Interview: Alex Michaelis
Michaelis Boyd

Alex Michaelis from Michaelis Boyd

Ahead of the first Restaurant & Bar Design Talks which are being held at Cabana (Brixton) we spoke to co-founder and designers of Cabana, Alex Michaelis of Michaelis Boyd, for his take on food and beverage design today.

Alex Michaelis established Michaelis Boyd with Tim Boyd in 1995. Since then the studio has made a name for itself with its simple, elegant architecture, with an emphasis on sustainable, environmentally sound solutions. Alex has worked at some of the industry’s largest companies, including Richard Rogers & Partners, Colquhoun, Miller & Partners, and Wickham & Associates.

Michaelis Boyd have built a strong reputation designing interiors for projects ranging from residential new build and renovation to hotels, restaurants and bars for global clients. Recent commissions include Soho House, Kichwa Tembo Game Reserve in Kenya, the Groucho Club in London, the MK2 cinema group in Paris, restaurants for Michelin Star chef Tom Aikens and the Cabana restaurant chain.

How do you think great food and great interior design are linked?

These are becoming more and more about simplicity and seeing the food cleanly prepared – this should be considered as part of the design. Cabana in Brixton is the most colourful of country styles they have done with subtle links to the country so it connects to the food.

Which areas of the world do you see as the best for new F&B concepts?

For me, South America is the most interesting currently and Peruvian concept works very well for Lima. Mexico is also good; the basic quality of the material is really strong. Cheap and cheerful are not interesting, but the truth is very different. There is a lot of high quality that can be used.

What has been your most challenging project to date and why?

When clients challenge us the most – and push us – I like that. When designers are pushed to the edge, that’s when we can get a really great result.

What challenges are unique to hospitality / food and beverage space design?

The challenge that started a while ago – and that is something that we try and bring to all projects – is a sense of being at home and being comfortable. Somewhere one can sit and relax, regardless if it is high end or relaxed – balance is key. Clients must be happy, but equally important is that diners must feel relaxed and comfortable.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Many sources. I do a lot of travelling to other countries. Client interaction too is a useful source. There are so many different leads and important inspirations out there – it’s actually really difficult to pin point. Every now and again I will look at magazines but these can often be too bombarding. I prefer to find inspiration in nature and natural forms rather from media.

Design excellence is when what you imagine is created very closely to the visualization. Also the relationship with the contractor is vital.

Alex Michaelis, Michaelis Boyd

Cabana Brixton

What do you think will be the most significant design trends in the near future for Restaurant & Bar Design?

The small plate movement is endemic right now and people really enjoy the social element of sharing food. Furthermore, the quality of food has never been more important to both chefs and customers. In design terms, simplicity and calmer, more serene spaces combined with – a mix of louder and quieter spaces – bigger opposites. Also looking at sound more closely.

What would be the biggest benefit to you in winning an award from the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards?

We would like to actually win, that would be great for the young team as a whole. Winning is a validation of the success of the business and the enjoyment within it. Other people are working so hard in the office – creating from my sketches and ideas, they deserve that success.


This year’s first Restaurant & Bar Design Talks is to be held at Cabana (Brixton) on the 24th February 2016. Alex Michaelis and David Ponte (Co-founder, Cabana) discuss the brief, challenges and results of this amazing Brasilian themed restaurant in the heart of Brixton. This event is strictly RSVP only, for more information visit the event page.

Images © Michaelis Boyd

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