Located in Shanghai‘s Columbia Circle, INKWOOD Restaurant & Bar designed by local firm Studio8 is the first restaurant opened by chef Beichuan Yang. Despite his youth, Beichuan is already a well-known professional who received his training in Canada, where he worked with some of the most renowned chefs in Montreal.
Having spent half of his life running through Beijing Hutongs and the other half in the kitchens of western restaurants in North America, Beichuan himself is a mixture of eastern and western cultures and is passionate about using local ingredients to cook innovative international dishes.
Studio8 was commissioned for brand visual identity, interior design and soft decoration of this new hotspot in the city’s food scene. Beichuan approached Studio8 because he was attracted by the simplicity and playfulness of the Caozitoubench that the firm designed. When he described his future restaurant to the designers Andrea and Shirley, the concept was not very clear and vivid until Beichuan decided on the name INKWOOD. “On one hand, wood represents nature and ink represents constant daily routine; on the other hand, wood represents the ingredients and ink represents the sauces that make ingredients more flavorful.”
Studio8 was challenged to reflect Beichuan’s mindset and build a brand image that translates the chef’s ideas into visuals. The firm spent much of the design process discussing the brand concept with the client. In Shirley’s words, “the design process is like a collaborative idea molding experience between our client and us.” Eventually, instead of focusing on either of the two elements, Studio8 decided to concentrate on the connection between “INK” and “WOOD”, which they believe is the key concept. The unexpected juxtaposition of the two elements mirrors the series of complex and fascinating associations that Beichuan applies to his cuisine. At INKWOOD, the chef wishes to provide customers with an experience that breaks their daily routine. Both the space and the menu are set up in ways to bring people together, as Beichuan believes that food is also about socializing, and for this reason, all the dishes are made to be shared.
For many people, the first impression of INKWOOD Restaurant is the color combinations. Andrea says, “The colors of wood, ink, and sauce remind me of the color scheme often used by Italian painter Giorgio Morandi. I want guests to feel the intensity and temperature of wood and ink, and to ‘taste’ the sauce and ingredients with their eyes first.”
In the visual design, a series of flowing color bubbles are used to represent “INK”; while in the main logo, the mirrored writing of “INK” and “WOOD” are simply connected by a well-defined golden stroke. The designers didn’t want to use too many curves in the space to distract customers’ attention from food. Therefore, interesting color and material combinations are used in the space to express the concept of “INK” and “WOOD”, highlighting that stroke of symbiosis in the form of a brass stripe, which is on the floor, the wall, and the furniture, as well as in the custom-made light fixtures.
At the entrance, a brass stripe with a parallel LED light on the floor extends to the kitchen window, pointing to the core of the restaurant – the kitchen that Beichuan works in. The designers chose dark green boiserie for the bottom 1.2 meter of all the walls in the space, making the entire restaurant appear to be soaked in dark green ink. Only two blocks of the boiserie rise towards the ceiling, visually framing the kitchen window and two brown niches. The rest of the walls are mustard yellow and finished with a rough texture that absorbs and reflects light, creating a warm and soft dining ambiance. Carefully selected custom-made accessories and paintings are casually placed on the 1.2 meter waistline, leaving the rest of the space minimal.
There is a variety of seatings that allow different groups of customers to find a space that suits them. One of the highlights is the “chef’s table” across from the kitchen window. The high communal table allows guests to be at the same height as the chefs working in the kitchen, and to be able to observe the entire cooking process through the window, below which Beichuan and his partners placed their favorite cookbooks. The restaurant’s cutlery, accessories, and even flower arrangements continue the overall style of INKWOOD’s visual design, like the chemistry created by food and sauce, delicate, warm and many-layered.