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The Best Restaurant Architects in Seattle

19 Min Read

Seattle is known for its cuisine that manifests in farm-to-table restaurants, nationally renowned breweries, international street food, artisan bakeries, innovative vegetarian dishes, and boundary-pushing fine dining. The designers who envision the restaurants that make Seattle a food connoisseur’s delight are crafting more than just a functional flow; they are envisioning a complete experience. Their work must not only reflect the essence of the food being served but also invite the patron into a different world, one that makes guests want to sit down and stay awhile. The architects listed below have both vision and practical knowledge; they have all contributed their distinct mark to Seattle’s palate-pleasing, visually inviting culinary hot spots.

To create this list we reviewed dozens of architecture firms in the area and assessed each with a set of criteria that considered experience in restaurant design, awards, and overall work history.

Best Practice

1419 S Jackson St., Suite #14, Seattle, WA 98144

Having been in business since 2011, Best Practice dedicates itself to providing unique solutions that balance function, content, and beauty. The firm provides work to a range of diverse projects, including residential, office, restaurant, and cultural work. The firm’s small team is led by Ian Butcher, who received his Master of Architecture from the University of Washington and also holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental design from North Carolina State University. He has taught in the Interior Design department at Cornish College of the Arts and serves on the board for ARCADE Magazine. Best Practice has been recognized multiple times throughout its tenure and has had its work featured in Architect Magazine, Frame Magazine, WeAr, Gray Magazine, and Interior Design Magazine.

Image credit to Ed Sozinho

A community-oriented café on Mercer Island focusing on warm and inviting space serving coffee and fresh baked goods under a custom fabricated plywood canopy.

Bjarko Serra

7001 Third Ave., NW Seattle, WA 98117

BjarkoSerra Architects was founded in 1992 and has become increasingly respected on Seattle’s design scene, with varied project types that include vacation homes, multi-family residences, religious institutions, daycare and community centers, fitness and health facilities, multiple restaurants and microbreweries. The firm’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Luxe, Arcade, Dwell, Seattle Homes and Lifestyles, and Seattle Magazine/Northwest Home. The firm is led by founders Greg Bjarko and Chris Serra, who first met as architecture students in Bozeman, Montana. The two ended up blending their expertise after gaining experience with other firms, which in turn resulted in BjarkoSerra. The firm has since been honored with the AIA Honor Award commendation and the AIA Home of the Month designation, on top of several other distinctions since its inception.

Bjarko Serra’s work on Brouwer’s Cafe began with a curved steel structure hanging from the two-story hall. This bold stylistic element is complemented by the 70-foot beer bar below. Brouwer’s geometric lines, shapes, and raw material conjure up the feeling of a beer-hall from days gone by. The space has an intentionally tattered grace that is beautifully executed by the firm’s expansive vision. On the shore of Lake Union rests the Westward, a transformed 1970s vintage two-story restaurant. Bjarko Serra gave the eatery an exterior facelift, reclaimed wood siding, new aluminum windows and skylights, and a beautiful folding door that opens up to the outdoor dining space that overlooks the lake.

Board and Vellum

115 15th Ave. East, Suite #100, Seattle, WA 98112

Board and Vellum brings a trifecta of design expertise to the table, including architecture, interior design, and landscapes. The firm is well-versed in generating the industrial aesthetic of popular local breweries and the hip gleam of urban tea cafes. It is led by its principal architect Jeff Pelletier, who received his degree from Cornell University’s architecture program. He founded Board and Vellum in 2011, bringing his professional experience in restaurant, residential retail, and commercial projects into his new vision. Board and Vellum has since expanded to include over 40 architects, interior designers, landscape architects, and other creative professionals and is continually growing its notable presence in Seattle. Pelletier was recognized in Puget Sound Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” while the Seattle Business Magazine featured the firm as one of Washington’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2017.

Nestled in the South Park neighborhood, Lowercase Brewing and their local craft beer made a splash and grew their presence more quickly than anticipated. After discovering a new location in Georgetown where they could expand, they brought Board and Vellum to the project; they wanted a good match with the industrial aesthetic of the neighborhood while simultaneously crafting a welcoming, down-to-earth atmosphere. Glass-paned garage doors, large windows, salvaged planks used to create rugged wood paneling, and an outdoor seating area do the trick nicely and make the establishment handsomely unique. Oasis Tea Zone—a hip cafe specializing in bubble tea—was placed into a partially remodeled storefront in the Pike-Pine corridor. Keeping construction costs reasonable, Board & Vellum incorporated an open railing to replace the remaining partial-height wall, put in a walnut wood slat canopy, and introduced a blue stained wood counter base with backsplash wall. Bright, white hanging light fixtures polish off the bold, smooth look.

