Decorating a small restaurant can be a challenge for restaurateurs who do not see all the potential design options inherent in such a modest space. However, you’re only as limited as your imagination. Small restaurants can look cozy and intimate, or they can appear expansive when you use a little decorating finesse. It all depends on the mood you want to convey and the atmosphere you want to create.
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A fresh coat of paint is one of the most cost-effective ways to give a small restaurant that much-needed makeover. It also can manipulate the dimensions of the space -- at least in appearance. If you want the restaurant to appear larger, painting the walls with cool colors, such as blues or greens, can give the illusion of distance. The same can be said for lighter shades of colors. However, not everyone wants a small space to seem larger. You can create intimacy in a restaurant by choosing dark or warm hues, such as reds, oranges and beiges, for the walls.
An effective restaurant design motif should include two or more colors in its palette. Choosing similar colors can give the restaurant a cohesive, organized feel and choosing contrasting colors can make the restaurant feel bold, hip and edgy.
The walls aren’t the only surfaces in play when you use color to reshape the appearance of a small restaurant. Painting the ceiling with a light shade optically raises it, making the room seem larger and more expansive. This is especially true when you choose a lighter shade of the color for the walls. Dark hues, on the other hand, can visually lower ceilings, providing an intimate feel to the space. Changing the color of the floor is another option. Dark flooring creates contrast and makes the space cozier, while a light oak floor can open up a restaurant.
Creative storage adds style to function and serves as a design element for a small restaurant. Interior designer Taniya Nayak cut sections of PVC pipe and created a decorative rack that could store wine on a restaurant wall. Found objects can be practical, yet stylish storage options. Hanging a ladder horizontally along a wall is a quaint way to store menus, while buckets suspended near the kitchen are playful and functional alternatives for storing napkins and silverware.
Find creative ways to turn objects with relevance to your restaurant into storage spaces. For example, a beer garden might use beer steins to hold silverware. Similarly, the objects you use for storage can be nods to your other decor or your location, like a milk pail for a farm-themed restaurant.
Like color, lighting has a way of altering the perception of the size for a room. Natural light is often the best, so consider installing large windows in the storefront of the restaurant to bring the outside indoors and open up the space. If you’re feeling adventurous, invest in glass garage doors, which can be opened in warm months to create more space. Torchieres along the walls bounce light off the ceiling and back down into the dining area to expand the room.
Strategically hung mirrors on certain walls lengthen or widen an otherwise small restaurant. There are a few different ways to use mirrors, like placing a number of different sized mirrors on one wall or festooning an entire wall with mirrored tiles to double the size of the space. Not only are you creating a mirror image of the restaurant, but you’re also reflecting light, which opens up the space. This design touch can be critical in small restaurants that do not have much actual floorspace.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.