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ASID Winners Find Common Theme: Intimacy

Chain Prototype

Follows Trend Toward

Small Bars, Restaurants


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Staff Writer

When Garden Fresh Restaurants Inc. came to Robert Wright for a new concept in restaurant design, they told him he wouldn’t have much space to work with.

The new Ladles, A Soup and Salad Takery restaurant at 1070 N. El Camino Real in Encinitas was only 1,200 square feet in size. The locally based parent corporation of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants wanted to appeal to upscale customers, most of whom would be stopping by to take meals home.

“We also wanted to have it sophisticated enough for the people who wanted to stay there and eat,” said Wright, co-owner of Bast-Wright Interiors in Downtown. “The challenge was to make it flow from a traffic flow aspect, make the space efficient and make the food visible and readily available.”

His design work paid off. Wright recently won a first-place award in the Design Excellence Contest sponsored by the local chapter of the American Society of Interior Design for commercial interiors smaller than 1,500 square feet.

He also won first-place for residential design for a house under 3,500 square feet for his work on a California Craftsman-style house in Hillcrest.

“We used several different stains of maple and mahogany, granite countertops and dining tables and stainless steel details on the restaurant furniture,” Wright said.

Because this was a prototype chain restaurant, Wright said there were constant trade-offs in the design, which incorporated both custom items and off-the-shelf furniture and fixtures.

“The size was so small it was a battle between the front of the restaurant and the back of the restaurant (kitchen) which got more space,” Wright said.

He said the restaurant chain originally came to him to design its corporate headquarters interior, and then gave him work designing Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants.

Rising commercial lease rates have created a trend toward smaller restaurants and bars, said Tina Koch, co-winner of the second-place award for commercial design under 1,500 square feet, along with Ken Rudzinski and Tony Adamo of San Diego-based Design Perspectives.

They won for their work on The Wine Lover, a wine and beer bar at 535 Fifth Ave.

“I think some people are trying to get more intimacy into their restaurants as well as save money on rent,” Koch said.

Her team incorporated a mahogany bar with an onyx top that was under-lit by a fiber-optic light fixture and stainless steel surfaces in the bar behind the bartender in the design.

“Our biggest challenge was this was a large rectangular box and there was no dynamic space. It had a small window and door and we had to brighten it up,” Koch said. “We had to take the front window and replace it with a floor-to-ceiling window and add windows that would look out into an adjacent garden.”

Koch and her associates also won a first-place award for their work in the over 1,500 square feet commercial category. That award was for Harmony on Fifth at 322 Fifth Ave., a 1930s-era supper club.


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