Cipollone Creative Interior Architecture

121 29th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122

Robert Cipollone has over three decades of industry experience and his firm is the embodiment of his passion for the design-build process and structural engineering. Together with his team, Cipollone brings a unique combination of innovative solutions and creative designs to each project. The firm uses a process that emphasizes the importance of collaboration with its clients and actively seeks out sound buildable fundamentals. Further, it makes use of the latest industry techniques through the latest design and building technology. That said, clients may expect several 3D renders and walkthroughs of its future spaces and restaurants, lessening the possibility of overspending or having to work on revisions. The company has had the opportunity of being featured in several publications including Eater Seattle and the Seattle Met.

The firm is also the proud recipient of multiple industry awards from organizations such as the American Society of Interior Designers and the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties Washington State Chapter. It has also worked with numerous noteworthy clients like The Melt and Specialty’s Cafe and Bakery.

One of its most notable spaces is its work for the Lark Restaurant which won the firm the Restaurant Design of the Year distinction during the Seattle Design Awards. The challenge was capturing the artistry and whimsy of Chef John’s culinary style. The firm designed this space that creates flow and a counterbalance to the hardwood and metal edges and elements throughout the entire restaurant.

Coates Design

900 Winslow Way East, Suite #210 Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

Coates Design values its particularly strong focus on sustainable design and green building techniques. It provides affordable and highly efficient solutions and is equipped to handle challenging elements that come with a project. Matthew Coates—president, founder, and principal architect—believes in a positive team spirit and versatility in energy use and material choice. Some of the larger-scale projects he has overseen include the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, the Harrison Urgent Care Facility, and the S’Klallam Tribe Youth Community Center. The firm’s work has graced the pages of publications such as Inside Bainbridge, the Seattle Times, and the Bainbridge Island Review. The firm brought Bainbridge Island’s voice into the evolving face of Seattle eateries.

Coates Design’s Eagle Harbor Market Building on Bainbridge Island is a testament to the firm’s ability to integrate the natural beauty of the island and the urban charm of the city into a design aesthetic that sings Pacific Northwest chic with an industrial flair. The building encompasses both restaurant and retail and features a habitable green roof, copper panel cladding, horizontal ironwood siding, and a concrete base. As a neighbor to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, the Eagle Harbor Market edifice needed to gracefully integrate with its surrounding structural counterparts, and it does so seamlessly. Varied seating options—outdoor, indoor, and a covered outdoor fireplace—make this a base for shared meals, shopping, and community. For more information on Coates Design, you can visit their website here.

Floisand Studio Architects

1941 1st Ave. South, Studio 2E, Seattle, WA 98134

Allison Hogue and Richard Floisand founded Floisand Studio in 1999 with the intention of cultivating a highly collaborative environment and a team that prized meticulous attention to detail and expressiveness. Since then, the firm’s team has received recognition from publications such as Pacific Northwest Magazine, Seattle Magazine, Sunset Magazine, ArchDaily, the Seattle Times, and The Stranger, and Coffee Time: Contemporary Cafes. It has also been lauded with the AIA Seattle: 2016 Homes of Distinction award and the Green Building of America Award. The firm is also a proud member of Seattle’s 2030 District, a collaborative of engineers, architects, utilities, businesses, property owners, and organizations. The Floisand portfolio showcases a gallery of both commercial and residential endeavors, with its commercial side depicting a variety of mixed-use buildings and of course, restaurants. Its work is best encapsulated by a pizzeria called Pagliacci’s.

Pagliacci’s artisan pizzeria is a gorgeous integration of dark brick, white stucco, glass, variegated wood, attention-calling signs, and a curved bar. Not only is Pagliacci LEED Gold certified it’s the first stand-alone pizzeria in Seattle to receive the certification. Floisand worked hard to think through environmental impacts and create an efficient building envelope. Notable features include LED lighting, skylights, and a contemporary, boxy exterior shape. The Fonte Coffee Roaster and Wine Bar in downtown Seattle began as a second-rate canvas at the base of the Four Seasons Hotel. The low ceilings and the limited natural light was less than ideal. Floisand dove in for an efficient buildout that included curvy steel columns, a well it bar, rough, sawn cedar soffits, house lighting, and raised white leather benches. The transformation of the space was dramatic: a cozy, clean, and intimate feeling that makes it easy to sit down and stay awhile emerged.

