We speak to the design director of Wilson Associates Singapore’s Blueplate Studios, Dennis Tan, who generously shares the secret behind great F&B interior design that have us drooling
Key insights from Dennis Tan
What is fundamental to your design practice – your philosophy and your process? Always allow yourself time to be inspired, the rest will follow as you start peeling away layers while in the depths of research. Listening to people when they share their stories, thoughts and experiences is a good way to gain inspiration. This includes clients, operators and guests. They all have one thing in common: they want your attention. You also need to be observant of the surroundings, architecture and the urban landscape of where your design process and focus would begin, be it a bar, lounge, a local speciality restaurant, or a fine dining restaurant; it all relates to the people and the guests’ experience. I think about how I can create a unique moment that would etch a mental postcard, because at the end of the day, the four integral parts of any successful F&B destination I design is a combination of ambience, comfort, great food, and people. Who or what are some of your inuences? Which other designers, artists or other creatives do you admire? I admire the works of Tadao Ando and Corbusier for their heightened sense of space and their surroundings. Carving from the inside out, both masters create spaces that resonate and harness invisible energy that speaks to the human mind in no other way. Tony Chi and his work has its influence on my consciousness in design more directly. I’ve had the privilege to be part of his studio with Dan Kwan and I’ll always remember this quote of his: “It is not what you design, it’s what you don’t!” What are some of your methods to staying motivated, focused and expressive? Meditate – the mind is only what you can imagine out of it. Seek out and experience new palates with an open mind. Both innovation and imagination can’t do without the other. It’s good to use the operator’s concept brief as a guideline, and not be held back creatively.
Wilson Associates has designed beautiful restaurants around the globe. Which areas of the world do you see as the best for new F&B concepts? Having a presence globally through our studios in the Americas, Middle East, Europe and Asia has broadened our reach. I would like to imagine Africa, South Africa or Eastern Europe as the new frontiers in broadening and experiencing the new palates and culture. What challenges are unique to designing hospitality/f&b spaces? The location, surrounding businesses and community spirit. That can influence the daily lives of individuals who use the F&B venues we design, for example a meeting place for a business meal, or a first date, anniversary or promotion celebration. Local culture and positioning amongst its competitors/ neighbours are important levers that could be used to engage guests in a whole new approach like mixed used, casual chic, hipster with a local flair, and global appeal. Places like Lan Kwai Fong in Hong Kong, Xintiandi in Shanghai, Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur and Holland V in Singapore have these qualities to combine and harness, creating an F&B neighbourhood. What is the most critical element of an effective restaurant design? Blueplate, Wilson’s F&B design studio delivers revolutionary concepts for celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Clare Smyth and David Myers. Every new project is an exciting adventure and we pay special attention to four integral aspects: ambience, comfort, quality of food and guest experience. We aim to be leaders in shaping tomorrow’s F&B landscape, creating a design narrative broad and layered enough to offer guests a diverse experience. For instance, Adrift was inspired by David Myers himself and his culinary adventures which transverse different cultures. The restaurant’s striking interior is styled with timber walls and dark copper fixtures to create a sophisticated yet intimate ambience. Is there a challenging project that you’re especially proud of? Pan Pacific Singapore’s Edge and Hai Tien Lo restaurants were hugely ambitious renovation projects that were in response to stiff competition from nearby luxury hotels. Currently, both restaurants have set the tone and are benchmarks for the F&B community here in Singapore. How do you think food and interior design are linked? In the human mind, both register emotions unique to the moment. All senses are activated in a conscious and sub-conscious way. If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Isaac Asimov. Where would you eat and what would you be having? I would imagine having a Chinese reunion dinner at my granny’s, having my favourite Hainanese pork chops.
THIS PAGE Dennis Tan
OPPOSITE FROM TOP Pan Pacific Singapore; Makan Kitchen at Double Tree by Hilton, KL