In this article, Lee Pollock, founder of Lifeforms Design discusses design considerations for hospitality spaces, as well as the importance of budgeting and the impact of COVID-19.
At my design practice, Lifeforms Design, we have a reputation for creating distinctive and imaginative solutions for hospitality and retail spaces. Having been part of this industry for over 30 years, I play an active role in each project, with experience across projects from multiple commercial roll-out units to one-off bespoke sites. From concept to completion being unique isn’t easy in a world dominated by visual influence and now, more than ever, it is important to create a space that appeals to all the senses. The popularity of social media shows how important design is to people’s everyday life, often to the point of not realising it. From previous projects such as Auberge and Peggy Porschen Cakes in London to Skew Restaurant & Oyster Bar in Essex and Livin Italy in Leeds to our most recent project, Reign Bar & Lounge in Broadstairs, my job is to deliver a clients’ design aspirations whilst ensuring the original brief and budget is adhered to.
Hospitality design considerations
As a commercial Interior Designer, I facilitate, edit and guide clients. My experience allows me to direct ideas with an understanding of how a unit can feel day-to-day. Number of covers, quality of materials, furniture, lighting, acoustics are just some of the aspects which need to be considered to ensure the end product does more than look good on an Instagram post, although we never underestimate how important that is as well.
My favourite Lifeform clients have been the ones who have trusted me to deliver their concept. I understand that I see things differently to others and find influence for hospitality design in so many different aspects of my every day. I am hugely fortunate to live by the sea where the contrast of water and land is a constant source of inspiration, it allows me to think freely to create colourways, patterns and themes which clients might not see for themselves.
Brand awareness is something that commercial Interior Designers must have an appreciation for. The most successful projects are ones that ensure the brand as a whole, encompasses ethos, ambience, operation. The hospitality design should be woven in with no discernible differences.
With the growth of visual social media platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest, the expectations of clients and customers have grown alike. Every aspect of the process can be posted including visuals, mood boards, sample boards. Previously this work would have been confidential and just presented to the client, now these stages are public. At the design stage of a project, 15 years ago no one would have expected a visual interpretation of the original concept, now even the smallest of jobs would expect to see some kind of vision of how the end project will look. As a designer, I work hard to be flexible in my approach to visuals. Personally, I often find that a simple hand-drawn sketch visual can give the feeling of warmth that a full developed computer-generated image cannot.
Research should always be your friend. Longevity and quality must be contemplated at all times. In commercial hospitality design consideration must be given to, not only how a material will look, but how it will perform under rigorous circumstances. A patterned floor can be used, for instance, to have visual impact but unless that floor pattern has been protected with a finish or is made up of hard-wearing materials it would fade over time and be rendered useless.
Good operators will understand who their customer base is and what those customers want. From a design point of view, it is crucial to appreciate this from the get-go of any project. I like to try and get inside the heads of the people who will be experiencing the environment as I find that this will ensure the outcome is the best possible version of the original concept. Ultimately, any sort of commercial hospitality unit is nothing without the people inside it. This goes for the customers and staff alike. If customers are happy and feel comfortable, they will spread the word, if the staff are happy and feel comfortable in their environment, they will want to sell it. The experience grows organically with maximum gain all round.
I feel there should always be honesty in regard to budgeting. For both the client and designer, there is little point in designing the ‘best-looking’ restaurant on the street and using the most expensive materials if the completion of the hospitality design project goes way beyond the operational budget. The outcome of this type of mistake will ultimately mean the operation will fail.
Impact of Covid 19
As an industry, we have seen unprecedented challenges throughout the Covid 19 pandemic. The devastating effect the pandemic has had on the hospitality industry will be felt for many years to come; it has changed the way people consider eating out and it remains to be seen as to how long that change will continue to influence. In February 2021, when the Government first produced the roadmap, it created pinpoint dates that have dictated operation in ways that have never been seen before. As a designer working to facilitate the many new aspects of Covid compliance, I have tried to understand the operational logistics of the restrictions, whilst ensuring that ambience and atmosphere is not lost to a world of screens and social distancing. Now, more than ever, socialising in a safe environment should be the end game for all.
About Lifeforms Design
Lifeforms Design by Lee Pollock is an award-winning design practice for restaurants and bars. Celebrating its twentieth year in business, Lifeforms provide a full range of interiors and architectural design services across hospitality, leisure, retail and commercial industries. Colour, form and texture are signature design traits combining luxe and industrial. Winner at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards, Lifeforms is based in Margate on the South East coast of England with projects all over the country from London to Leeds.
About Lee Pollock
Born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Lee began his route into interior design working at RMJM Architects, Faulkner Browns Architects and V&A Design. Eschewing formal training, Lee learnt on the job assisting on the design, drawing and technical aspects of projects. In 2002, Lee launched his own design practice, Lifeforms Design. His first client was Town Centre Restaurants, a company that is still a Lifeforms client to this day.
With a love of clean lines, in particular the ambition of modernist brutalist architecture and colour, Lee draws inspiration from all aspects of living, from classic cars to the Lake District to the shingle on the beach of his home town of Whitstable, on the southeast coast of England.