Design: KVB Design Ltd
Photography: Tom Lee

Working with Andy Thornton was a great experience. Near the beginning of the project, we arranged to take the client up to the Andy Thornton Showroom and Factory, which was invaluable in order to see the furniture and the metalwork being manufactured, and really made us feel that they were part of the team bringing the vision to life. Kristina has been really fabulous and always available to go above and beyond for us, sourcing the dining benches directly from the supplier when we had found them elsewhere. Prices have always been fair and genuine for both, the found and bespoke items and their attention to details is second to none. We will certainly be looking to work with Andy Thornton for future projects.

From metalwork enquiry to one-stop-shop: Gillian Fisher, designer at KVB Design, discusses Beckworth Emporium

The initial contact with Andy Thornton was purely regarding the architectural metalwork structures and canopy. Once we had established what was achievable within budget, Andy Thornton supplied all the loose furniture and manufactured all the banquette seating and booths. Due to time constraints on the fit-out, they also supplied us with all the freestanding elements for the space – waiter stations, water stations, trough planters. The bar was built on site, but the canopy over the bar was supplied by Andy Thornton, along with the huge metal mirrors in the restaurant and the WC lobby.


Combining brand legacy with new experiences

When KVB Design was approached to create a new restaurant for Beckworth Emporium, the lifestyle destination in Northamptonshire UK, the challenge was clear – How do we create something newer, bigger and better while retaining the unique experience that loyal customers know and love?

The original restaurant evolved over many years to win a place in customers’ hearts and minds. The challenge was to capture the essence of this experience and instil this into every part of the interior and identity.

The task was to significantly extend the glasshouse restaurant to accommodate over 400 customers, meeting the incredible demand from customers.


Beckworth's biggest challenges

Space planning & layout - how to accommodate the new restaurant into the two huge glasshouse structures of 650 sq. meters - 7,000sq feet, how to zone the space to make customers feel comfortable and easy. How to break up the vast space without compromising the function and aesthetics.

Operational challenges - Queue management, Bar and Waiter stations – how to make the restaurant operationally manageable, how to ensure that staff can welcome, sit and serve all customers from the moment they enter the restaurant reception, been guided to the tables and being served efficiently. It was a huge design challenge to locate the bar and waiter stations around the building making staff journeys as short as possible, whilst keeping the connection with the kitchen and pot wash.

Ambience and comfort – we considered the lighting during the bright sunny days and dull dark afternoons, how to manage heat and ventilation, and making a visual connection between the glasshouse space and outside gardens. 

It was important for us to ensure the impersonal glasshouse buildings have an identity, warm and cosy atmosphere and most importantly, reflect the values and personality of Beckworth Emporium.

How do you create personal dining experiences in a large space without it feeling like a canteen?

The space was split into two separate buildings which were being combined via low central ceiling area. To create visually unified space, we designed a spine of two-sided banquette seating along the centre. This allows a physical break between the spaces, whilst retains a visual connection and customer flow through the restaurant. The use of both banquette and booth seating throughout the space helped us break the space in to separate and more intimate zones.

The two glasshouse buildings were further broken up with the introduction of large architectural structures to help bring a human scale to the space.  Two metalwork shelters provide ‘a room within a room’ offering more intimate dining areas/ events spaces.

The large U-shaped bar sits centrally in the restaurant, providing an efficient service hub and making it quick and easy to support for this busy restaurant. There is a matching metal canopy over the bar, providing height and space for lighting and greenery, whilst tying it in with two metalwork shelters in the other side of the restaurant.

Ensuring there's no 'bad seat' in the restaurant

Although being incredibly successful, the original restaurant and infrastructure was very dated, with operations extended over a long period of time. The key task was to build a new kitchen, warehouse facility to support the operational needs of Beckworth. The restaurant was extended to accommodate more seats and make a space to answer customer demand. We had to carefully consider the challenging operational needs, such as customer access, location for the reception desk, bar, waiter stations, kitchen, pot wash and customer toilets.

