How to create an award-winning pub design

By Stuart Stone contact

- Last updated on GMT

Powerhouse: Darwin & Wallace is setting high standards for pub and bar design
Powerhouse: Darwin & Wallace is setting high standards for pub and bar design
Mel Marriott of Darwin & Wallace – winner of the pub category at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards three years on the spin – speaks to The Morning Advertiser about pub design.

No29 Power Station West, which can be found in the new building development surrounding London’s Battersea Power Station – one of the largest property developments in Europe – won big at the 10th​ annual Restaurant & Bar Design Awards, picking up the pub category award and the prize for best overall UK bar.

Founded six years ago, with the backing of a group of investors supported by specialist investor in the UK leisure and hospitality market, Imbiba, the site’s operator Darwin & Wallace has now won the pub design category in each of the last three years.

No29, designed by Box 9 Design, saw off competition from 11 venues​ to take home this year's award.


Founder Mel Marriott, who according to her company’s website founded Darwin & Wallace out of frustration over the abundance of mediocre, identikit “gastropubs”, described the achievement as “really thrilling”.

"To win it two times in a row we were beside ourselves, three times in a row – unheard of"

Since launching the company’s first site, No11 Pimlico Road, in Pimlico, south-west London, six years ago, Darwin & Wallace has expanded it's portfolio across the capital – with a seventh site in Ealing currently in the works.

Marriott spoke to The Morning Advertiser ​about the design and development of her award winning sites.

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What do you attribute your design success to?

"I've a passion for design and a genuine interest in creating unique spaces.

“I work with Lou Davies of Box 9 designs and we're completely in sync on not only creating those unique spaces but also working with artisans in their own right – we're not just about ordering 30 chairs from a catalogue, we literally create unique designs that we think will then resonate with our guests who are design savvy. They like to have comfort, but also experience new things.

“It stems from a passion. Yes, Lou and I have evolved our relationship over the years but we've just always been on the same page, I think. Authenticity is a very important word.”


Did you have a theme or overriding vision in mind for No29 Power Station West?

"In Battersea, the obvious connotations are the industrial heritage, but actually if you scratch the surface a bit I think industrial chic is a bit of a time worn theme in London.

“If you look at Battersea power station and the original drawings of the control room and see the actual marquetry in the construction of the control centre it's genuinely beautifully made. Whereas now one might build a functional space, it was genuine craftsmanship and in those days it was the only way people knew how to build things - parquet floors and huge attention to detail.

“What we tried to encompass in No29 was recognising we were next door to an industrial powerhouse but also bringing a sense of the craftsmanship and the elegance of that era, the 1920s and 1930s when London was fun and elegant – look at the art deco influences. It's not just about industrial influences it's about capturing a bit of that glamour as well.”


How important is a unique design and vision for each or your sites?

"I think it's essential. Certainly for me.

“If one's trying to entertain people, if your stock-in-trade is trying to give people lovely moments of hospitality then part of that is creating an environment for them to feel happy in and comfortable in and aspire to.

“It's got to be interesting and they've got to feel that their tastes are reflected.

“That's what I feel is our responsibility. Not to dumb things down, it's certainly to up the ante and try and make it as interesting as possible.”

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Do you have any hints or tips for anyone looking to embark on a design project at their site?

"I suppose the first thing is to look at your environment, look at your local audience. I think it's a bit contrived if you try and put a New York speakeasy in the middle of a suburban town. Look at your local audience and think 'what would everyone enjoy?'

“Make it comfortable, make it accessible, not too try-hard – quite relaxed. I know there's a place and time for places that are super smart, but, certainly what I do, is more about everyday comfort, accessibility and enjoyment.

“I think people need to trust their instincts and try to gauge what people might like to enjoy in their local area."


To find out more about pubs for sale, lease and tenancy visit our property site​.

Related topics: Property law

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