INTERIORS+DESIGN for architects
ROBERT ANGELL

Interior designer Robert Angell founded his practice in 2010, and since then the Robert Angell Design Studio - a six-strong team based in Dalston, east London - has worked on an illustrious list of hotels, restaurants, residential and retail projects, from the Hilton Islington and the Rose Club in Mayfair to the recently opened Kaspar's Seafood Bar and Grill at the Savoy and the Five Fields restaurant in Chelsea. Angell previously worked as creative director with luxury interior design firm David Collins Studio for 15 years, where his many projects included the Wolseley restaurant in London and the Lime Wood hotel in Hampshire.

What have been your key projects so far with the Robert Angell Design Studio?

The Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge - we did some bedrooms there. That's been ongoing for around 18 months. We've just finished the seventh floor now, in the last couple of weeks - the balcony suites. There's Kaspar's at the Savoy, and we've just finished the Five Fields restaurant. We've done various clubs for the Brompton Brands, including the Rose club for Piers Adam and Nick House. We also did the Markham Inn in Chelsea, Piccolino in Heddon Street, and the Hilton in Islington. The list is endless! We've had a really good couple of years, just expanding and expanding.

Can you tell me about the Five Fields restaurant - what was the inspiration behind the design?

It was based around the concept of Five Fields, the area that used to separate Chelsea and Knightsbridge - there were five fields between the two boroughs. We took inspiration from that, it's all about plants and flowers. With Chelsea being quite artistic, and having the Chelsea Flower Show, it made me feel that we should create something very fresh, bright and colourful, inspired by nature and using pale greens. We wanted a warmth and freshness to the feel of the restaurant. Also the chef, Taylor Bonnyman - who used to work with Marcus Wareing, so he's got good pedigree - cooks with fresh ingredients from nurseries. It's all based around the plant ethos.

What were the biggest challenges with the project?

The size. It's a very small restaurant, with only 40 covers. That's all we could fit in on the ground floor. We worked with high attention to detail - from the metalwork to the joins to the furniture, all the elements had to be really considered and elegantly, beautifully designed. We had to absolutely home in on every single corner and consider every last detail. The front of house is literally about 1,200 square feet, it's tiny. The actual engine of the restaurant, the kitchen and services etc, took up so much room, we were left with very little. We had to fight our corner to make sure we didn't lose any more of the restaurant than we had to.

What have you got coming up next?

We're doing some Côte restaurants - one in Windsor, which is due to open in late summer, and one in Sevenoaks. We're doing a hotel in Vienna, and one in Geneva, and we're working on a small hotel in London.

Are there any particular furniture or product designers that you consistently work with - any personal favourites?

We try to design everything ourselves. Generally we design

our own furniture, but at Five Fields we introduced Soane - we're using some Soane Britain chairs. We also have seating upholstery from Edelman Leather, which has a beautiful embossed plant detail, artichoke wall lights from Porta Romana, stunning mirror ball pendants symbolising plant DNA from Andrew Kornat and Twig pull handles from Courtyard Accessories. There are people we use to make stuff - we send them drawings and they do samples. We work with them to develop our ideas. We don't manufacture, we're about pure design.

What do you see as the most important trends in restaurant interior design at the moment?

I try to steer clear of trends. I think there are a lot of restaurants at the moment that are using a bit of a cookie-cutter approach. The industrial vibe, if appropriate, can work very well, but my own philosophy is to do something unique and bespoke - to further my clients' requests in terms of how they see the end result, and also for me to steer and direct them into how I think their restaurant should look and feel. We have a very individual approach. I want to design things that are timeless in a way. I want to make sure that they have longevity and will wear in as opposed to wear out. I don't follow trends, I want to set them!

What do you look for personally in a restaurant? What are the most important aspects for you?

Being sat in the right place is probably the most important thing. I hate going to a restaurant where they put you in an alleyway by the loo. You need to feel very comfortable and be able to embrace the restaurant and the food and the experience, because that's what it's all about. You go out to a restaurant to have an experience and to be a voyeur. You need to be encompassed by it. Personally I look at things completely objectively in terms of how high the table is, how high the seat is, if the lighting's too bright - I've been known to go into restaurants and actually ask them to turn the lighting down...

What or who is inspiring you most at the moment in your work?

My clients. They have so much enthusiasm, so much drive and energy, it's infectious. Even in these times of austerity, the people who come to us are so full of energy for what they want to do.

How do you see your design practice evolving in the future? Do you see yourself focusing more on one particular type of work over another?

No. We're interested in all aspects of design, whether that's restaurants or hotels, residential or retail. We're here as a focused luxury design brand that understands how companies need to evolve, how restaurants need to evolve, how people going to restaurants want to experience and be a part of it. And that's what I like - I want people to go to a restaurant and come out thinking that's one of the best experiences they've had, and want to go back. That's what inspires me.

Rosie Spencer

Rosie Spencer is a writer and editor, and has contributed to publications including Disegno, Icon, Domus, The Art Newspaper and Onoffice.