When designing the restaurant, we had to find a good balance between the customer needs i.e. provide space for intimate conversations and large family gatherings, afternoon teas and Christmas parties. By zoning the restaurant, adding separate architectural structures within the large glasshouse buildings, comfortable banquette seating and private booths, areas with high bar tables and the zones with loose furniture, a good balance was achieved so that there is ‘no bad seat’ in this restaurant.

How did you achieve Beckworth's brilliant biophilic design?

Given the beautiful glazed nature of the building, right from the beginning we knew we wanted to create an inside/outside feel to the Restaurant, akin to orangeries and glasshouses of the past. We knew plants would be incredibly important to achieving this, and much of the detailing and design of the space was created with the use of plants in mind.

Once again, the challenge was the size of the space, using real plants over that scale involves an incredible amount of upkeep to keep it looking good. Plants being brushed past and even customers breath meaning plants don’t look their best for long in that environment, so we decided with the client that a mixture of real and artificial plants would be best.

All large and small scale potted plants throughout the space are real, which gives the freedom to relocate and replace them to keep them looking their best. It was certainly important to us to have the real plants front and centre in the design, the Restaurant entrance sits next to the Emporium’s house plant display, and overlooks the horticulture retail space so the potted plants help reinforce those offers.

We worked closely with Bright Green with the range of artificial plants used, as it was important to us to use plants of the correct scale for the space. An initial test scheme showed that anything with too small a leaf made the scheme feel very busy, so we went with larger leaf plants of varying shapes and colour tones and planted them in groups. We limited the varieties used to create a scheme that could be used throughout the space to help tie all the areas together, but without being repetitive. We also ensured that the planting scheme was seasonless. The artificial plants sit in long troughs to add texture and a beautiful backdrop to the banquette seating and smaller troughs to break up the mid floor seating areas.

The two metalwork shelters and a canopy around the bar assisted to incorporate planting at high level. We have large hanging baskets with a range of large and small leaf trailing plants flanking the corners which really help break up the space.

There are so many botanical fabrics on the market, how do you find the perfect one?

Finding the perfect pattern is always tricky as it can really change the feel of the space. The feel of the fabric, colours and design can really vary and it’s impossible to tell from photos and supplier images. We compiled a huge range of samples to look at, mainly botanic fabrics, but also some patterns and geometric designs that evoked the feel of a garden in some way. The scale of the pattern was also a consideration, as we knew we were using along the roll top of the banquettes. Some of the fabrics we looked at were just too large, and the design would have been too abstract over that limited area.

As soon as we saw the Clarke&Clarke Passiflora fabric, we absolutely loved it, it had the perfect balance of a traditional botanic fabric with a modern twist and a luxury feel. The range of colourways allowed us to use two different versions in the space, with corresponding plains on the areas of the seats that would take the most wear. Customers constantly comment on the fabrics, and they really work beautifully in the space.

With so many products, we have to ask, what's your favourite furniture item?

We love the Tagada 2 seat sofas that we have used around the sandblasted tree. They look absolutely beautiful in Passiflora patterned fabric used on the rear of the sofas, this really makes this area feel extra special. Dining sofas are a really unique way of dining which give an intimacy that individual chairs often lack, just perfect for sharing an afternoon tea with loved ones.

Subtle details make all the difference

We have two banquette seats with a subtle trellis design behind. These incorporate climbing plants to break through the linearity, and large cropped three-dimensional logos in order to help brand the space. The effect is there with the trellis, but we deliberately didn’t go rustic with the scheme - it’s a very refined take on garden detailing. Likewise, the detailing on the metalwork shelters and external canopy is a subtle nod towards traditional Victorian glasshouses, without being overpowering.

Bringing the outside in

We deliberately chose the main flooring so we could continue the same floor tiles out on to the terrace for a seamless transition between inside and out, and the heritage patterned floor tile was chosen to evoke a feeling of glasshouse floor grates. This design was used around the bar, to highlight the central banquette areas and ran this in a strip right round the glazed perimeter of the space which really helps create the glasshouse feel we were after.

A matching glass-roofed canopy wraps around the outside of the building, helping to tie the old and new buildings together and creating a fantastic covered terrace for the restaurant, which offers an extra 100+ covers.


View other retail, commercial and leisure interior design projects from KVB Design on their website here: https://www.kvbdesign.co.uk/

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