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 Architecture
1419 S Jackson St., Suite #14, Seattle, WA 98144
Best Practice is a design-intensive firm located in Seattle, WA. Founded in 2011 by Ian Butcher, our office emerged from a primarily residential architectural background. Wanting to explore the world beyond residential design, Ian dove into the world of cafes, retail spaces and office design, taking his residential sensibilities with him. Quickly growing beyond a sole
proprietorship, Kailin Gregga joined the team in 2014 and now serves as the creative lead in the office. Best Practice has since established itself as scrappy and bold, known for creative problem solving and thoughtful design solutions. In August 2016 Architect Magazine named Best Practice as “Next Progressives,” in the field. As of this August, our office has received the AIA Northwest + Pacific Region Emerging Firm Award for 2019.
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.
7001 Third Ave., NW Seattle, WA 98117
Bjarko Serra Architects was founded in 1992 and its status in Seattle’s design scene has gradually increased ever since, 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, and now offices. Their work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Luxe, Arcade, Dwell, Seattle Homes and Lifestyles, Seattle Magazine/Northwest Home and Garden, Pacific Northwest, and Seattle Metropolitan.
Founders Greg Bjarko and Chris Serra met as architecture students in Bozeman, Montana, and they ended up blending their expertise after gaining experience with other firms. This strong background brought Bjarko Serra an AIA Honor Award commendation and the AIA Home of the Month designation.
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 & Vellum
115 15th Ave. East, Suite #100, Seattle, WA 98112
Board & Vellum represents a trifecta of design expertise, including architecture, interior design, and landscapes. They know how to generate the industrial aesthetic of popular local breweries and the hip gleam of urban tea cafes. AIA member and principal architect Jeff Pelletier received his degree from Cornell University’s architecture program. He founded Board & Vellum in 2011, bringing his professional experience in the restaurant, residential retail, and commercial projects into his new vision. Board & Vellum now has a staff of over 30 and is always growing its presence in Seattle. Pelletier was recognized in Puget Sound Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” and Seattle Business Magazine featured his firm as one of Washington’s 100 Best Companies to Work For for the last four years.
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.
900 Winslow Way East, Suite #210 Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
Coates Design focuses on sustainable design and green building techniques. They enjoy solving complex problems and providing affordable, graceful design solutions. Matthew Coates, president, founder, and principal architect believes in a positive team spirit, versatility in energy use, and innovative materials. Some of the larger-scale projects he’s overseen include the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, the Harrison Urgent Care Facility, and the S’Klallam Tribe Youth Community Center. The Bainbridge Island Museum earned LEED Gold, and the firm’s work has been featured in Inside Bainbridge, the Seattle Times, and the Bainbridge Island Review. Though Coates Design is just now making their foray into restaurant design: they bring Bainbridge Island’s necessary voice to the evolving face of Seattle restaurants.
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 to cultivate a highly collaborative environment and build a team that prizes meticulous attention to detail and expressiveness. With an intimate team of five, Floisand managed to receive recognition in Pacific Northwest Magazine, Seattle Magazine, Sunset Magazine, ArchDaily, the Seattle Times, The Stranger, and Coffee Time: Contemporary Cafes. They’ve received the AIA Seattle: 2016 Homes of Distinction award and the Green Building of America Award. Floisand is proud to have joined Seattle’s 2030 District, a collaborative of engineers, architects, utilities, businesses, property owners, and organizations.
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.
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. Principals Laura Gardner and Hiroshi Matsubara received their Master of Architecture from UCLA and bring more than 20 years of experience to their work. GM Studio prides itself on executing designs that reflect the richness of simplicity and the spirit of place. Though their presence is still growing, their well-crafted and unique approach to space marks them among Seattle’s creative crew of designers bringing versatility, out of the box thinking, and elegance to the Seattle vision.
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 has worked with restaurant, office, residential, and art spaces and bring their passion for subtle and economic design to every project they take on. Their restaurant work has been particularly trend-setting; the firm’s impact was described in a Seattle Times article as work that creates spaces where diners want to stay. The 28-employee team has won—among others—the 2017 Architizer Award, the 2017 Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture & Design Award, the 2018 AIA National Honor Award, the 2019 Architizer Award for its work on the Trailben Taproom, and the 2019 IIDA Northern Pacific Chapter INAward for its Deep Dive project. Jim Graham and Brett Baba bring over 60 years of collective experience to the firm. The firm’s capacity for creative collaboration with clients and their vision for the unique character embedded in spaces makes them shine as one of Seattle’s leading giants in 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
Heliotrope is known for its contemporary designs and its process-driven work. Established in 1999 by Mike Mora and Joe Herrin, Heliotrope’s work has earned attention regionally and nationally. Their diverse portfolio encompasses high-end restaurants, retail stores, private residential commissions and public spaces. Heliotrope has received numerous design awards, including the AIA NW & Pacific Honor Merit Award, AIA Washington Architecture Merit Award, AIA Washington Civic Design Citation award and the National AIA Housing Honor award. Their projects have been featured in Pacific NW Magazine, Metropolis Magazine, Gray Magazine, SURFACE Magazine, Architectural Digest, Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
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)
159 S Jackson St., Suite #600, Seattle, WA 98104
One of Seattle’s most sought-after architects, Olson Kundig, has created designs for iconic projects from the Century Project of Seattle’s very own Space Needle to company headquarters in Hong Kong and Seoul, as well as adored restaurants in cities around the globe. Headed by Jim Olson, Tom Kundig, Kirsten R. Murray, Alan Maskin, Kevin M. Kudo-King—all prominent figures in contemporary architecture—the firm has caught the attention of major national and international publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Avivre Magazine, and Architect Magazine.
