by Liz Barrett (Featuring Irene Yu)
Irene Yu, designer, Arcsine, Oakland, CA: “Focus on areas where customers have the most contact. A festive host stand and waiting area welcome patrons and set the tone for the rest of their experience. Adding cleverly placed string lights to bump up the existing ambient lighting is an easy and noticeable garnish. Additionally, tactile and intimate details incorporated into a table setting are also great opportunities to showcase seasonal florals and greens, which could actually be clippings and sprigs of ingredients featured in carefully crafted winter food and cocktail menus.
“For a big statement, focusing on decorating one big design feature within the restaurant is a good strategy. For instance, if a large exhibition kitchen is present, hanging garlands or string lights in this area would be great, as it already draws on the visual hierarchy present within the restaurant. Another approach would be to choose one material to work with and use it throughout the venue. As an example, metallic finishes are on trend this year, so wrapping a host station, existing columns, built-in furniture, etc. in rose gold tinsel would be an exciting yet simple change.
“As a guest, winter décor can be insanely overwhelming or disappointingly underwhelming. The most successful seasonal décor I’ve seen is all about creating impact in prime areas and composing a scene with the appropriate juxtaposition of materials, patterns, shapes, textures, etc. Stick to a theme, show restraint with balanced vignettes, go for neutral palettes with pops of color, and let the guiding light be to create a hospitable atmosphere where people are guaranteed visual and physical comfort.”