Skip navigation

The new maximalism: Will restaurant design do a 180 into rebellious excess?

What once was a bare wall in a soothing tone with maybe a sleek shelf of succulents is now covered in bawdy, frilly, gilded frames upon velvet wallpaper in a beguiling wood nymph design. Welcome to the new era of no-holding-back restaurant design

Styles come in cycles, in waves and in hurricanes. Anyone who’s bought a pair of blue jeans in the past century can attest to that. The same applies to restaurant design, whose pendulum had been in a long swing toward stark minimalism with bare, spare, Swedish sensibility and unfinished wood and metal.

But now, we’re starting to see a blip on the radar that could lead to seismic change: Are restaurant designers ready for a little….more?

That leaves us with more aesthetic quandaries: When is more actually more? Where is the point of diminishing returns? How does the style tide turn? All thoughts that lead to restaurant design’s next big question: to minimize or to maximize?


And let’s not forget, the timeless caveat “you do you” must fit into the equation somewhere: What kind of dining experience are you looking to offer and what’s the story you want to tell?

“Certainly, trends play a role in restaurant design — however, the cuisine, the overall concept and the experience restaurateurs would like to give their customers plays a bigger role,” said Michelle Bove, owner and principal of DesignCase. “For example, restaurant Chloe has a very simple, minimalist palette that is also reflected in the chef’s dishes and the way they are plated. The space is warm but is a quieter, relaxed environment. In contrast, Immigrant Food has lots of layers of colors, textures, art, different furnishings, etc., to mimic the layers of cultures that are present in the menu.”

Bove sees a balanced, mixed-bag return to dining design post-pandemic.


“Based on what we’re hearing from our newer clients, I think the response will be mixed,” she said. “Some will be excited to get back to being in a lively environment, with a lot of stimulus to make up for lost time. Maximalism … heaps of colors and textures will be key for these folks.

Conversely, “I am also seeing a newfound appreciation for minimalism and only what is needed,” Bove added. “The pandemic has opened some folks’ eyes to see the beauty in the simple; what we need and nothing more.”

Decide for yourself whether less is less or more is more, and check out these examples of restaurant design’s next potential big swing of the pendulum.

Contact Tara at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter @Tara_Fitzie

TAGS: Design
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.