down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - the coffee room customers

Don’t Forget about this Key Element of Sustainability when Designing a Restaurant: The Community

There are so many techniques out there to employ when designing a sustainable restaurant. Recently on our blog, we shared 8 tips for sustainable restaurant design.

Today we want to show some of the restaurants we’ve designed in and around Philadelphia and focus on the people in the community, a crucial and sometimes forgotten element of sustainability. Whether we’re creating a gathering place, showcasing art by local artists, using visuals to honor someone’s heritage, or engaging the community in the implementation of the design, making a restaurant an asset to the community is something we love to do.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - kids at the coffee room

A café designed by down2earthdesign interior design that serves as gathering spaces for the community.
Photo by Laura Pedrick

The Coffee Room

To begin creating a space that would be warm and welcoming for the community, we first wanted to assess what elements could be salvaged from this long skinny space. This image shows some of the before conditions in this café space:

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design part 2 - the coffee room before and after

We discovered brick hidden under some drywall and exposed what we could. Subtracting materials, instead of adding ones, is an inherently sustainable technique, whether you’re designing a restaurant or any other kind of space.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design part 2 - tables at the coffee room

Photo by Laura Pedrick

In addition to exposing brick, another sustainable element in this view is the salvaged newspaper rack, which is updated with each day’s editions for customers to enjoy. Having daily newspapers activates this space and encourages customers to linger. And when they linger, they are more likely to get into conversations with neighbors and friends.

The desired aesthetic was the spare elegance and warmth of Scandinavian design. A pure white background is also the perfect backdrop for a rotating art exhibit, which can feature work of local artists. This honors creativity in the community and creates a draw into the space that continues to change and evolve.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design part 2 - the coffee room back area

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - customers at hightop tables

Photos by Laura Pedrick

Some folks also grow their appreciation for their community through people watching. So, having a bar top at the window looking out on the vital shopping district in Newtown PA is another element of creating social sustainability.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - coffee room window seating

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - coffee room front design

Photos by Laura Pedrick

Creekside Co-op

A food coop is many things to many people. A place to buy healthy food, of course, but also a café, a community gathering place, and a much needed shot in the arm for a sleepy commercial district. The Creekside co-op was meant to be all these things, and back in 2012 I had the opportunity to propose ideas to our Elkins Park community about how this store would be visually welcoming to our community.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - creekside co-op design

A sustainability mindset focuses on materials to a great extent. For example, we left the ceilings and brick exposed so as not to use unnecessary resources. Plus, these elements had some real character to them.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - painted ceiling details

Exposed ceiling joists and white washed brick

But it’s also important to think about social sustainability when designing a café in Philly or in any community. In the café area of the Creekside co-op, we instituted a “give a chair a job” program. We asked community members if they had unused chairs to donate, and many kind people stepped forward. Once these chairs were tested for sturdiness, the co-op then teamed up with students at Arcadia university to paint the chairs in the three main vibrant colors that were the primary color scheme of the co-op.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - painted chairs at creekside coop

The “Give a Chair a Job” program at the Creekside Co-op

The Creekside Co-op has since closed (and has become a different institution called Creekside Market and Tap). On the night that it was announced that the co-op was closing, I felt compelled to make this video looking back at the design process. Interior photos were taken by Zach Kassutto when the store first opened in 2013.

El Balconcito

During the brainstorming phase for the design of this Portuguese and Peruvian restaurant, we had fun brainstorming all the ways we could honor this heritage through handcrafts:

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - el balconcito moodboard

Pumpernick’s Deli

This deli is a long-standing institution, but it was time to update the seating, lighting, and feature wall. How do we do this in a way that honors the community? Starting with a wall made from slats of reclaimed wood, we layered black and white photos of Philadelphia on top of that to honor the Philly roots of this restaurant.

Durability and cleanability is so important in restaurant design, and actually contributes to sustainability as well, because if the furniture and fixtures wear well, they’ll last longer and stay out of the landfill.

down2earth Interior Design - sustainable restaurant design - pumpernick's deli design

Philadelphia Restaurant Design: In Conclusion

Philadelphians are known for having strong opinions and not being afraid to share them. So it is an absolute pleasure to be able to create these gathering places that put community at the center. If you care about social sustainability and you’re looking for a restaurant designer in Philadelphia, give us a call. We’ll create a space that’s beautiful and also honors our Philadelphia community and our planet.

If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting any of these establishments here in the Philly area, please let us know in the comments below!

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