The dining experience has changed substantially in recent years, and restaurant design trends are adapting to the transformation with a renewed focus on the experiential side of the restaurant business. As digital transformation has changed the way information is consumed, what it means to have a dining experience has also altered. While some restaurant owners prefer starting with a raw space that can serve as a blank canvas for their design vision, others are embracing & exploring the benefits of ‘Upcycling’. Recycling’s more appealing cousin, upcycling is the act of repurposing an existing object or structure in a way that makes it even more appealing than its original state. Recognized pan India specifically for their eclectic and emblematic interiors, Chromed Design Studio plays in a multiplicity of repertoires, never sticking to purity of style, rather letting the vicinity translate into a vocabulary that’s both informal and bold.
A cost-effective design methodology incorporates the leftovers of materials used in workshops and transforms it into new and exciting objects with luxurious and glamorous DNA, characterizing the brand of the restaurant. Upcycling has proven to be an extremely flexible trend for environmentalists who want to keep useful materials out of the waste stream, business owners looking for a cost-effective way to grow and scale, and finally, for consumers who love restaurants with a quirky backstory. A significant way to achieve it is through decor items, with which one can emulate a variety of products that can be easily found in the market. An extraordinary instance is the popular hyper-local restro bar chain Social Offline, some of which are designed by architect Abhigyan Neogi of Chromed Design Studio. The use of comforting and easy materials from everyday life have been heavily implemented to achieve a realistic yet creative setup.
The Cyber Hub Social’s decor is an epitome of minimal intervention and maximum up-cycling. The space unveils through a revealing narrow gali flanked by rooms on both sides, leading to a large central courtyard housing the bar and the dance floor. The experience is complete when one turns the corner to get to this area. The courtyard has seating with carrom board table tops for a casual chawl evening. Immense detail is given to user experience and surprise, as all the rooms reveal distinct characters flowing to the bar and dance floor. From corrugated sheets chajjas on the exterior and interiors to the vitrified tiles on the bar counter enhancing the ruggedness of a low-cost housing model, a majority of the entities are upcycled and processed. The rustic open balconies, alfresco tables, the clothes hanging outside and the very grungy pan shop at the entrance gives one the very feel of a realistic environment. The bunting design overhead created with elaborate decorations, enhances the festivity full-fledged. Lighting pattern is innovative with the use of lit planters, bulbs topped with mini table clothes, antique lamps and even bare distressed bulbs. Taking the essence of urban settlements, the outdoor furniture is also formatted inside concrete Hume-pipes, which are artistically vandalized with graffiti inside.
Another annotation of this intent is reflected avidly at the Social Offline, Nehru Place that enthusiastically portrays the 90’s pirated MS-DOS and Walkman. Indoor elements emphasize on the Ferris wheel-style enclosures, replicating the character of a fair in Old Delhi dazzled with chunks of bulbs. The entry street from the mall to one of the entries at Social signifies the overall character of a dingy street in a cramped locale similar to old Delhi with posters on side. The compatibility of technology in the forms of smart watches, smart phones, laptops, computers, television have given birth to an era where an individual’s life is spent “online”. As one enters Social, it cuts off and “offline’s” us from the luxurious walkways of epicoria and transforms into a rustic setting. In addition to this, hanging chairs and tables, Stadium-like stair seats and discarded computers and CPUs serving as wall greens reflect the characteristic of an IT setting. Exposed material finishes and metal exude a signature grungy look whereas exposed concrete chiseled brick and rough wood extenuate the premises. A playful use of Nehru place metro station signage has been implemented to uplift the overall character of the space. The view of the stadium seating with bike headlights and bar lights are made of AC copper pipes. It is a next gen design breaking away from the age-old philosophy of designing and producing.
Similarly, the decor of Social sector 7 Chandigarh, has been used to facilitate a raw connection by being extremely relatable, whether it’s by incorporating local lingo, culture-specific symbols, or even the aluminum balti and thali (bucket and plates) that are used to serve food. The main entrance has been fashioned from a tram that was reprocessed and shipped from Kolkata to introduce an element of surprise and awe for the visitors. Whether it’s the entry of the establishment, the seating area or private space, or the bar area, the possibilities with upcycling are endless. Abhigyan has gone all out with this challenging design where he has planned such that functionality of the space is masterfully fused into the quirky, playful feel of the space to fuel creativity. Exposed service lines in the roof make for easier, quicker maintenance, incorporating them into the interiors was quite the master stroke. To undo the slow-self destruction, providing spaces which inspire the artist within, is how Social has made their mark and continue to become better. Social has evolved into a space that symbolizes community living – a place that stands for unity, togetherness, security, camaraderie, cultural essence and ethos – minus all of the pretenses of modern-day life.
Modern restaurateurs are rapidly inclining towards an eco-friendly lens that respects both the past & the future and caters to the present-day priorities. Concerning upcycling, the possibilities in interior design are immense. Its implementation in restaurants not only gives a new life to the object but if done coherently, the spirit and functionality aids to formulate an incredible personality. Thus, a new space can become a space full of stories and memories; thanks to these objects and materials, without burning a hole in the pocket of the owner.