Designing for Dining: Find the Sex in the Room

Food x Design panel at The LoftIf you’ve been cooking three squares a day on the home front for the past few years, perhaps you haven’t noticed — Calgary has been caught up in a foodie revolution. A hot new eatery seems to open every month downtown, on 17th, in Inglewood or in other cool YYC hoods. And it’s not just culinary art that creates the experience — interior design is also a prime part of the food mood. So when I was invited to a panel discussion of four of Calgary’s busiest restaurant interior designers, moderated by Jennifer Hamilton of Avenue Magazine, I couldn’t resist.

Amanda Hamilton's The LoftFood x Design was held in The Loft by Amanda Hamilton, an intimate space at the Guardian Towers in Victoria Park. Packed with design fans, savvy PR specialist Lara Rogers found a spot on the stairs.

Amanda Hamilton, Kate Allen, Sarah WardOn the left, Amanda Hamilton, who recently did the interior of Native Tongues, told us she’d loved restaurants ever since she was an Earl’s girl. Kate Allen, center, known for her work on Bridgette Bar, Model Milk and Anju, said, “At the start of a project, the designer should be mostly listening.”

Talk quickly turned to costs. For everyone who likes to blame the designer for going crazy with expensive details, Amanda said,  “I think designers get a bad rap for blowing budgets.”

On the right, Sarah Ward (Nash, Proof, Cluck and Cleaver) credited Chef Michael Noble for changing her financial outlook on design. “Prior to working with him as  designer, I didn’t realize the impact of how my design affected the bottom line. You have to be careful of applied costs down the road.”

Sally Healy (pictured below), the designer behind Our Daily Brett and the now-shuttered Borgo Trattoria and Capo, was quick to chime in: “It affects us too. Cuz if they go broke like some of my restaurants have…”

Can you spot the Una owner?Sally’s spicy quips kept the audience laughing, including Pizza Una and Ox’s bearded owner, Kelly Black.

Sally Healy, Calgary DesignerThe boldest of the bunch, Sally’s the type of designer who can make you believe in a project from sheer force of personality. One of her top priorities when starting a new design? “You have to decide where the sex in the room is.”

Sally Healy, Calgary DesignerAlthough Sarah Ward had a cautious outlook on design costs before the engineers weigh in (“We don’t know what it costs until we know what it costs,”) Sally disagreed.

“Once a client gives their wish list, I do have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to cost.”

Practical words from a woman in purple-accented platform shoes. Love it! Blue Besos

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