A diner's first impression of a restaurant doesn't come from the food or service — it comes from how a place looks. Companies like Roman and Williams (Lafayette, the Dutch, and the Breslin) and AvroKO (Saxon + Parole, Beauty & Essex) have monopolized the city's design scene for a while, but now there's a new crop of artists equipping the city's restaurants with things like pristine fairy-tale gardens, vintage Scandinavian furniture, and sleek all-wood beer taps. You should keep an eye on these eleven up-and-coming designers.
Parts and Labor Design
Who They Are: In 2009, two AvroKO alums, Andrew Cohen and Jeremy Levitt, launched this small firm so they could design and fabricate all their own furniture and lighting. "We try to make our business chef-driven," says Cohen. "People work hard their whole lives to open a restaurant; we just put our hand-crafted spin on it." Parts and Labor has become the go-to group for owners who want "whimsical but refined" restaurants.
Projects: The Elm and Atera
What's Next: Their team is working on furniture and lighting for the new Brooklyn Fare in Hell's Kitchen, a beer-and-bitters bar, and two top-secret projects in Tribeca and Union Square.
Who They Are: Brothers Evan and Oliver Haslegrave grew up helping their father construct houses, and five years ago, after getting hired to design Elsa, they started their own company. The Haslegraves favor salvaged materials that create a vintage aesthetic.
Projects: Alameda, Tørst, Goat Town, Paulie Gee's, Elsa, Donna, and Telepan 2.0
What's Next: hOmE is designing Telepan Local in Tribeca, as well as a Greenpoint bar called Ramona from the owners of Elsa.
Mauricio Zermeno Bessonart
Who They Are: This Mexico-based designer broke out onto the scene here with a big first Stateside project: Corvo Bianco. "I moved to New York four years ago to do my masters at Parsons, and I met Luis Gonzalez, Corvo Bianco's owner, through a friend," he explains. "I'm a huge fan of natural palettes; I like allowing materials to speak for themselves in their original and natural forms. That fit perfectly into our overall concept of creating an outdoor experience inside the space."
Projects: Corvo Bianco
What's Next: Bessonart wants to divide his time between Mexico and New York so that he lines up new projects.
Alexander Waterworth Interiors
Who They Are: The Musket Room is this two-year-old London-based firm's first project in New York, and it made a strong impression. (Platt allocated one of the two stars in his review to the "small, elegant back room.") Founders Alexander and James Waterworth specialize in sourcing rare antique pieces, like the Musket Room's mid-century Wegner-style chairs, old bar flooring, and bespoke brass fittings.
Projects: The Musket Room
What's Next: James says that they're working with a hotel group to redesign public spaces for the end of 2013, but they can't divulge details. In 2014, the ten-person design team will also open its first New York office.
Dekar Interior Design
Who They Are: Dolores Suarez and Caroline Grant are the designers behind Rosemary's, the impressive, forever-packed restaurant in the West Village owned by Dolores's cousin Carlos Suarez. The space itself required a complete gut renovation: "There were no walls, and the ceiling was about to cave in," says Suarez. "The idea was to make it an urban-European farmhouse. We wanted to create a space where you're outdoors as much as you're indoors."
Projects: Rosemary's, Bobo, and Ribot
What's Next: Suarez and Grant are working on Wallflower, a West Village wine bar that's set to open in October. Suarez says to expect hand-painted tiles, a gold tin ceiling, and a "jewel box feel."
Leroy Street Studio
Who They Are: This award-winning architectural firm has been around for a while, but the owners just completed their first restaurant project: Charlie Bird. "We took on the project because we're friends with Ryan Hardy and Robert Bohr," says partner Shawn Watts. "They wanted the interior to feel like the essence of New York, where they both came to practice their art." Def Jam ended up inspiring the design: The restaurant's filled with boom-box artwork and vintage microphones.
Projects: Charlie Bird
What's Next: LSS focuses primarily on commercial and residential projects, but Watts says the group would happily construct and design another restaurant "if the right group of people came along."
Sway Design Collective
Who They Are: Partners Craig Montoro and Bryan Mesenbourg started Parts + Labor Workshop — which has no affiliation with the aforementioned Parts and Labor Design — to focus on custom furniture and architectural millwork. They recently created a second wing of their business, Sway Design Collective, specifically for design work.
Projects: Pearl & Ash
What's Next: They're in talks to do custom millwork for Kickstarter's new Greenpoint office and penthouse rooftop bar, as well as design the communal dining setup at Good Eggs' new Brooklyn outpost.
Who They Are: This Williamsburg-based architectural, interior, and graphic design firm launched in 2004, and is best known in the industry for overseeing Jose Garces's restaurants in Philadelphia and Atlantic City. Founder Jun Aizaki is steadily building up his company's New York portfolio: He's behind several big restaurants that are set to open within the next year.
Projects: Bistro La Promenade, LT Burger, Marc Forgione, Danji, Veritas, Woodland, Motorino, and RedFarm
What's Next: Crème's working on the soon-to-open RedFarm on the Upper West Side and Decoy, Ed Schoenfeld's Peking-duck-centric restaurant under the original RedFarm location.
Who He Is: The Lower East Side's Preserve24 is actually a sculptural installation that functions as a restaurant. Multidisciplinary artist Brian Goggin, who's based in San Francisco, is the the creator, designer, and partial owner of the restaurant, which spans three 111-year-old tenement buildings and includes a bar made out of repurposed pianos and an 1860s oyster boat. It's the only restaurant project he's completed.
What's Next: Goggin designs site-specific sculptures, and he says he's open to housing a permanent installation inside another restaurant. He's currently working on a 100 x 30 foot piece called "Caruso's Dream" in San Francisco, which will consist of salvaged steel, wood, and factory glass to create pianos that hang off the side of a building.
Who It Is: Portland-based Andee Hess has only completed one project in New York: the stunning West Village Stumptown outpost. She lined the coffee shop with paperback books as an homage to the space's past life as a bookstore, wrapped walls in custom screen-printed plaster wallpaper tiles, and created a separate Brew Bar space as a stage for coffee cuppings.
What's Next: Hess says that she'd love to work on more projects in New York, and is currently engaging in a few "promising" conversations.
Berman Horn Studio
Who They Are: Founders Brad Horn and Maria Berman are both academics: He's the director of the master of architecture program at the City College of New York, where she's a professor. They launched their small six-person company, which is based in a townhouse in Harlem, in 2006. Beyond designing restaurants, furniture, and lighting, they also work on high-tech spaces for television and film production companies.
Projects: Maysville, Txikito, El Quinto Pino, and Char No. 4
What's Next: Horn says that they're in the discussion stages for a new project, but it's not yet official. Stay tuned.