have a lot of depth and perspective.
Our designers travel between London and the US for projects which in turn helps them to develop a
holistic design approach. We start the design process with a very detailed design brief from which we develop our narrative for the project. This is key as it flows into the space planning. From there the scheme develops and the project unfolds accordingly while always referring back to the original narrative to ensure the design is consistent and relevant.
Could you tell us about the concept of The Draycott? What was the main inspiration? – The initial brief and inspiration for The Draycott was to design an English brasserie that also represented its Californian location. It was intended to be family friendly and welcoming, and at the same time refined and elegant. The restaurant was to be quite luxurious with a central feature bar that would provide a great late-night drinks spot.
Where do you get inspiration from while working on an interior design project? – Inspiration can come from lots of different sources. For The Draycott, the inspiration came from the
feeling of nostalgia and level of detail traditionally seen within European brasseries.
What do you find most challenging about designing in the hospitality sector? – Often the biggest challenge is the balance between timeline and a detailed creative process. As a studio we aim to produce extremely high-quality work which is both functional and aesthetically beautiful and relevant. The challenge is to produce this level of work in a structured and efficient manner while still allowing freedom for creativity. Managing the clients’ expectations and relationship is a key ingredient here and we are very honest and up front with our clients and aim to tackle any problems that do arise head on.
“Managing the clients’ expectations and relationship is a key ingredient and we are very honest and up front with our clients and aim to tackle any problems that do arise head on.”
Which do you consider more important: functionality or aestheticism? – When the flow of a project works correctly these two elements are completely complimentary. For
example, with The Draycott, the client brief called for a brasserie with a bar as the heartbeat. We worked this into the space planning in a way that the restaurant wraps around a central feature bar, and this in turn gave the space a very ordered, symmetrical, hierarchical feel and made it aesthetically very striking. In this way form and function worked hand in hand to create a very successful space on both levels.
How do you see the connection between the architecture of a building and its interior design? – This connection is essential. Without the interior referencing its surroundings the space will feel disjointed. This extends beyond just the building itself and includes the neighbourhood and city. For example, we wouldn’t design a New York style dive bar within a high-end Victorian hotel in the U.K. as the result just wouldn’t make sense. Of course there are circumstances where the offsetting of the interior against the exterior create a compelling sense of surprise but this still must be designed in context with the understanding of the architecture of the building and its history.
What are some of the current trends in hospitality design?
We tend to try and avoid basing our design work around design trends as our projects are usually of a size and length that mean once they are completed the trend has passed. The main trends we do keep a close eye on are dining trends as these often form part of the design narrative of our spaces. For example, London’s ongoing fascination with the European Brasserie is a very long-term trend and we are working on a couple currently in the capital. On the West Coast of America we are seeing the return of concept restaurants, such as zero waste kitchens, and set menus at places such as the wonderful Auburn on Melrose Avenue in LA, alongside the trend of the city’s best food trucks becoming brick and mortar restaurants such as Guerrilla tacos in DTLA. It’s important for us to keep abreast of these kinds of trends because each type of restaurant operates in a completely different manner.
Do you prefer working with large commercial brands or start-ups? How big of a role does client involvement play in the whole process? Do you welcome client involvement or do you prefer clients to be hands-off? – We enjoy working with both startups and large-scale businesses. Our business plan from day one was to work with both as we feel that you can learn a vast amount from each. Startup client projects allow us to work in a more free manner and sometimes be more daring and edgy with what we are doing. A great example of this is our client Yardsale Pizza. We started working with them on a hole in the wall site in Clapton and they now have five pizza restaurants. We learnt a lot working with them and their client team has a really infectious desire and energy. In turn we also work with big brands like Hoxton Hotels. These projects have great prestige and visibility within the industry but require a more structured approach from a design perspective. Both ends of the scale compliment each other really well. Client involvement plays a crucial role for us. We are in a place now where we work with vastly experienced operators who know an endless amount about the food and beverage industry – such as teams at Annabels, Boujis and Hoxton Hotels. Working collaboratively on operational aspects with them not only generates great results but also evolves our understanding of the intricacies of different setups.
Obviously when it comes to design decisions we have been hired for a reason and we have a strong
opinion on these items. We also have visibility across 10-15 projects which run concurrently within the studio and have a holistic view of design that many of our clients don’t have as they tend to focus on one project at a time. We can help when it comes to putting their design scheme within the design landscape as a whole.
What is next for Fettle? What projects are you currently working on and could you give us a sneak preview of your upcoming projects? – It’s a really exciting time for the studio with projects in the US and the UK. We have just finished working on the new Hoxton Hotel in Portland and are now working with the same client on the Hoxton Hotel in Rome. We are also working on a very high end Mediterranean inspired restaurant near Cecconis on the stylish Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles as well as a high-end brasserie in Mayfair which is a fantastic project for the studio with a renowned client.
Images are courtesy od Fettle. Photography by ©Frank Wonho
Find more projects by Fettle: fettle-design.co.uk
Interview originally published in DSCENE Issue 011 – available now in print & digital