We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Thu 18 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Future projections

Technology lies at the core of Soho's new Inamo restaurant – but the success of the space hinged on blending it in.

Technology lies at the core of Soho's new Inamo restaurant – but the success of the space hinged on blending it in.

In Inamo, Tim Mutton, co-founder of the interior design firm Blacksheep, sees a nod to the future.

Lying in the heart of London's Soho, the recently-opened Asian fusion restaurant takes interactive dining to its next logical level - menus are projected onto table tops so that diners can place their orders, change the ambiance of their space, play games, look up local info and even book a cab, all at the tap of a screen.

The 310m2, 62-cover Wardour Street restaurant and downstairs bar is the brainchild of Danny Potter and Noel Hunwick, who appointed Anthony Sousa Tam, a product of UK dining heavyweights Atami, Chino Latinos, Nobu, Hakkasan and Ubon, as head chef.

To complement the high-end ethos of the restaurant, the duo asked Blacksheep to create an interior that exuded warmth, vibrancy, charm and theatre.

As a result, customers approaching the restaurant are greeted with a brand new, jet-black timber façade.

A graphic vinyl featuring solid and translucent star patterns has been applied to the shop-front windows to protect interior light levels, whilst making a strong visual statement and allowing for tantalising glimpses of the inside.

Entrance to the restaurant is via glazed doors, which lead into a small lobby area emblazoned with a high-impact red, black and white graphic. Structural considerations dictated that this entrance area was maintained - the restaurant was once two separate buildings with an alleyway, which was subsequently in-filled, at its centre.

After a 25-year spell as an Italian restaurant, the space required a few structural changes to convert it into a cutting-edge centre of fusion cuisine. Alterations focused on the ground floor and included the removal of columns and a structural wall to open the space up. It also created an extension at the rear of the house, which made space for an additional 20 covers.Elegant, quirky and unorthodox are the words Mutton uses to describe Blacksheep's work. "Blacksheep exists to create design excellence in the built environment. Our clients come to us looking for change and points of difference, and that is what we deliver."

"The team applies the same commitment to the big idea and the smallest detail, always looking to set new standards, break the mould and inject all projects with a sense of positivity and possibility. We treat our clients as individuals with individual needs and tailor our creative thinking and services to suit, looking to create design solutions that exceed and transform our clients' expectations," he outlined.

Getting interactive

With Inamo, technology was the key differentiator. Blacksheep-designed ‘cocoons' containing projectors, computers and frames, are suspended from the black gloss ceiling. Set at the same height throughout, they come in different sizes to light two-, four- and six-cover tables.

When customers sit down they are greeted with a white spot for plates and an individual e-cloth for each table. A touch panel is used to order food and drink and customers can also choose their preferred table-top pattern from a selection of seven.

Serving staff are available at any time to help but menus have been designed to be both intuitive and fool-proof.

"The signature elements within the restaurant are the interactive bar tops, projector cocoons and feature kaleidoscope graphic light panels," said Mutton.

"The beauty of Inamo is that the projected technology is extremely flexible and has an endless amount of uses. Unlike a normal restaurant, the look and feel of the interior can be easily changed at literally the flick of a button. The interior can be adapted to suit a shift in taste or even clientele, such as themed evenings," he maintained.

But while the technology offers both flexibility and a futuristic appeal, it presented a fair number of challenges, said Mutton.

"Our biggest challenge with the space was ensuring that all of the projectors were perfectly aligned above each table. The projector framework is fixed onto an adjustable Uni-strat grid, giving us a small amount of flexibility but, more importantly, stability. Each table is also fixed to ensure that the projected image cannot be offset through the day-to-day usage of the restaurant."While the restaurant is characterised by its interactivity, the ultimate aim was to create a space with a strong sense of identity - a concept that would comfortably co-exist with the technology at its core, rather than being overwhelmed by it.

"It was important that the vivid projections were equally met by an impressive interior scheme, creating a strong and unified impression."

Print works

Blacksheep's scope of responsibility extended beyond the interior; the company contributed to all of the restaurant's graphic applications, creating new iconography for signage, menus and marketing materials, in addition to environmental graphics, from wallpaper to table tops, etched patterns for the shop front and illuminated screens.

Patterns were inspired by and adapted from traditional Asian print designs.

The basic design concept for the entire restaurant centres on the kaleidoscope, Mutton revealed. Vinyl wallpaper, mirrored panels and an unrelenting infusion of graphics imprint that kaleidoscopic effect onto the walls. "Within the restaurant we used bespoke feature mirrored panels with an etched pattern.

These panels are backlit using a coloured diffused acrylic and strip LED lighting supplied by Zone Creations. On the remaining walls within the restaurant we used bespoke vinyl wallpaper. The patterns used on both the wall panelling and wallpaper have a strong graphic relationship with the projected patterns on each table top.

"On the remaining walls within the scheme we used a number of vinyl wallpapers, supplied by Muraspec and Designtec. The wallpapers are monochrome to allow the feature elements, such as projector cocoons, to stand out within the scheme," Mutton continued.

Surfaces and lighting were also selected with the projectors - and their projections - in mind. Lighting had to be carefully considered to ensure that it was appropriate for a restaurant expecting trade throughout the day and night.

"Attention had to be paid especially to ensure that the lighting levels did not bleach out the projections over the tables," said project designer, Benjamin Webb.For a flexible lighting system we used adjustable down lighters on a dimmable control.

Each wall panel is backlit with a red and orange diffuser, giving the restaurant a sense of warmth and vibrancy.

"The table tops within the restaurant are finished in a white Corian. Corian was used as it was the best material to display the projections clearly. In contrast to the Corian table tops we used a dark stained timber cladding throughout, which added warmth to the scheme," said Webb.

Wenge timber-effect vinyl flooring also adds a sense of warmth and was supplied by Armstrong flooring. Meanwhile, seating was sourced from Protocol.

"Within the restaurant we used the Lola Chair. As we were restricted by the amount of space, a small yet comfortable chair such as the Lola was an ideal choice. Within the bar we used a smaller tub stool supplied by Protocol. The remaining seating within the restaurant and bar is fixed banquette seating," Webb continued.

Unifying features ensure that the downstairs bar communicates the same design language as the restaurant overhead.

However, the absence of any technological elements means that a warmer and darker colour scheme has been used to create a greater sense of intimacy.

Graphic screens replicate the patterns that permeate the ground floor but are coupled with bronze mirrors, with a glowing red backing, to promote a sense of space.

Pendant light fittings float overhead, replacing the cocoon fittings but reinforcing an overriding sense of warmth, vibrancy, charm and theatre.

Designer background:

Blacksheep. Recently completed projects include Whisky Mist at Zeta Bar and nightclub at London Hilton on Park Lane.

Client comment:

"Before starting the build of this project, we had pitches from four different interior designers with our brief and keywords: warm, vibrant, charm, theatre. Blacksheep stood out because of their ability to take our brief on board, while simultaneously inputting their own creative flair and talents into the project. They have since created a holistic design that ties into and around our concept, adding value throughout." Danny Potter and Noel Hunwick.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest construction news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.