down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - rhodora wine bar

8 Strategies for Sustainable Restaurant Design

Here at down2earth interior design, we were recently asked to bid on a project for a sustainable cocktail bar here in Philadelphia. We love designing restaurants, and especially restaurants with a green design element. Look out for an upcoming blog post which will highlight some of d2e’s previous restaurant design experience.

Today we want to share with you 8 Techniques you can consider if you’re interested in Sustainable Restaurant Design

1. Inspiration that Pushes the Boundaries on Sustainable Materials

There are so many restaurants doing interesting things in the world. Read up to find examples that inspire you. Here’s a couple we love that really push the boundaries in terms of what can be done with sustainable materials: 

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - tetra pak

This zero waste restaurant prototype is made entirely from recycled Tetra Pak – the material that makes up milk cartons.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - silo restaurant

At Silo restaurant in East London, light fixtures are made from crushed glass from wine bottles (on the walls) and mycelium pendants hang from the ceiling. For those of you who, like me, don’t know what mycelium is, it’s the network of threads from which mushrooms grow. These hang above recycled plastic dining tables.

There’s also our cover image, which features Rhodora, a zero waste wine bar located in Brooklyn, New York. (Image courtesy of

2. Salvage

Whether that means keeping what you’ve got and repurposing it, or buying items that came from other buildings, why create something new when something old involves not consuming any new resources and will likely have built-in character to spare? Take this old tin ceiling for example: 

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - tin ceiling

Image: Pinterest

3. Paint

Paint is the cheapest way to give existing surfaces new life. If you’re concerned about off-gassing, stick with no-VOC paint offerings. Whether you’re painting some wood to just lighten it up, giving a brick wall a coat of lime wash or painting old chandeliers to lighten them up, painting is a very cost-effective method of making salvage work for your new look.
down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - ceilings
Below: Leave brick exposed and paint it for a great, textured effect.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - sisterhood restaurant

Photo: Dezeen

4. Green Walls as Space Dividers

There are so many ways to do green walls and we love them all.
down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - greenery room dividers
A green wall could be made of moss, as shown in the center image, above. Dividers between banquettes could actually be planters, as shown on the right.
If you’re looking for a tall divider to create zones within a larger restaurant, that wall could have grow lights and serve as a location to grow herbs that will be used in food preparation (image below, on the left). Or the wall could glow and feature jars of pickled delicacies (image below, bottom center).
down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - dividing bar and dining room
When incorporating natural plants into the interior design of the restaurant, the designer has to be mindful of making sure that plants are not located where dirt can drop into food. With jars of pickled goods, that’s not an issue.

5. Furniture with a Buy Back Program

Recently we shared a post on interior design products we love:

10 Great Products for Beautiful and Sustainable Interiors

One of those products was a counter stool by Fyrne, which is made from sustainably harvested wood.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - blue barstools

Stanyan Bar Stools in Hickory by Fyrn

Fyrne manufactures their products using a component system that allows them to easily replace and repair anything that breaks (which is rare, from what we understand, as this seating is designed to be durable). Because their seating is durable, they can offer a buy back program, ensuring that these pieces will not end up in a landfill and you can get some of your money back even if you decide to go in a different direction with furniture sometime in the future.

6. Energy Efficient Light Fixtures

LED bulbs don’t have to be ugly. Try the kinds that are made to look like Edison bulbs and have that nostalgic feel.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - edison bulbs in ceiling fixtures

Image: Cococozy

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - led filament bulbs

Try these sources for bulbs that are energy efficient.
Left, Right, Rejuvenation


7. Natural Light

Hey, it’s free! If you’re not getting enough of it in your space, consider solar tubes.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - sun tunnel rendering

Image: Velux

8. Support Local Artists and Be a Community Gathering Space

There’s a tendency when thinking about sustainable restaurant design to focus in on materials and energy consumption, as we have done here for the first seven green design strategies. But creating a space that can be a resource to the community and help it thrive is a critical part of sustainability as well. By creating a rotating gallery featuring work by local artists, you can have beautiful wall art and create events that bring the neighborhood together to celebrate all the creative people in the community. We also used this technique at our Coffee Room project.

Looking for someone to design your sustainable restaurant? Get in touch with us here at down2earth Interior Design! Or, drop us a line about your favorite restaurant in the comments below.

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