Interior design

The tips of award-winning pub designers

By Liam Coleman contact

- Last updated on GMT

Award winning: The Refinery in Regent's Place, London
Award winning: The Refinery in Regent's Place, London

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These three recently-opened venues have been crowned the best in the country at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards. We asked the designers for the secrets about their successful pub designs.

Best Standalone Bar or Club: The Refinery Regent’s Place

“We have a strong relationship with Drake & Morgan and have worked with them since day one. We get together with them on a monthly basis, if not more often, and chat through all the sites and design generally, so it is a close working relationship that we have had with them since 2008. 

“We have traditionally created the brief alongside Drake & Morgan’s team. When a new site comes up, we all visit the site together and chat about what feels right for the space and area. We verbally agree and outline what we are going to do and they then leave us to create the concept; we then present that back to them and off we go. 

“The Refinery was a tiny bit different because it was the first site where D&M decided to create a multiple brand. This was the test for how that would work.

“Regent's Place is a great public space, but is very dominated by grey stone and is actually quite stark colour-wise. We all agreed that the venue should be a glowing candle-lit coloured hub right in the middle of the square and I think we really achieved that. 

“We wanted to juxtapose the concrete urban backdrop with something really cosy. Our reference point was an Alpine lodge. We wanted people to want to nestle in that pocket of comfort in the middle of the square.

“The lighting and tone of the materials we used were very important in achieving that cosy feel. The timber we used to clad the bulkhead and ceiling is a gorgeous elm. It has blush pink tones throughout the timber, so you get that warmth from that. The rest of the palate was then created around that.”

Sam Smith, Fusion Design & Architecture


Vagabond Wines, Spitalfields Market (London, UK) Finch Interiors 1

Best UK Bar: Vagabond Wines

“Stephen [Finch, founder and director of Vagabond Wines] wanted the venue to feel lived in. We played on that and made it all look as if it was timeless and had all been there all along.

“We had lots of existing items that the client had. For instance, we used reclaimed scaffolding boards on the wine joinery unit and had the brick wall sandblasted, not all the way back to the brick, but so that you could just see the paint finish.

“On top of that, we had an artist called Sophie Ward, who did the murals on the walls to give them a hand painted look, rather than vinyls. 

“We used the wooden wine boxes, which had been in storage, as a feature on the ceiling. We wanted to do a wow factor, but it was so narrow and small we couldn't use any space on the ground. However, on the ceiling you can do whatever you want because nobody could touch it and you were not losing covers.

“Since designing the Spitalfields site, we have done Northcote Road and are doing another one for Vagabond Wines. We are making sure we have the wine-box ceiling in every venue now, but are making sure we do it in a different way each time.”

Sophie Finch, Finch Interiors

No 1 Duke Street (London, UK) Box 9 Design & Red Deer Architects 3

Best pub: No 1 Duke Street

“The brand had a specific vision in that they wanted to create an inspirational home-style interior.

“The actual venue itself was absolutely hideous beforehand; it could not have been a grimmer setting. Opening up the space and pulling in as much natural light as possible was therefore by far the most important thing.

“We wanted to create a journey. It was a small lobby into a small corridor into a dark back room, so opening up that whole journey was important.

“We looked to get as much light into the building as we could, so we completely changed the entrance at the front and the courtyard. While we had to do quite a lot of intelligent structure work to get light into the back area.

“On top of that, we had to restructure the whole entrance lobby. The old facade had weird old columns and was completely different. We used a completely fresh facade that opened up much wider and with full height, so it was much more in line. That set the whole tone for the journey through the venue.”

Louise Davies, Box 9 Design (worked with Red Deer on project)

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