Decorating Tips from Restaurant Designers

Learn how to set the tone in your own home.

A new utility-grade oak floor warms the space up, while custom lighting fixtures add a whimsical touch. The communal table, originally the fabrication table used to weld the counter’s steel frames, worked so well it was made a permanent fixture. Furniture by Providence’s Greycork provides additional seating.

Sweet Escape

When an ever-changing menu of Instagram-worthy doughnuts is your business’s main fare, you want a design that showcases, rather than distracts from, those showstoppers.

That was the goal when Andrew Tower, co-founder of Providence’s HB Design and Build, was making over the space for PVDonut’s Fox Point storefront, which opened in September 2016. To do that, the obvious first step was to open up the kitchen to give owner Lori Kettelle’s pastries center stage.

A wall dividing the space was replaced with custom steel framing to hold rows of takeout boxes. As the doughnuts sell, the boxes are cleared out, revealing the kitchen behind.

“It’s an architectural element that allows the rhythms of the shop to be made visible,” Tower explains.

The simple color palette — like the room’s fixtures, which include a communal table and lots of light wood — was thoughtfully selected to keep the focus on the product and the effort that goes into making them every day, says Tower.

“To us, the idea that Lori’s doughnuts are so good that they were literally selling them right off the racks was a driving force for the design. We encouraged them to let the kitchen spill out into the space so that you really feel like you’re getting something fresh out of the place where it’s made.”


The orange and blue color scheme, which is carried throughout in the wall color and throw pillows, as well as antique iterations of the American and Rhode Island state flags, add to the cozy ambience.

Setting the Bar

When Sam Glynn and his wife, Lauren, opened their latest restaurant, Statesman Tavern, in spring of 2016 in downtown Bristol, they wanted the design to set the space apart from its former occupant, Persimmon, while also showcasing their modern comfort food and drink-focused menu. Combining Lauren’s artistic sensibilities with Sam’s goal of creating a functional room that felt tavern-like without going overboard, the two created a space that’s welcoming, yet elevated.

“Having a refined design complements the food and cocktails. Everything has to be at the same level; if something was out of whack, it wouldn’t work as well,” Sam says.

Expanding the bar was the first order of business. The couple worked with local craftsman Marc Stimpson, who built Persimmon’s black walnut bar, to double the structure’s original size. A wood plank wall, discovered behind drywall, is accented by the glow from a copper mirror made by local designer Miles Endo. Metallic wallpaper was added to soften the bar’s lines and add an antique touch.

Another major change was the addition of windows in the restaurant’s vestibule, bringing more natural light into the space. A communal table opens up the narrow dining area.

“We tried to create a space that felt like an extension of home, where people felt welcome and I think we’ve achieved that,” Sam says.


Using the same gray tiles for both the floor and base of the oyster bar draws diners’ eyes to the popular seats while also separating the area from the rest of the restaurant.

Blue Crush

Bywater’s waterside location in downtown Warren served as major inspiration when in-town design studio — and Bywater partner — O and G set out to outfit the space. The team was tasked with transforming the former cheese shop into a restaurant with a seafood-centric menu.

Cool blues and grays dominate, warmed by pops of brass and copper. The color palette serves not only an aesthetic purpose, but is also used to break up the room without partitions, which would shrink the already small space. Light gray tiles delineate the oyster bar from the dining area, where a dark blue planked wall anchors the restaurant’s far half with a wave-like swoop and gives the space a cozier feel. Local and handmade touches are everywhere, including the mirror, chairs, tabletops and bar lighting by O and G. A nautical painting by O and G’s Sara Ossana hangs on the south wall and the menu holders, coasters and check presenters were made by Warren leather goods studio Sweettrade. The effect evokes the sea without being theme-y.

“We were inspired by the landscape here in East Bay, without going super nautical,” says O and G designer Jonathan Glatt. “The color palette was a focus. We wanted it to look clear but a little hazy, like stormy skies over calm water.”

Left: An original painting by Statesman Tavern co-owner Lauren Glynn pulls together the space’s color scheme. Middle: At PVDonuts, a custom steel frame forms the counter and holds additional storage. Right: Shelving at Bywater separates the hostess stand from the dining area without completely dividing the room.

Bring It Home

Good design is universal. Here are a few ways to translate elements from these restaurant designs in your personal space.

Find your focus. Pinpoint one area or element — whether it be a bar, seating area or unique piece of furniture — to act as the centerpiece and inspire the rest of the design.

Contain the color. Limit your palette to two or three colors, including neutrals, to keep the look of the space sleek and sophisticated.

Love your lighting. Go bold with eye-catching lighting fixtures that add interest, detail and texture.

Make it personal. Locally made accessories, antique decor and art go a long way in adding personality to a room.

Warm it up. Complement a cooler color scheme with pops of warm hues like brown, orange and yellow.

Mix materials. Layering multiple materials, such as wood, metals and textiles, in one space — while keeping the color palette simple — adds richness and depth.


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