Chances are, if you’re a regular of Birmingham’s coolest bars and restaurants you’ve already experienced the talents of 2G Design. As master builders and concept designers, the team create fresh, innovative and original venues; working their magic across the region.
With Managing Director Nick Jones and Creative Director Catherine Gwynne at the helm, 2G has built a reputation for cool concepts through its work on the likes of Loki, Land, Carters of Moseley, 670 Grams, Wilderness and current project The Joint Works.
So first things first; if there’s one thing both Nick and Catherine agree on when making any project work, it’s getting the layout right – and that’s where good design comes from. “When we sit down with a prospective client, we need to feel energised by what they want. That tends to come through the bespoke jobs, where we can really allow our skills to shine rather than identikit chain venues that don’t have space for freedom of expression,” Nick explains, his passion for this craft and working with independent brands immediately evident.
“We find that customers often can’t put their finger on what they love about a restaurant – you can either like a place or not like a place without really knowing why, and that comes from the success, or not, of the layout and how easy it is for the staff to work the space. It’s about getting the flow right: no pinch points, no tables that feel like they are less important. These are the things that make for a nice atmosphere and mean you are already half way there. What is then overlaid at that point, basic or elaborate, is the finish. Getting the layout right, that’s what leads to success.”
–A Focus on Interior Design–
And success is something 2G knows all about. The talented 15-strong team work closely together on all stages of design and construction to really get under the skin of what makes a scroll-stopping interior.
The newest member of the 2G creatives is designer Vicky Bennett, a recent graduate from Northumbria University. When it comes to creating a successful design, she believes there are certain elements that can make or break.
“Lighting is the one element that you shouldn’t cut back costs on. Using it correctly adds more depth, highlighting textures to purposely create focal points. The desired ambience is vital and lighting is key to achieving this, particularly when a venue moves from day to night time.”
For Loki, in Great Western Arcade, 2G added LED strips on the underside of the bar to form a wash effect and highlight its 3D texture. Further strip lighting was used on the overhead area to draw the customer’s eyes to the endless bottles on display.
“When it comes to colour, it’s important to get the balance correct. There are many colour psychology theories that can be followed, but a general rule of thumb is to follow the 60:30:10 ratio. This comes from the golden ratio/Fibonacci sequence: 60% of the space should be the background colour, usually neutral; 30% the secondary colour or texture; and the last 10% being the accent or ‘pop’ of colour.”
Vicky believes that customers appreciate a personal story behind a brand, and it’s important to get this across in the completed design. “You could argue this acts as the best marketing ploy as new customers often hear about places like this through word of mouth. A great example is Carters of Moseley. Our brief was to reflect Brad Carter’s personality while also making the space more experiential and creating an immersive atmosphere.”
Again, lighting was central to the scheme and has been used at Carters of Moseley to be more purposeful, highlighting the tables for a darker, moodier atmosphere. Added to this, the kitchen was opened up with a raised, lit chefs table that allows Brad and his staff to interact with their customers.
When it comes to devising a design scheme for a hospitality venue it’s important to remember there are very different demands than those we have for our own homes. But just like every aspect of modern living, the recent industry trends have been heavily impacted by the pandemic.
“Hospitality design completely varies from residential design. In hospitality, the scheme’s concept is much more vital for a starting point,” says Vicky. “This can relate to the history of the building, its surroundings or the story of the start-up of the business. This is what drives the initial scheme, and although customers may not initially notice this these elements always subtly link back to the concept.”
Chakana in Moseley sums up how this is brought to life. The former Lloyds Bank building may have been transformed into a Peruvian haven, complete with Aztec-inspired upholstery and artwork, but the original bank vault was retained and turned into a unique private dining space and a real talking point for customers.
“Trends in hospitality have been heavily influenced by the pandemic. It’s no secret that the sector faces the tough challenge of encouraging us to actually visit in person, after take-aways from our favourite restaurants became more readily available during the lockdowns than ever before. On top of this, outdoor dining has been increasingly popular over the last few years and if space is available, it’s important this ties in with the overall look.
“Undoubtedly, the interior design plays a key role in getting people back through the doors and we can do this through an enjoyable customer experience – from the overall look to those all-important finishing touches.
While the finishing touches may not always be obvious to customers, they certainly enhance their experience. Something as simple as a beautiful menu, or cleverly chosen artwork, murals and textiles can be used to further echo the story of the brand and create the perfect ambiance.
Take the paint-splattered, grunge interiors of 670 Grams, at The Custard Factory. This monochrome palette attracts a younger audience to the idea of fine dining, creating an urban venue where they can tuck into Kray Treadwell’s Michelin-worthy dishes surrounded by artwork from Midland tattoo maestros Ollie and Lauren Tye. Or at Kiln, the use of terrazzo cladding and Brutalist concrete have been applied to develop a space worthy of MAC’s thriving artistic community.
The latest project on the books at 2G is this communal workspace on Albion Street, in the heart of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. Working with the building’s heritage and modern work space requirements, 2G has devised a motivational space to not only improve the morale and productivity of the existing work force, but also attract the next generation.
“The building is set within a conservation area, so designs are uniquely created to fit the commercial requirements,” adds Nick. “Our aim is to create a space that seamlessly blends the demands of modern working – from stylish meeting areas to the yellow foosball tables – with its unique history.”
With so many statement creations already under their belt, what’s next for Nick and the team at 2G? “A redesign for Tropea, in Harborne. I love all things Italian, so I’m looking forward to doing that job. They’ve got a really great product. It’s always nice to work with people who are doing a great thing.”
We’re interested to know if there are any venues in the city that Nick admires, even if he didn’t have a hand in their design. “Dishoom,” he says without hesitating. “I think they’ve done it cleverly in that it will age well. They’ve made it intentionally aged, so in ten years’ time it will still look as good. They may have spent a lot more on the design process time, but over its lifetime it’s going to save them a lot of money”.
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