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Painting inspires Red Deer’s design for National Gallery’s new restaurant

The colour palette for Ochre takes cues from its namesake pigment and the Gallery’s impressive art collection.


3 min read

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A short distance from London’s Trafalgar Square sits the National Gallery, with a newly designed restaurant by architectural practice Red Deer on the ground floor. Inside, the fitout has been adorned with burnt oranges, yellows and browns to pay homage to the National Gallery’s collection of over 2,300 paintings, which blends itself well with the restaurant’s name – Ochre.

Having retained much of the architectural structure’s original features, Ochre mixes old and new with classical high ceilings and large windows paired with newly constructed banquette seating, which zig zags across the main space. Designed to mimic a paint stroke, the purpose-built contemporary addition from Red Deer separates the restaurant’s drinking and dining area, and nods to the gallery residing above.

A large new bar has also been designed and installed to connect the restaurant to the kitchen with service for food and drinks. Wooden stools situated at the bar continue the artistic theme with bases shaped to resemble art palettes.

“When we were imagining the design for Ochre it was always going to be a plush space because the building itself is so beautiful and its proportions are so iconic,” comments Lucas Che Tizard, Red Deer’s co-founder, lead architect and designer. “It just lends itself to these grand indulgent fittings”

Lighting is a key component within Red Deer’s designs which had to be carefully thought out due to the heavily listed status of the National Gallery building. Numerous limitations were sidestepped with large bespoke free-stand lighting, emphasising the double height space of the gallery by moving away from the existing wall panelling. Swooping from floor to table in grand gesture, the lighting resembles brush marks, further instilling the artistic theme – the result is an ambient room that evokes the look and feel a still life painting. The ceiling of the adjoined private dining room is adorned with an oversized chandelier, acting as a spectacular focal point for those sitting within.

From deep velvets, boucle and embroidery to raw cottons and linens, the understated yet playful colours of Ochre continue across the restaurant’s textiles also. Hand-patinated brass features as a repeated detail, alongside tables embellished with ochre paint splashes – the latter handmade by ceramicist Emma Lloyd-Pane.

“We imagined this restaurant space to be like an artist’s home – warm, homely and relaxing and I think the design of Ochre definitely reflects this,” Tizard adds. “Likewise, the name Ochre, and the colour palette it is named after, is muted and autumnal and so the food served here is simple and seasonal.”

As a firm committed to being environmentally friendly, Red Deer sought to continue sustainable design throughout the restaurant by reusing as much as possible. This includes the pre-existing banquettes which were rebuilt onsite by a banquette specialist, and 60% of the restaurant’s original seating being renovated. Of the fabric woven into designs, all was acquired from local merchants, and the furniture was sourced solely from UK suppliers.

Throughout the whole process, Red Deer worked with Ochre’s owners, Charlotte and Sam Miller. “We are proud to bring Ochre to the historic National Gallery,” the duo comment. “We have created a beautiful contemporary space inside the impressive 20th century William Wilkins building, with a soft palette, celebrating the best features of the room.”

“Working with Red Deer has been an enjoyable experience,” Miller continues. “We very much look forward to our elevated restaurant concept becoming a place that gallery visitors will enjoy, as well as a destination restaurant in its own right in London.”

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