Olson Kundig’s experience in the restaurant industry is evident in projects such as Chef Shaun McCrain’s Copine. McCrain’s unique take on Contemporary American cuisine defines a unique dining experience. Olson Kundig’s open kitchen layouts and warm palette translates the restaurant’s hospitality into a material space.
Perkins & Will
1301 Fifth Ave., Suite #2300, Seattle, WA 98101
An institution since 1935, Perkins & Will has established itself as a major player in the American architectural scene. The firm has been decorated with monumental awards such as the American Planning Association’s National Planning Excellence Award, the BusinessWeek and Architectural Record “Good Design is Good Business” Award, and an AIA National Honor Award. Perkins & Will has headquarters in Chicago and studios in Seattle, Miami, Toronto, Shanghai, Dubai, and São Paulo.
In Perkins & Will Seattle studio, 26-years industry veteran Kay Kornovich serves as the Managing Director. Kornovich leads a team of architects in designing sustainable projects in the nation’s fastest-growing city. Its projects in the Puget Sound region, Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Wyoming all bear the mark of the studio’s signature sustainable design.
Looking at the firm’s restaurant projects, restaurateurs will notice how thoughtful the interactive designs are. The Bacchanalia, for example, is characterized by spacious dining spaces highly appreciated by restaurant owner Anne Quatrano. She points out how easily diners can grab coffee and croissants, and how the space fosters communing among customers.
Restaurant & Bar Design Group
2405 41st Ave. E, Suite #301, Seattle, WA 98112
As straightforward as the name suggests, Restaurant & Bar Design Group is a firm with a specific mission of designing restaurant, bars, and hospitality institutions. The firm offers branding, marketing, and web design services along with concept and design services. The company has offices in Seattle and Florence in Italy and serves restaurateurs and bar owners all over US, Mexico, Canada, and Italy.
Liliana Edwards, the art director of Restaurant & Bar Design Group, founded the firm in 2010 and supervised major projects all over the Americas and Europe.
Projects such as The La Cascina Dinner Club, Pantarei Restaurant Bar, Villa Vittoria Urban Garden Club, and Buenos Aires Grill prove Restaurant & Bar Design Group’s versatile portfolio. The Buenos Aires Grill is an Argentine restaurant and Tango bar that serves top-notch steaks, Argentinian classics, and cocktails in a dimly-lit environment.
SHED Architecture & Design
1401 S Jackson, Seattle WA 98144
SHED’s modest team bases its design values around the healthy integration of pragmatism and idealism. They have taken on projects ranging from $250k to $25M and are consistently versatile, working in 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, Prentis Hale, earned his Master of Architecture from the University of Washington as well 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.
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.
2333 3rd Ave., Seattle, WA 98121
SkB Architects, an award-winning architecture firm in Seattle, has gained a reputation for designing homes and commercial establishments with a comprehensive design process that banks on the firm’s rapid-moving, experienced team. Led by seasoned industry professionals Shannon Gaffney, Kyle Gaffney, Brian Collins-Friedrichs, and Steve Olson, SkB Architects has caught the attention of publications including Interior Design, Portrait of Seattle, Dwell, Simple Sanctuary, Gray Magazine, Seattle Metropolitan, and Pacific Northwest and garnered awards such as Architizer A+ Awards Finalist for a restaurant project.
Bar Taglio is the perfect example of SkB’s proficiency in restaurant design. Situated at the legendary Seattle Art Deco building Exchange Building in Downtown Seattle, the restaurant sports a Roman-inspired bar and pizzeria.
Suyama Peterson Deguchi
8601 8th Ave., S Seattle, WA 98108
Suyama Peterson Deguchi, founded by AIA fellow George Suyama in 1971, has been bringing their prowess for clean, bright, functional design to the Seattle area for over four decades. The firm’s versatility includes work on residential design, office space, restaurants, and other commercial facilities, and they pride themselves on their Northwest contemporary design aesthetic. Suyama received the AIA Seattle Medal of Honor and is dedicated to creating an “ambiance of place” through his work. AIA member Jay Deguchi completed graduate school at UCLA and joined the team in 1992, 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.
1936 1st Ave., S Seattle, WA 98134
Jim Brown and Andrew Lawrence’s Urbandd Architects gained popularity as a specialist in distillery and food hospitality projects. Along with several commercial and residential projects, Urbandd built a solid portfolio that resonated with enterprises in the city. The firm has designed a number of projects that cater to the food hospitality industry. The Westland Distillery, for example, selected Urbandd to design their distillery, tasting room, and private events area. The Northern Pacific chapter of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) met Urbandd’s effort in the project with the Best in Hospitality award.
The distillery’s versatile nature is a direct response to Seattle businesses’ need for more corporate event places. The additional 150-seater space is picturesquely located in the Cask Room of the distillery. The room is specifically designed for presentations and large-scale gatherings.