Designing a restaurant might seem easy. All you need is a big enough space for the kitchen and demarcate the rest for seats. But if you’ve ever played Overcooked or Diner Dash, you would know the intricacies that go into designing a restaurant. We chat with Jake Goh, creative director and co-founder of nij design about his inspiration for Sonia Chew’s Izy Fook restaurant and his other work.
What got you interested in interior design?
I started interning at an interior design (ID) and architecture company, and that’s when I realised that I wanted to start my own company because I felt that there were sales-driven and creative firms. But there was none that mixed both. So, we started nij design to deliver design solutions at a good price.
When you get a restaurant brief, what goes through your head first?
Sixty per cent of a good restaurant design is functionality. It has to be practical, and to be well-designed, you have to think of the staff’s workflow and the customers’ movement. When I start designing for a restaurant, I begin from the foundation, which is the layout. That can actually take a couple of days. Space planning is very important.
After that, then we can start thinking about the aesthetics. Colour palette, textures, choice of materials, furniture, etc.
Wouldn’t your layout more or less be determined by the space you have?
You’re right. Therefore, having good foresight is important. More importantly, you need to have a certain level of technical knowledge. Designing a restaurant is not just about colours or style, but also knowing how and where the water pipes are going to run or where the electricity cables will be. Then you can design around them.
You also have to know a bit of human psychology! Sometimes, when you see an empty restaurant, you won’t feel like going in right? You need to make the atmosphere vibrant when there are a couple of people there already (laughs).
How did you apply all that when you designed the Izy Fook restaurant?
Izy Fook is in a really old building. When we started tearing down everything at the beginning, we realised a lot of the pipes were old and leaking, and some of the walls were unstable. The roof was also leaking, so when it rained, the water would come in.
The layout is also oddly-shaped. It’s long and narrow, so we planned two separate sections – a bar at the front and the restaurant seating at the back – to make the place more vibrant. Only after that did I start researching aesthetics. Izy Fook is inspired by Cantonese culture, so I looked around at places in Hong Kong.
The mahjong display feature at the front is a nod to that, as well as the main golden door frame that stands at the entrance. We had a small budget to work with, so I’m glad with what we’ve achieved.
Izy Fook is at 27 Club Street