GM Studios

1927 E McGraw St., Seattle, WA 98112

GM Studio provides comprehensive architectural and interior design services and has implemented its distinct aesthetic on a number of Seattle restaurants and residences. The studio holds LEED certification, along with architectural licenses in Washington and Hawaii. At the firm’s helm: Laura Gardner and Hiroshi Matsubara, two experienced professionals who received their Masters of Architecture from UCLA and bring more than over two decades of experience to the firm’s projects. GM Studio takes pride in its ability to execute a design that reflects the richness of simplicity and the spirit of place. The firm’s unique approach to space has allowed the firm to establish a reputation for itself as among Seattle’s highly creative crew of designers bringing versatility, out of the box thinking, and elegance to Seattle. Each of the firm’s projects are overseen by at least one of its principals and, given that the firm holds a LEED certification, the projects often feature green and sustainable elements.

Matsu, a tasteful, modern expression of traditional Japanese cuisine, has been designed to reflect the contemporary ingenuity of its culinary offerings. Using a narrow length to their advantage, GM Studio designed a gorgeous bar seating area, sectioned off from the main area by a wood-framed divide. Can lighting, an arched, exposed wood-beamed ceiling, handsome yet simple wood exterior materials, and classic, low benched table seats provide a truly distinct, authentic final product. Momiji Restaurant is another stunning example of GM Studio’s distinctly rustic meets contemporary design aesthetic. The firm employed their creative use of textured wood paneling with Momiji, while boldly pairing different textures and finishes to create the warm, glowing interior. Other highlights include a handsome overhang aside a classic Japanese garden.

Graham Baba Architects

1507 Belmont Ave., Suite #200, Seattle, WA 98122

Graham Baba is an expert in commercial construction and has worked with restaurant, office, residential, and art spaces since its inception. It brings a passion for subtle and economic design to every project it takes on, which is visible in its portfolio. Focusing on its restaurant work, it has been city defining: the firm’s impact was described in a Seattle Times article as work that creates spaces where diners want to stay. The firm has been recognized with the 2017 Architizer Award, the 2017 Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture & Design Award, the AIA Seattle Merit Award, the AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Honor Award, the AIA Central Washington Honor Award, and the AIA Central Washington Citation Award, among many others. Its principals and namesakes Jim Graham and Brett Baba bring over 50 years of experience to the firm collectively and emphasize the importance of creative collaboration with clients. The firm often makes use of tailored approaches to ensure that every challenge that rises along the way during a project is addressed promptly. Further, its vision for the unique character embedded in spaces makes the company shine as one of Seattle’s leading giants of architecture.

Deep Dive, a prohibition-era inspired speakeasy, is out of three venues crafted in retail spaces around the Spheres. As previously mentioned, it was distinguished with an INAward as well as an Honorable Mention for its interiors during the IDA Awards. The space’s complicated shape, allowed the firm’s team to opt for varying ceiling heights, drastic elevation changes, and uniquely working a way around the otherwise small space. A sloping ramp leads into a sophisticated threshold, couple with a posh variety of elements and materials reminiscent of the worlds Charles Darwin and Jules Verne once tried to write about. Spanning just roughly over 1,677 square feet, the entire space is wrapped in wood, in addition to shelves and several niches that house numerous memorabilia. The project’s floorplan also showcases a tufted banquet and quaint, curved bar.


5140 Ballard Ave. NW, Suite B, Seattle, WA 98107

Celebrated and widely published, Heliotrope is best known for its innovative and contemporary designs. Led by Mike Moura and Joe Herrin, the firm has been in business since 1999 and has become a trailblazer having provided successful work on a multitude of well-publicized projects. Its diverse portfolio encompasses high-end restaurants, retail stores, private residential commissions, and public spaces. The firm is no stranger to some of the industry’s most coveted distinctions including the AIA NW and Pacific Honor Merit award, the AIA Washington Architecture Merit award, the AIA Washington Civic Design Citation award and the National AIA Housing Honor award. Its projects have been featured in Pacific NW Magazine, Metropolis Magazine, Gray Magazine, and Architectural Digest. It operates out of its offices in both Seattle and Portland, making itself a formidable force in the Northwest’s elegant yet rugged architectural circle.

Heliotrope’s James Beard Finalist for Outstanding Restaurant Design, Willmott’s Ghost, is a culinary experience in the Spheres at Amazon headquarters. The restaurant, named after English horticulturist Ellen Willmott, is designed to match the curvature and spherical elements of the space. The restaurant seats 50 diners and was envisioned in collaboration with the 2016 James Beard Best Chef (Northwest) awardee Renee Erickson of Price Erickson. This project also went on to win a Surface Magazine 2019 Travel Award, and was featured on Dezeen’s Top 10 Restaurant Interiors. With Ethan Stowell Restaurants, Heliotrope has completed Cortina in downtown Seattle and Wolf in the newly completed NYC Nordstrom Flagship store. Heliotrope also recently completed a second restaurant, Rupee Bar in the Ballard neighborhood, for Manolin restaurant partners Patrick Thalasinos, Rachel Johnson, and Joe Sundberg.

