From early childhood, Robert Angell had a passion for design. Making and creating things, he began designing, developing and honing pieces of bespoke furniture and lighting whilst still at school. From this, his interest only grew and Robert consolidated his passion with a degree in Interior Design from Nottingham Trent University, before being drawn to London, where he knew the greatest figures in the creative industry could be found to work alongside.
Robert Angell began his career being mentored by the late great David Collins, then a relatively unknown phenomenon. Great friends and colleagues, Robert worked closely alongside David Collins for over 15 years as Creative Director, before launching his own design studio: Robert Angell Design International in 2010.
Since 2010, Robert has developed his own timeless and bespoke style, with design that evokes glamour and luxury. Bringing references from his passion of Design and Art History, Robert draws from the great modernists and masters of the past. He has designed some of the most successful hospitality spaces including the Award-winning Piccolino Cicchetti, London and Marcus at The Berkeley. We spoke to Robert Angell about his take on hospitality design today.
How do you think great food and interior design are linked?
There has been an exciting explosion of restaurant and bar launches during the last decade with a prolific frenzy of competition and search for new ways of cooking, presenting and eating food. There are so many cultures, influences and variations of tastes in London and the UK which make it such a vibrant country. This diversity of flavours, menus and dining concepts all require different backdrops from which to excite, entice and enhance the experience of the diners who visit. The nineties saw a major explosion in restaurants and restaurant design, from Conran’s ever expanding restaurant empire with huge dining rooms and big wine walls with seating to accommodate ever-increasing numbers of diners, to glamour-driven, dine in to be seen in restaurants.
The restaurant world has now evolved to reflect the world we live in today and the way people want to dine. The presentation of food and use of fresh ingredients now attract diners back to experience something new and there has been a re-birth of the local ‘neighbourhood’ restaurant with its clear emphasis on the quality, provenance and authenticity of food. Now the story of the food is on the menu, its wellbeing and journey is paramount to the dining experience and therefore the interiors of a restaurant are very much linked. In this way they help to reflect, complement and enhance the dining experience and what that particular restaurant or bar stands for, be it the food, the service and so on.
Which area of the world do you see as the best for emerging hospitality design?
London is always a great place for emerging hospitality design, and this can often be seen in existing buildings, where interiors have been renewed or added to. Hong Kong and Dubai have also seen an explosion in hospitality design in recent years, with great refurbishment projects taking place.
What has been your most challenging project to date and why?
They all have their own challenges. This is often the exciting part as essentially we are visionaries and endeavour to find innovative solutions for our clients. Working directly with our clients is hugely inspiring – they often question and challenge us, which pushes our vision forward and we rise to the challenge to exceed their expectations and brief.
Working with Marcus Wareing on his restaurants was very challenging as he was extremely involved throughout the entire design process, questioning everything and how it will all function and work and look overall. The renovation of Marcus at The Berkeley was an incredible and hectic period but we produced an amazing result which was the creation of a beautiful bespoke restaurant that is hugely successful, buzzing with atmosphere and always full.
What would be the biggest benefit to you in winning an award from Restaurant & Bar Design Awards?
Having won best Multiple Restaurant in 2013 I can say from experience it was brilliant for our clients and crucially also to our new and potentially new clients; to attest to our talents and show that we are leaders in our field, which makes us very proud and it gives us that impetus to strive for the next award in everything we do.
What was the first food and beverage space you designed?
When I established my studio in 2010 we designed a beautiful restaurant called Five Fields in Chelsea. Chef Taylor Bonnyman came to us with a brief to design an English inspired dining room in a small Chelsea townhouse restaurant. The building was small and so we decided to execute a basement dig to house the kitchen and put an additional floor on the top to house staff. The ground floor then became the main restaurant where we managed to squeeze in 40 covers and 15 covers in a private dining room on the first floor. It was an exercise in clever spatial arrangement and detailing. We custom-made everything except the dining chairs which came from Soane Britain and created a really stunning, elegant space.
As a designer how would you describe your style?
My design style is very much timeless and bespoke to each particular project and this is reflected in our unique approach to each and every client and space. The common style that runs through all of my designs is one that evokes glamour and luxury. I am also passionate about Design and Art History and this passion provides huge inspiration for our projects and shapes my own design aesthetic. My clients are worldly and always searching for the next ultimate luxury, yet they also want to invest in things that are classic and enduring. I think that my style reflects this desire and aspiration for ageless glamour and beauty within the interiors I design but we also strike a careful balance between creating designs that are of now and yet remain timeless.
What design challenges are unique to hospitality, food and beverage space design?
Dining Tables and Dining Chairs are certainly unique to hospitality design. It is essential to get these two things right for the type of restaurant, style of service and how these are positioned in a space. They are the main elements that get noticed the most by the customer if the heights and sizes are wrong and the waiting staff can’t fit everything that needs to go on them. I cannot stress enough how key these pieces are to get this right.
Who gave you your start in the industry and what did you learn most from that experience?
I was lucky enough to have met and worked with David Collins who almost single-handedly shaped the restaurant design industry to become what it is today. There is not one of us who has not been in a restaurant he has designed – he has designed some of the most iconic restaurant interiors of all time. His sudden and unexpected passing is a tragic loss but in a way it paves the way for all of us as young, new designers to continue his legacy and now translate our own influences and ideas into such an amazing and ever-changing, dynamic industry.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I find inspiration in so many things; from travelling and experiencing the cultures of the different countries I visit, and discovering new food, customs, ceremonies and so on, to reading inspiring books and magazines, or visiting antique markets and art galleries in London or Paris and absorbing the rich visuals on display. We now have such a wealth of resources available to us in which we can take advantage of and use in our search for inspiration; it is sometimes almost overwhelming the amount of information there is to hand. Therefore I often find the challenge is actually in deciphering what the real inspirations are and how I can use or adapt these to create something incredible.
In your eyes, who were (or are) the ‘Kings’ and ‘Queens’ of hospitality design?
In my eyes, I would be proud to say that Robert Angell Design International is an industry leader in hospitality design. I think each and every design company deserves recognition as it is such an amazing emotional journey delivering restaurants and bars. I think the real Kings and Queens are our amazing clients we work with, who have faith and trust in what we design for them as part of their own vision.
What are the three most invaluable pieces of advice that you would give to aspiring hospitality designers?
Be unique, Be individual, Be hard working;
all of these combined produces amazing results.
How do you define Design Excellence?
Return on the client’s investment. Good design is not only about looking amazing but good design should enhance the life and business of your client and their brand.
What do you think will be among the most significant design trends in the near future for restaurant and bar design?
I think that all depends on the entrepreneurs who drive this amazing industry and the way they use our services to create their backdrop for whatever they feel inspired to want us to eat. There is a huge amount of creativity flourishing in the food and drink industry currently and there is still much more to come that is set to excite us all. All I know is that we are there for the industry to help create their personal visions.
Images © Robert Angell International Design
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