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Episode 6: RESTAURANTS • Interior Design Masters, BBC & Netflix

Creating a chic and atmospheric Mediterranean bar and restaurant.

In Episode 6, we head to Bristol to transform a tapas restaurant with a budget of just £3000.






Their food is vibrant and bold and the restaurant needs to reflect this. 

The owners asked for:

An atmospheric tapas bar, dark and chic. Energetic, Mediterranean vibe, decadent and mischievous. Fun yet sophisticated. Comfortable, vibrant, warm, bustling, intense, bold. They told us they didn’t want a rustic or themed look. They asked for plants and foliage, velvet, and recycled materials.

  • Practical issues included lack of coat storage and uncomfortable, outdated banquette upholstery.

  • They also asked for a ‘comprehensive lighting redesign’, including new lights on the brick wall, where electrical points were already installed.

  • We were asked to tackle the ‘challenging’ acoustics to reduce noise levels.

  • We were asked to source new furniture, including identical modular tables and replacements for the blue metal stools.


The restaurant was almost a third larger than that of our competitors, with 42 covers and 17 tables. We had a huge amount of paint, flooring and furniture to buy.


For this challenge we were put into two teams of two. I was with Frank.

This week was the first time we met our clients before officially starting the design. We were allowed just a ten-minute conversation on camera to discuss the interior design vision. We also, again for the first time, saw the space before we started the design and build. In real life the client and designer relationship is paramount. I spend a great deal of time with my client discussing their requirements, style, and what they need from their space. A ten minute conversation simply doesn’t cut it!

Me, Nicki @andthentheywentwild and Frank @franknewbold in our matching dungerees. We worked well as a team and were both really proud of how bold and striking the restaurant looked.


The clients were keen to move away from from the cliched, rustic-looking tapas restaurant. We discussed a bold, modern and sophisticated look.

The clients were keen to include pinks and oranges. We included these tones in the seating area to complement the brick walls on the opposite wall.

Faux planting

We used lush foliage throughout the restaurant. Faux plants are perfect for commercial spaces. Using faux means you never have to worry about watering them or feeding them. We wanted to include planting up high and near lighting. Real plants would not work here as watering them would be a bind. Also plants above lights and water do not mix. Great faux can look very authentic. For styling purposes they are amazing as can bend them to your exact position, and they stay there – and will look great – forever!

Creative lighting

Our brief called for a total lighting redesign, with more lights as well as different lights. The end of the restaurant was dark so we designed a giant LED light box, filled with palm leaves to give the effect of a window or outdoor area. For the wall, we picked up the desire for recycled items in the brief. We wired up tapas dishes as lights.

The clients verbally requested the inclusion of a letter B (for Bellita) in the design. The neon B cost just £200 with the plug and formed a dramatic feature, lighting up a dark corner. All the lighting was accounted for in our budget before the start of the transformation.

AFTER -– above

BEFORE – below

In our meeting with the clients they requested they would like the letter 'B' for Bellita included in the restaurant design to replace the one taken out of the original banquette seating (above). We used a neon letter by Seletti.

Furniture and layout

We chose wire chairs as these are transparent in the dark space and chose cushions in mustard velvet to make them comfortable. We bought new timber and black metal bar stools for the windows. A replacement, more comfortable banquette was sourced and upholstered in a practical, hardwearing, wipeable, polyester velvet in terracotta pink for a mediterranean vibe.

We added simple hooks for coat storage.

Wall panelling

We were asked to sound-proof the restaurant, which we did. We then covered the soundproofing with modern-looking corrugated panelling to give the wall texture and interest, and painted it in Farrow and Ball’s Setting Plaster to give the requested warmth to the scheme.


The two-thirds of the exterior was covered with the restaurant name in its specific typeface. The same typeface/logo as it appeared on the menus, business cards and website. Although the team next door decided to rework the clients branding and look, my experience as a graphic designer and in branding meant that I was definite that we could not touch the logo and brand without it being specified in the brief, and then only after in-depth discussion with the client. Why? It’s important that a brand identity is cohesive and changing menus, websites, stationery and business cards is very expensive. Clients may also have spent years developing their brand identity. As a qualified graphic designer I would have been delighted to help the restaurant develop their branding, and was well placed to update the branding but it was not in the brief and it was a risk I wasn’t ready to take. We considered this matter very seriously. When we discussed the possibility of painting the front we never therefore intended to touch the section covered in their branding for that reason. We opted only to paint over the frame edges. Had this been a real job I would have discussed the exterior and the brand design with the client and happily evolved a new brand identity hand-in-hand with them.


This was a large space, and the striking diagonal design meant there was more wastage than was budgeted for. The last-minute extra cost of flooring busted our budget which sadly meant the comfy chair cushions and some other styling items had to go.

We did not want to paint over or change the branding on the front of the restaurant in anyway without further discussions with the client – unless it was on the brief. Based on many years of branding experience we felt very strongly about this and we agreed to leave that section of the exterior. We only painted the edges to freshen up the front.


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