SHED Architecture and Design

1401 S Jackson, Seattle WA 98144

Shed Architecture’s designs revolve around the healthy integration of pragmatism and idealism. Its projects range from $250k to $25M in value and are consistently versatile, working on restaurants, office spaces, mixed-use commercial spaces, and residences. Principal Thomas Schaer received his Master of Architecture from the University of Washington and an undergraduate degree in business administration from Babson College. The firm’s other principal, Prentiss Hale, earned his Master of Architecture from the University of Washington and has an undergraduate degree in history from Yale University. The firm’s work has been recognized in Gray Magazine, Inhabitat, 1889 Magazine, Remodelista, Curbed, the Seattle Met, Seattle Magazine, and the Seattle Times, among others. It is also the proud winner of eight awards from the AIA and has found success both locally and abroad via a barrage of outstanding projects.

The gorgeous remodel of a 1,479-square-foot bistro and bar in the Ballard neighborhood used two connected, smaller buildings to open up the dining area to the kitchen and provide views of the garden patio. Not only did this project requires technical problem solutions, but it showcased Shed’s ability to execute unique visual charm for every project they touch. Wood-paneled walls painted white, a classy row of elegant, hanging light fixtures, glossy wood and steel counters, and a set of three French doors make this bistro feel both Old and New World. Hecho, a hip Mexican restaurant on Phinney Ridge, weaves an eccentric combination of textures, colors, and styles to create a surprising flow of beauty, boldness, and distinction. Ceramic tiles, hand-hewed tables, lantern-like light fixtures, and curvy metalwork create an undeniably inviting atmosphere for eating with friends or enjoying a tequila or two at the L-shaped bar.

Suyuma Peterson Deguchi

8601 8th Ave., S Seattle, WA 98108

Founded in 1971 by American Institute of Architects (AIA) Fellow George Suyama,
Suyama Peterson Deguchi has been bringing its prowess for clean, bright, functional design to the Seattle area for over four decades. The firm’s versatility has enabled it to work on a variety of residential designs, office spaces, restaurants, and other commercial facilities. The firm takes pride in its Northwest contemporary design aesthetic and has been rewarded for its efforts. As a matter of fact, each of its partners has secured a name for themselves in the industry in their own individual ways. Suyama received the AIA Seattle Medal of Honor and is dedicated to creating an “ambiance of place” through his work. Business partner Ric Peterson, on the other hand, is also an AIA fellow and has been working with Suyama since 1978. AIA member Jay Deguchi completed graduate school at UCLA and joined the team in 1992, eventually becoming a partner in 2002. Some of the notable awards the firm has received include the AIA Seattle Merit Award, the AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Honor Award, the Seattle Homes + Lifestyles Design Achievement Award in Architecture, and the Excellence in Concrete Construction Award.

The Canlis Bar & Lounge is a stately, fashionable remodel that features a large stone fireplace, high ceilings, a bar with an enclosed staircase backdrop, cozy, varied seating options, and heavy, thick design elements: the venue feels like a classy lodge in the middle of the city. The Frontier Lounge—a landmark in the Belltown neighborhood—needed renovations and alterations to its interior volume. Suyama Peterson Deguchi successfully transformed the space through the careful use of layering and precise material selection. The partially closed-in wall divides and a crafty combination of metal, checkered tile, wood, and steel creates an eccentric, contemporary beauty.

Urbandd Architecture

1936 First Ave., S Seattle, WA 98134

Established in 2008, URBANADD gets its name from the word “urban” and the collective acronym of the words “ architecture, design, and development” which serves as the perfect summary of its extensive range of services and expertise. It is composed of a group of architects and designers who work on urban environments through thoughtful and comprehensive densification. Its founders first gained experience in working with various well-known firms before branching out and founding URBANADD. Together, these firms have curated a diverse portfolio of both commercial and residential spaces and have secured relationships with important clients and some of the area’s best craftsmen and professionals. The firm assists throughout the entire process and is known for its exemplary way of handling not only design but also documentation and overseeing construction.

Its best work is encapsulated by its Estates Tasting Room project. Completed for the Crimson Wine Group, the project spans over 15,000 square feet and was completed in collaboration with Best Practice Architecture. It holds wines from Archery Summit and Double Canyon wineries and has a large lenticular art installation.