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Opening a restaurant is an exciting endeavor that can also be a bit overwhelming, especially when designing the visual layout of your restaurant. While the menu is a huge component of success, restaurant interior design can be equally as important. To help you develop the perfect commercial interior aesthetic, we’ve compiled a list of restaurant interior design dos and don’ts that will help you set the mood for your guests and create a picture-perfect atmosphere.


DO establish a theme

Themed restaurants tend to garner the reputation of being cheesy, but themes can work beautifully in an upscale restaurant interior. Establishing a theme will help you refine your overall restaurant design style and create an atmosphere suitable for your target audience. When choosing a restaurant theme, we suggest going for something that isn’t too trendy and will hold up over time, such as a coastal beachfront theme, like we used in our commercial project with The Restaurant at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. To infuse an elegant coastal touch into this luxury beachfront restaurant, we chose to highlight natural light, light tones and clean lines.

Your theme doesn’t necessarily have to be adherent to a decade, culture, or location either; it can be a concept such as fine dining, family-style, or fast-casual. Whatever you choose, it should reflect your menu and overall vision for your restaurant to communicate a clear message.

The Club Restaurant at La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club


DON’T underestimate the power of lighting

Lighting is a fundamental design element that sets the tone for a space. A study conducted by the Journal of Interior Design shows that lighting can affect the emotional responses that influence consumer behaviors. When choosing your lighting, consider the type of environment you want to create for your guests. High-contrast lighting with low brightness creates a calming and intimate effect. In contrast, low-contrast lighting with high brightness creates a more energetic vibe.

If your restaurant prides itself on beautiful Instagram-worthy plating, you’ll want to have plenty of direct light above your tables so that your guests can snap the perfect pic of their meal. Overhead lighting is ideal for illuminating the entire space to show off any wall art or decor you’d like to emphasize, while string lights and lanterns can add a whimsical flair to outdoor dining areas.

Restaurant with different types of lighting


DO consider an open floor plan

Because restaurants are communal spaces, opting for an open floor plan in your restaurant interior design will allow for a more authentic connection between you and your guests. Consider an open-facing kitchen that can be viewed from the dining area to connect your guests to their food from start to finish. This option is perfect for farm-to-table eateries or authentic restaurants like Italian pizzerias or sushi bars. An open-facing kitchen is a distinctive design element that not only allows your guests to get an intimate look into the food preparation process but can also really drive home your brand identity and mission.

If you have an outdoor dining area, you can use glass walls to connect it to the rest of the space to ensure that every guest gets an inclusive experience. You can also utilize strategic seating arrangements to create the illusion of intimacy while maintaining a communal atmosphere.

Restaurant with an open floor plan


DON’T overcrowd the tables

A lively and open atmosphere is great for restaurant interior design, but a lack of elbow room isn’t exactly ideal. While you may be tempted to want to seat as many guests as possible, take the motto “quality over quantity” into consideration. You want your guests to have a relaxing dining experience, which is a bit tricky when they can’t even pull out their chairs. Your tables should be spaced far enough apart for your guests to hold private conversations and move around their table comfortably.

When creating your restaurant layout, ask yourself how many tables you can realistically fit into the space while maintaining comfort for your guests and filling up sparse areas?

airy restaurant


DO bring in natural and organic elements

Adding organic and natural elements to your restaurant interior design is a sure-fire way to bring the space to life. Hanging plant baskets, exotic flora boxes, and flower arrangements are great for bar and table decor. Large trees like palms, olive trees, or fig can be used as statement pieces that play on the space’s size and dimension. You can even incorporate a living wall into your design as a natural divider or foyer focal point.

Restaurant with plants


DON’T neglect color psychology

Ever noticed that most fast-food chains and restaurants use the color red in their logos and interiors? It’s because the color red has actually been proven to increase appetite. Color psychology suggests that colors have the power to affect human behaviors. Research shows that certain hues can influence our productivity levels, energy, and self-esteem by activating our brains’ different parts. Taking advantage of color psychology in your restaurant design will allow you to customize each space, depending on the feelings you want to invoke.

If you’re aiming to create an upbeat, youthful atmosphere, opt for a yellow accent wall. Blues and wood tones are ideal for restaurants looking to create a relaxing environment, much like this design we worked on for Pacific Coast Grill.

No matter what color palette you go with, make sure it will have the appropriate effect on your guests by learning how to use color psychology in interior design.

Pacific Coast Grill, San Diego


DO connect with your community through artwork

Artwork can immediately personalize a space and seamlessly tie together your brand identity in a creative way. When selecting art for your restaurant, focus on style, color, and cohesion. The type of art should match your restaurant’s overall theme and contribute to the atmosphere you’re aiming to create. Consider murals, portraits, photography, sculptures, graffiti, or any other medium that fits your overall aesthetic. Using artwork in your restaurant interior design also gives you a fantastic opportunity to connect with local artists and commission one-of-a-kind pieces. Not only will you have a unique statement piece to draw your guest’s attention, but working with local artists is a great way to show support for your community.

artwork hung over a restaurant table


DO hire a restaurant interior design pro

Opening a restaurant is extremely time-consuming and demanding, so the last thing you need to worry about is picking lighting fixtures and tile. Working with professional interior designers for your restaurant will allow you to bring your vision to life with the help of qualified experts. Our award-winning interior design team has helped design and furnish commercial properties all over the country, and we’d love to help you with your next venture. Talk to one of our designers today to get more restaurant interior design ideas and discuss how Nativa can help you bring your restaurant vision to life.