Contemporary restaurant design trends – minimalist marvels


We live in a time that frays our edges with the unrelenting production of things we should want to have and reems of social information we should want to know. It’s no wonder with all this complexity building up around us that the mark of premium luxury is becoming the privilege of space and calm.

We yearn for places that offer us space to think, space to eat and space to be, environments to enjoy refinement without the constant competition for our attention.

Enter the marvel of intentional minimalism, an ethos embodied in the Japanese principle of ‘ma’, or ‘empty space’.

Luxury brands like Lexus embody this understanding in their design aesthetic. The renowned elite car brand is synonymous with minimalist sophistication. The designers of these cars are well attuned to the principles of ma and know how to introduce this feeling of ampleness through the cultivation of a feeling of space into their vehicles. They also cultivate another Japanese design principle of ‘simple beauty’, known as shibui.

Together ma and shibui are the essence of true minimalism.

To experience this duality of luxury through intentional minimalism in the culinary scene, you need look no further than venues like Wolfgat, La Colombe or the new Joburg eatery GRK by Ethos.

Taking a style cue from fine dining establishments, GRK has elevated everyday food by leaning into a minimal colour palette and sleek, iterative design with natural materials. Located in the trendy centre of Sandton, this Greek food establishment features the detail work of the herringbone wooden flooring which we see repeated in the woven chair upholstery. This attention to subtle detail combined with the natural, subdued colour palette echoes refinement and an eye for elegance.


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A post shared by GRK Rivonia (@grk.rivonia)

Not unlike with Lexus vehicles – the classic use of natural materials and refined sense of detail, like the hand-stitched leather interior with the intricate stitching pattern of the Lexus LS, combine to offer a sophisticated driving experience.

At Wolfgat, another award-winning restaurant tucked into the remote fishing village of Paternoster on the West Coast, we see a similar understated simplicity. In their minimalist approach, the use of selective natural materials and organic textures plays the role of introducing harmony between the interior and exterior. Walls of exposed brick and floors of reclaimed wood pay homage to the original shibui, the simple beauty of nature.


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The Lexus range is no stranger to the inherent elegance in the selective use of natural materials. Their LX model features a cabin trimmed in high-quality wood and premium leather trimming – again honouring the use of simple elegance without the need for distraction to entertain.

When we look at the aesthetic of Eat Out Woolworths Restaurant of the Year, La Colombe, on the slopes of Silvermine Mountain, we again enjoy the refined elegance and use of natural materials such as marble and wood. With sweeping floor-to-ceiling windows, where the boundaries dissolve between the view and you, you’re left to enjoy the curvature of the mountain with your meal.

This contemporary sense of space is evident in the Lexus ES, for example, which intrigues with her low-slung roofline and graceful profile. The clean lines and elegant absence of visual intrusion leave us with that same sense of refinement and calm present when we’re allowed to bask in a minimalist space.


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A post shared by La Colombe Restaurant (@lacolombect)

So, the next time you’re dining at one of South Africa’s premium establishments, consider how much thought goes into the restraint of considered minimalist design, and that what you’re really being offered in these sleek, natural environments is the pure luxury of being able to taste the brilliance of your meal or feel the supreme engineering of a Lexus as she handles the road ahead with ease.

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