Bubbling Over

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In Conversation with Soda Custom

From ambient restaurants and clubs to contemporary bars and boutiques, Soda Custom is on our radar for their captivating and cool interiors. Their repertoire includes dining hotspots like Grand Pavilion and RIKŪ Chef’s Counter, as well as nightlife hubs like Coco and Sneaker Cartel (and that’s only the tip of an exceptionally stylish and very prolific iceberg). We recently had the privilege of sitting down with co-director of Soda Custom Gregor Bremer to find out: What does it take to design electrifying spaces that captivate the client and the consumers, and where could hospitality interior design be headed next?

You’ve designed a collection of the best restaurants, bars, and clubs that are all crowd favourites, but where will we find the Soda Custom Team having a drink?

We love to frequent Bo-Vine, and The Attic afterwards, for a full sensory overload.

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From conception to completion: how does that look?

I’m proud to say that we have a very streamlined and efficient approach, and boast one of the quickest turn-around times in our industry. Taking a brief, designing the space, sourcing materials, and then receiving client approvals normally takes around 2-3 weeks. Once we have that, we commence with the turn-key implantation and site works which, depending on the scale and specification levels, would take approximately 6-10 weeks to be ready for opening to the public.

How has hospitality interior design evolved since Soda Custom began working in this area of the industry?

I’ve found that the hospitality industry was missing the need to make patrons leave a space feeling beyond content. For me, restaurants need to not only have a jaw-dropping interior, but all other elements need to work harmoniously, from the food and the music all the way to the service, to leave you with a lasting impression and experience of the venue. To achieve this, I prioritise getting fully involved in all facets of the business we are designing, which helps enhance all elements to ensure that patrons leave with all their senses fully satisfied.

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When working on restaurants, does the menu influence your design choices?

The menu often gives a great direction of the design concept; it’s important to take into account all aspects of the design. A perfect example of this is Surfshack, which is a laidback, seaside diner specialising in cocktails, shareables, and light bites with a wood-fired pizza oven. Keeping this in mind when designing Surfshack, we decided that it needed to capture the essence of beachside dining, providing a welcoming and casual experience for locals and visitors seeking a taste of the surf-and-sand lifestyle, achieved through a light sand colour palette, beachy umbrellas, and lots of wood accents.

Which design elements influence these kinds of spaces the most and demand priority when designing with the consumer in mind?

LAYOUT. Always layout. Before anything else, it’s our job as the designers to make sure that the layout makes the most sense, and the flow of the entire space works perfectly. You can have the most beautiful restaurant, but if there’s no flow, it will never work. Once the layout is perfected, the next element that makes a huge difference is lighting. Lighting creates an ambience that no other design element can achieve.

What is a key source of inspiration across every project?

My design approach is almost always inspired by the environment in which the venue is situated, like the ocean, the mountains, an urban landscape. But this doesn’t mean we can’t make a venue the complete opposite of its environment. Bo-Vine shows that a seaside restaurant doesn’t need to be light and beachy, but can pull off dark and moody, too.

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Are there any timeless design narratives that we’ll find incorporated across your projects?

Certainly! I believe in weaving timeless design narratives into every project, creating a consistent thread of aesthetic and functional excellence. Some enduring design principles you’ll find incorporated across Soda’s projects include elegance in simplicity, where we embrace the notion that less is often more. Our designs feature clean lines, uncluttered spaces, and a minimalist approach that stands the test of time. Functionality as a foundation is essential because timelessness, for us, goes hand in hand with practicality. I prioritise functionality in design, ensuring that each element serves a purpose while maintaining a visually pleasing and cohesive aesthetic. I also integrate nature-inspired elements, recognising the enduring beauty found in the organic world. Whether through the use of natural materials, greenery, or natural light, the projects often incorporate elements that connect inhabitants to the timeless harmony of the environment.

Finally, quality craftsmanship: I’m committed to quality in every detail, from the selection of materials to the execution of the final design. Craftsmanship is integral to the process at Soda, ensuring that our projects not only withstand the test of time but also age with grace and are durable (especially in such high-traffic areas).

What does the average day in the Soda Custom studio look like?

We are not your average turn-key design studio. The team is extremely close, which works so well for us – fostering a collaborative and dynamic environment. An average day at the Soda Custom studio is characterised by a seamless exchange of ideas, where each team member’s unique strengths contribute to the creative process. The familial atmosphere not only promotes open communication but also enhances our ability to adapt swiftly to challenges and embrace new opportunities.

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Do you have a favourite project you’ve worked on?

Sonny and Irene really stands out to me. It’s something completely different to what our usual ‘style’ is, and really allowed us to be creative in a completely different way. It celebrates café-style classics with a contemporary twist. It is set in a perfect palette of organic greens with pops of soft pink and gold, finished in natural timber, marble, and plush velvet with Art Deco accents. It’s a classic with a kick that is really distinct from our other projects.

How do you want people to feel when they’re sitting in a space you’ve designed?

This is a very important question, as I put a lot of emphasis on the FEELING you get when sitting in one of our restaurants. Sometimes it’s not about the most intricate design, but rather the feeling of comfort, warmth, and a sense of belonging. I aim to create an atmosphere that resonates with a positive and inviting energy, making guests feel at ease and connected to their surroundings. Ultimately, I want people to feel a harmonious blend of relaxation and excitement, fostering memorable moments and a desire to return to our uniquely-designed spaces.

As for what is brewing in Soda’s studio right now… it’s ‘all under wraps at the moment’, but take it from us – there are many stellar tricks
left up Soda’s sleeves as they map out the future of curating consumer interiors.

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