Architecture and design studio, Red Deer has taken the very structure of what makes up a painting as the inspiration for its design for the National Gallery’s new restaurant, Ochre, in the heart of London.
Called Ochre, Red Deer’s design takes cues from the name ‘ochre’ itself which is a pigment found within rocks and soil. The palette for the dining space is a mixture of these earthy colours including burnt oranges, yellows and browns. These tones are then continued in the varied textiles within the restaurant ranging from deep luxurious velvets, boucle and embroidered textiles, to raw cottons and linens and informed the design process from the start.
The addition of hand-patinated brass as a repeated detail throughout further adds to this painterly palette while the handmade ceramic tables by ceramicist Emma Louise Payne recall large ochre paint splashes.
Set within the ground floor of The National Gallery, Ochre retains many of the building’s original features from the classical architecture, including high ceilings and large windows. The inclusion of contemporary banquette seating that zig zags across the centre of the main space serves to separate the drinking areas from the dining areas. Designed and purpose built by Red Deer to playfully mimic that of a paint stroke, this focal point pays homage to the history of the building and to the act of painting itself. The wooden bar stools continue this artistic theme with the bases shaped in the form of painters’ palettes.
Lighting is a consistently key component in all of Red Deer’s designs. Here at Ochre it creates an atmospheric ambience as if the diner themself is seated within a still life painting. The heavily listed status of the building meant that there were numerous limitations to how Red Deer could design the space.
Large bespoke free standing lighting was created in order to emphasise the double height space of the gallery by stepping away from the existing wall panelling and swooping from floor to table in grand, intentionally exaggerated and playful gestures like a brushmark. In the private dining room to the rear of the space there is an oversized chandelier that acts as a stunning focal point to the space.
Red Deer co-founder and lead architect and designer, Lucas Che Tizard, oversaw the project and was the inspiration behind the colour palette found within so much of the National Gallery’s collection that houses over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. As Tizard explains, ‘When we were imagining the design for Ochre it was always going to be a plush space because the building itself is so beautiful and its proportions are so iconic. It just lends itself to these grand indulgent fittings.
We imagined this restaurant space to be like an artist’s home – warm, homely and relaxing and I think the design of Ochre definitely reflects this. Likewise the name, Ochre, and the colour palette it is named after, is muted and autumnal and so the food served here is simple and seasonal. We worked closely at every stage of the design with Sam and Charlotte Miller, who have created Ochre, so that the design and the menu work side by side and complement one another. It is an understated but no less playful result.’
Red Deer is committed to working sustainably in all that it does and this approach is continued with Ochre. To make the project as environmentally friendly as possible 60% of the original seating was reused. Existing banquettes found onsite were also reappropriated and rebuilt with a banquette specialist setting up an onsite workshop to disassemble, reform and reupholster in-situ. Local fabricators were commissioned and all new furniture required was sourced from the UK. As Tizard says, ‘Not only was it fun to do this but it made sense from an environmental and cost perspective.’
Offering a contemporary European menu with a focus on provenance, seasonality and traceability, Ochre comprises a main dining space alongside a private dining room. A large new bar has been designed and installed to connect the restaurant to the kitchen with service for food and drinks emanating from this focal point. In the private dining room a large round communal table provides a space for private events with the novel oversized chandelier connecting it to the room.
Ochre’s owners, Charlotte and Sam Miller say, “We are proud to bring Ochre to the historic National Gallery. We have created a beautiful contemporary space inside the impressive 20th Century William Wilkins building, with a soft palette, celebrating the best features of the room. Working with Red Deer has been an enjoyable experience, where they have brought their talent and expertise to help produce the finished design. We very much look forward to our elevated restaurant concept becoming a place that gallery visitors will enjoy, as well as a destination restaurant in its own right in London.”
About Red Deer
Red Deer design spaces & objects, seeking to demystify the process of working with an architect in both residential, food & beverage and hotel design. The practice was founded by architects Lionel Real de Azúa, Ciarán O’Brien and Lucas Che Tizard in an attempt to better engage with the world around them. A love for the ‘unexpected form’ is a starting point in their design work, studio ethos and adventures in travel. Describing themselves, the founders say they are ‘grown men with crayons’ referencing their approach to work as creative, without boundaries and excited by challenges.
Red Deer consider design as the playful pursuit of studied carelessness, forging strong relationships with their clients on each project in order to fully understand how they can bring their language of design to each collaboration. Red Deer’s founders have ancestry from France, North America, Uruguay, Argentina, Great Britain and Ireland, all sharing a common inhabitant of the red deer species. The international practice has since grown and now employs nine architects from eight nationalities with offices in London and Europe. Their mission is to play with purpose.
All photography by Gro Studio London Ltd
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