Building Products & Materials

Pulling together the kaleidoscopic range of materials and products with which to bring a particular restaurant concept to life is one of the great joys of the job for many designers, but it’s also a constant balancing act. The thrill of the hunt for materials that are on-trend, unique and aesthetically appropriate — and provide just the right wow-factor — can be quickly tempered by the cold, hard realities of budget, lead times, durability, sanitation and maintenance.

The key to success? Whether designer or operator, don’t fall in love with a particular look or material without a thorough examination of how it’s likely to perform and what its total cost, including sourcing, installation, maintenance, and eventual repair or replacement, will be. All restaurant surfaces must stand up to abuse — some much more than others — and factors such as customer demographics, service style, hours of operation and anticipated volume must come into play.

And in every case, designers insist, when it comes to selecting materials for restaurant projects, branding trumps trends.

For Ken Lam, co-founder and principal of Navigate Design, with offices in Toronto and New York, selecting products and materials that satisfy both form and function is a process that’s entirely brand-driven. A participant inrd+d’s Designers Dish story earlier this year, Lam talked about his approach to materials and what’s top of mind in his studio.

“Interior design has a tendency to get very bored very easily when it comes to ‘what’s hot’ in materials,” Lam says. “We’re probably already bored with the things that you’re seeing all over Pinterest — the really buzzy stuff. Tile, for example: Hexagonal and rhombus-shaped tile has been really hot, but we’re moving on to tile that has non-uniform shapes, 3-D tile, etc. We really like to look for what’s next and who hasn’t done something like it yet.

“As for classic materials, such as marble and wood: They’ll always be classic, and there’s no shift away from them,” Lam continues. “And fabric is huge, especially mixing fabrics and seeing how we can engage the dual- and triple-tone colors in fabrics. In lighting, the big shift is toward LED — decorative and not just architectural. You can actually now have a chandelier with Edison bulbs that looks pretty real.

“Ultimately, however, all materials choices are brand-driven. Authenticity is key, and when a brand calls for an old material, you can’t really say no because that’s what will best portray the brand.”

uniroyal casablanca

Vinyl-Coated Fabric

Casablanca is a classic and elegant linen collection that combines inspired design with dimensional texture and exceptional performance. Available in 10 colors, Casablanca colorways stand alone or pair with a wide range of solids. This collection was developed with the restaurant industry in mind; all patterns are stain resistant and flame retardant and contain an agent to protect against bacterial and fungal microorganisms.

Uniroyal Global Engineered Products Inc.

enveldesign fracturedice

Fractured Ice Surfacing

ENVELEX Fractured Ice is a surfacing product that creates interplay between fractured glacial effects and a smooth icy background. Ideal for themed bar dies, column faces, wall inserts and signage applications where icy effects are called for, this product can be specified in any combination of colors and thicknesses.


oldegoodthings chickenwireglass2

Vintage Chicken Wire Glass

Vintage chicken wire glass is produced by pouring glass over actual twisted chicken wire, as opposed to modern-day versions of chicken wire glass that are laminated. It is shatterproof and intercepts more than 99 percent of incoming ultraviolet rays, protecting objects from discoloration caused by exposure to direct sunlight. It is available in clear and a variety of patterns, textures and styles, including mirrored and stained glass.

Olde Good Things

formica infiniti

Bacteria-Resistant, Thermal-Healing Formica

Formica Infiniti laminates feature a soft-to-the-touch, super-matte finish that resists bacteria growth, making them ideal for dining surfaces, countertops and bar wraps. Infiniti’s fingerprint resistance is well-suited to any application from countertops, dining tables and accent walls to furniture and doors. The products are designed to stand up to any mishap with thermal healing capabilities.

Formica Corporation

vgs signage

Integrated Design Elements

VGS/Studio D recognizes the need for well-developed spaces, including all elements that create mood and “theater.” From tables and chairs to bar tops, menu boards, graphics and more, successful design considers all aspects of the customer experience. VGS offers an in-house design studio, a 110,000-square-foot manufacturing space, product development, value engineering and rapid prototyping of designs. VGS designs, fabricates and installs elements customized to a brand or space.

VSG/Studio D

omnova rebalance insights

High-Performance 3-D Laminates

The Rebalance INSIGHTS collection of surf(x) 3-D laminates showcases trend-leading designs for decorative surfaces. These laminates can be membrane-pressed or vacuum-formed to contoured surface profiles. A wide selection of patterns and designs includes solid colors, realistic wood grains and abstract patterns.

OMNOVA Solutions

carnegie image (3)

Athleisure-Inspired Fabrics

Carnegie and Gensler collaborated to create PRFM, a new line of high-performance textiles that takes cues from fashion’s current darling, “athleisure” wear. The line includes seven patterns suited to contemporary contract settings, not only simulating sportswear’s high-performance qualities but also its values such as collaboration, connectivity and even competition.


crypton conneaut

New Crypton Leather

Crypton, a leader in performance textiles, is now available in leather. Crypton’s chemists worked with technical experts at Conneaut Leather to create a stain-, water- and bacteria-resistant leather designed for hospitality furnishings and wall-covering applications. Designed to make the luxury of leather truly practical, it provides a viable alternative to vinyl in high-wear environments.


Current Issue

rd+d September/October Magazine Cover