Creating Saltie Girl London – Interview with Founders of Atelier Wren

When Inside Out Contracts told us that they were having a conversation with Lorenzo Buscaroli and Jake Raslan, the Founders of Atelier Wren and designer’s of Saltie Girl London, we had to listen in! 

Sumptuous plush seating, beautiful bespoke furniture, and intimate lighting create a tasteful chic atmosphere to be enjoyed by all those who venture into Saltie Girl in Mayfair London. Just like stepping into a magical under the sea mermaid world, everything glistens gorgeously in varying shades of turquoise, cream and gold.

Boston born, with a new restaurant in LA, this seafood bar crossed the pond to establish its first bar in London. Interior designers Atelier Wren, pioneered the Saltie Girl voyage across the globe, to open its doors within the prestigious Mayfair!

With a contemporary and aesthetically pleasing interior, this gleaming new restaurant delivers a taste of unreserved indulgence with cuisine and luxury furniture that excels in both presentation and quality.

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How did working with the creation of the new Saltie Girl venue in London start?

Jake: Saltie Girl is a well-loved and respected restaurant in Boston. When they told us that they wanted to open in the UK and that they had a fantastic site on North Audley Street, nearby some excellent restaurants, we were very excited. After our first proper meeting client meeting we knew we liked them as people and that we all shared that excitement to get started.

Lorenzo: The clients were great. They knew how the restaurant should operate and were passionate about bringing their winning offering to the UK market. We worked with them super closely, and enjoyed helping by using our design expertise and Central London restaurant market know-how.

What are the different stages of a project, from the perspective of an interior designer?

Lorenzo: When designing a restaurant, the brief and the site are the starting points. Saltie Girl had a clear brief because of their existing Boston venue. A bar, an oyster shucker station, plenty of display for their products (they sell some pretty incredible tins of fish). Then it becomes about getting the most out of the site.

This site had some obstacles to overcome and some opportunities that we found in the next stage of the process: developing the plans. We usually make a few different options for layouts: position of the bar for example. With Saltie Girl we decided to open up the view to the kitchen at the back of the restaurant as this created a really dynamic view from the moment you enter the restaurant.

Jake: It was decided to put the shucker station near the window for the site presence and the bar near the front of the restaurant as this helped operationally; when customers need to wait for a table, they can sit at the bar. We like to think of the restaurant holistically, including how it operates (not just for the aesthetics!).

We will usually put together a “concept document” that we develop over time, to present ideas and get feedback form the clients. In this stage we are considering the vibe of the restaurant and starting to propose finishes, styles of joinery, styles of banquettes and lighting etc. This gets developed more and more until we are drawing the project…

Lorenzo: The drawing process takes a while! In this stage we are working with the consultants like structural and mechanical engineers, as well as the kitchen equipment suppliers to draw the detailed joinery. We will also be designing the lighting schemes at this point, showing the circuits and speccing the different types of lighting.

Then its speccing and designing the loose furniture, and Saltie Girl was no different. We went through lots of fabric samples for the fixed and loose seating until the clients were happy, and then worked with Inside Out to work out exactly how things would be put together.

Jake: Its a long process. But one that we and the rest the Atelier Wren team relish.

When it came to the contract furniture for this project, what were your key concerns when it came to making sure the end product would be as good as the visuals you produced?

Jake: Contract furniture needs to be robust. But we wanted it to be elegant. For example, chair frames need to be chunkier than maybe we would aesthetically want so there is always a balancing act. Its the same with the finishes (martindale count, cleaning etc). Its not like designing for a home, we know the furniture is going to take a battering… even in exclusive restaurants in Mayfair like Saltie Girl.

Lorenzo: We always joke that we don’t just make pretty pictures. We make pretty visuals to explain the concept to the clients, but then after that we need to make sure that the products delivered to site work! So there is a lot of work that happens after the pretty visuals, before stuff starts getting made and delivered.

How did the bespoke design service at Inside Out Contracts help ensure any concerns were overcome?

Jake: They are very good: super involved and always helpful. We started with sketches and then those developed into dimensioned drawings. Before production Inside Out Contracts send a render to show how the product would look when fabricated.

Lorenzo: The table tops in Saltie Girl are a starburst veneer pattern. They were very patient with us: they must have sent us 20 physical veneer and stain and sheen samples until we approved one!

Now that Saltie Girl has opened in London, how do you feel about the end result?

Lorenzo: Our job designing bars and restaurants is not an easy career but we find it exciting. Its fast paced to get the restaurants open in time, so there can be a lot of pressure, which can be stressful. But when a restaurant opens and you are proud of it, its a one-of-a-kind feeling…. At least until the next one! Saltie Girl looks great and we love it.

Jake: When it first opened, we took the Atelier Wren team there, and a few nights after I took my sisters there. Everyone loved it; the ambience, the service and the food. For me, that means the world.

Project photography by John Carey 

Portrait photography by Rebecca Dickenson of Jake Raslan and Lorenzo Buscaroli 

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About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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