THIS year belongs to the lifestyle generation – that generation that spends more time in the latest bars than they do at home.
The response to this social trend, certainly from the licensed trade, has been to smarten up its image. Pubs have been turned into themed bars, and bars into expansive drinking spaces. Furniture in these establishments is inexpensive and straightforward, comprising wooden tables and chairs or deep sofas plonked down for the young and trendy to sprawl on.
Moving up a scale are those bars that are part of a group, with an overall identity and a uniform design – whether in London or Liverpool, you are made to feel comfortable in a familiar environment. Pitcher & Piano, which has opened three new sites this year, is one such chain. It now has a portfolio of 12 sites and, according to operations manager Caroline Latty, business is booming – with a further 12 sites planned for the next financial year. Due to open next spring are bars in London’s Bishopsgate and Leeds with interiors by The Design Solution. These will follow the format of those in Manchester, Harrogate and London’s Islington, also by The Design Solution and completed this year.
But, while TDS is responsible for the design and fit out, the furniture is chosen directly by the client, which has built up a relationship with a number of suppliers over the years. The wooden chairs and bar stools are bespoke and come direct from a small company based in East Anglia. Table tops are made by the shopfitter and soft seating is purchased direct from the likes of Tetrad or Sofa Workshop. While on one hand this arrangement undoubtedly gives Pitcher & Piano a uniform look throughout the entire chain, as well as reliability of supplier service, on the other, it means the designer doesn’t have total creative control.
On the more exclusive (and expensive) side, the new Livebait in London’s Covent Garden has just opened with a sizeable 35-seater bar alongside its restaurant. And while the black and white decor and the traditional “fish shop” tiling undoubtedly echo its predecessor in London’s Waterloo, the interior fittings and furniture are most definitely modern. Architect Mackenzie Wheeler is responsible for the new site and chose Indecasa’s TB9 cast aluminium stools for the bar area.
The Indecasa stools seem to be a favourite with owners and specifiers, being sturdy and good value. In London, they can be found by the bar in Mezzo and at the newer Zinc Bar and Grill, both designed by CD Partnership for Conran Restaurants, while on the south coast, you can try it out at the new Hobies bar in Eastbourne designed by MED.
For the new Dakota restaurant and bar in London’s Notting Hill, architect Robert Grace has chosen an Italian chair for the American-style interior. Natural materials have played a large part in the scheme and seating therefore had to be wood. The new Laleggera chair designed by Riccardo Blumer is stackable and lightweight, two important criteria for this environment. It is made of natural maple injected with polyurethane foam, giving robustness with a touch of comfort, and is available through Coexistence.
But for something a bit different in seating, try the downstairs bar at Circus in London’s Upper James Street. David Chipperfield has designed the space and much of the furniture and, while the ground-floor restaurant is chic, white, and modern, the bar in the basement is an altogether more relaxed affair. Large square upholstered ottomans, interspersed with tables of the same size, invite the customers to sprawl, while the extremely heavy yet stylish armchairs deter the customers from rearranging the furniture. The furniture has been specially made by B&B Italia.
For those that prefer to perch as opposed to sprawl, here’s a selection of the latest bar stools from across Europe, some of which may be available at a counter near you soon.
Ryan and Co
Martin Ryan extends the Jake family with this latest design for the bar, with a tapered tubular steel frame and formed beech or upholstered seat. Available from Viaduct.
A straightforward design by Philippe Starck, in mahogany-stained solid cherry-wood and upholstered seat. Tables, sofas and even a bed are included in the Neoz collection. Available from Viaduct.
This classic design by Mario Mazzer has an extruded aluminium frame, soft padded seat and backrest and comes with a removable slipcover in a range of colours. It is designed to coordinate with the Ratafi chair, an earlier Mazzer design. Details from JT Contract Marketing.
Designer Jehs & Laub gives the stool a new look, with fabric upholstery or sturdy imitation leather that stretches over the aluminium base. Verona comes in two heights in a range of upholstery colours. Details from JT Contract Marketing.>
Aldara The latest design from this Spanish company by Joan Casas i Ortinez has a seat and back of painted plywood and a frame of anodised aluminium tubing with cast aluminium joints. Available from Astrodesigns.
The latest addition to the Conran Collection is made exclusively by Indecasa and comes with tubular frame and shaped seat in rattan or wood. Available from Conran Shop Contracts.
Carlos JanÃ© Camacho
This wooden bar stool with upholstered seat, designed by Diego Fortunato, is part of the Barbara Marks range of seating from this Spanish manufacturer. We haven’t been able to determine who Barbara Marks is, but the stool is available from Conran Shop Contracts.
This colourful stool designed by Stefano Giovannoni, is adjustable in height and has a tubular steel frame and footrest and polypropylene seat. Available from Coexistence.