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A Red-Hot San Francisco Restaurant Design

AUGUST 22, 2019

Ask any restaurant owner, and they'll tell you that ambiance and eye-catching design (aka. Instagram-worthy interiors) are very top of mind. They're just as important as great food and excellent service to today's discerning customers. Since opening her first location in 2011, Denise Tran, owner of the Bun Mee Vietnamese eateries in San Francisco, knew the restaurant design at her flagship, located in the city's hip Fillmore neighborhood, was due for a facelift. The plain white walls and the straightforward seating now felt dark and drab, unlike the bright, vibrant interiors of her newer outposts. 

Denise had heard about our services, so she decided to enlist our help. It led to a front-to-back rehaul of the restaurant design by Decorist Celebrity designer Jessica McCarthy. "We wanted to create a space that was representative of the Vietnamese culture but in a cheeky and playful way," says Jessica, who transformed the space from cafeteria-casual to red-hot dining spot. Take a peek inside Jessica's upbeat redesign below.


The first order of business for Jessica was to liven up the interior. That meant reworking the color palette and swapping in some new lighting to give the space a brighter, bolder look and feel. "I love the pendant lights that hang over the bar space," says Jessica, who opted for woven pendant lights that lend both sculptural and airy appeal. "The pendants themselves are an organic material but mixed with the bright red cords the design is a fascinating contrast and draws your eyes up." 


In rethinking the color palette, Jessica was also adamant about "creating a focal point that is extremely memorable for customers," she says. "For this space, that was our Sriracha wallpaper. Denise is so awesome, and she just let me run with my vision," she tells us. "She was completely trusting even when the idea of covering one huge wall in her restaurant with hot sauce wallpaper was a bit intimidating at first!" It was a daring move that has paid off. "Customers come into the restaurant and instantly take their phones out to take photos," she points out, adding, "The more images the customer posts, the more free marketing the restaurant gets."

To add extra impact, Jessica also hung up a custom neon sign that lights up with the words 'so phó, so good' for a playful nod to Bun Mee's delicious menu. Finally, as a way to balance out the over-the-top visual elements, Jessica anchored the space with vintage-style metal chairs that reiterate the spicy red hue along with light-wood tables. 


"I think with restaurants you always need to think about functionality first and then design," Jessica says. "Don't get stuck on an idea that may end up not working out because of the limitations of the restaurant. Be flexible with your ideas and get creative!"

To that end, Jessica worked with the existing window seating flanking the entrance. Ripping them out would have required a much bigger renovation job that wasn't necessary. For a simple refresh, she updated the lighting to woven pendants that relate to the ones she installed above the main counter. It was a natural addition that brought together the front and back areas, creating a sense of cohesiveness in the overall restaurant design.


Beyond the interiors, Jessica brought the vibrant red palette to the restaurant's outdoor seating in front as well. She opted for two stylish bistro sets that set the tone for the interior and looked right at home on Fillmore Street. "When coming up with the design, I definitely took into account the trendy type of customer who shops on Fillmore."


If you're a business owner looking to create a world-class workspace for your company, see how one of our Decorist designers can bring your vision to life.

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