Dining Design Diary: Public Eateries at Coup


Design SF was full of fascinating talks and events, but there was one in particular that was right up my alley: Public Eateries, A Conversation on Designing Restaurants in the Era of Food. It was held at the always mind-blowing Coup showroom

Three of my favorite designers made up the panel: Cass Calder Smith (Twenty Five Lusk, Perbacco, La Mar), Stephen Brady (Spruce, Cafe des Amis) and Charles de Lisle (Canteen, House of Shields). It was moderated by L.A. designer Jeffrey Alan Marks, who in addition to having designed Tavern in Brentwood, is also the star of Bravo’s newest reality show Million Dollar Designer (how much more L.A. can you get?).

Marks’ Tavern 


With the city’s growing obsession with food, it’s only natural that the design of restaurants become a topic worthy of dissection. Smith said it well when he stated that he thought of restaurants as the city’s de facto public spaces—places where people gather, communicate and share experiences. He said it was this philosophy that drove many of his designs, such as the lofty (and still classic) Lulu, one of the original stomping grounds for the high-tech set in SoMa. Same could be said for his most recent project, Twenty Five Lusk, which features a variety of seating areas and lounge spaces, making it about the gathering of people as opposed to just the setting of a meal. 


Smith’s Lulu

Smith’s Twenty Five Lusk

Smith’s Twenty Five Lusk

Stephen Brady talked about designing Spruce, which perfectly captures the casual elegance of the neighborhood. Like Smith’s spaces, Spuce has different areas for hanging out, drinking, and dining, one of things Brady hoped would allow it to become a neighborhood institution. And were those caramel colored leather seats really as pricey as they looked? Well, let’s just say Brady alluded to an unlimited budget and very few constraints on his “creativity.”


Brady’s Spruce

Brady’s Spruce


Charles de Lisle told a starkly different tale of designing Dennis Leary’s Canteen with a budget of $6,000—all of which the he was paid in food credit. Ten years later, he’s still enjoying a free lunch. The two men are great friends, so instead of telling a story about the food with his design, de Lisle aimed to tell a story about the owner—the light-up arrow on the back wall pointing at the chef’s workstation was a tongue-in-cheek reference to what de Lisle affectionately called “Dennis’ big ego.” Simple, playful and with a nod to the utilitarian designs of communist Germany, the space is still one of my favorites. 

de Lisle’s Canteen

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