Washington DC is becoming a major hub for innovation and creativity in the restaurant industry, and the restaurants themselves reflect that. With a high immigration rate and the lowest median age in all states as of the 2010 census, DC residents and visitors alike flock to the varied cuisines the city has to offer. Many of the architects on this list have renovated historic spaces that restaurants now inhabit. They’ve also created interesting fusions of style that mirror the food being served. We’ve put this list together based on the architect’s ability to deliver high-quality, award-winning, customized spaces where diners can enjoy themselves, and restaurateurs and chefs can shine.
A boutique DC-based firm, //3877 is, as one of its clients says on its website, “more than an architecture firm.” It takes into consideration all aspects of experience within a space and infuses that into the design. David Shove-Brown, partner, received his education at The Catholic University of America. He is a guest faculty member at his alma mater and has traveled throughout Europe with the Catholic University School of Architecture and Planning. Shove-Brown has received awards from the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) + Washington Architectural Foundation, and the American Architectural Foundation. Also earning his Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture at the Catholic University of America is partner David Tracz. He has a special interest in hotel and restaurant design and has led several of those projects at //3877. Aside from its restaurant work, the firm has also taken on several health, wellness, hospitality, and residential projects.
One of the firm’s best projects is The Smith, a New York restaurant opening its first location in DC. The design was inspired by Union Station, and that inspiration can be found in details like subway tiles that line both the floor and walls. Another interesting project was its work on Matchbox on 14th Street. The space had a long and storied history since its opening in 1907. It was once an automobile showroom, a celebrated jazz club, and, after a period of abandonment, a rehearsal space for a local theatre company. //3877 used the skeleton of the building and many of the materials on-site to bring new life to it. The 8500-square-foot, three-story restaurant has a 25-foot bar and wood-fired pizza ovens. Reclaimed wood and steel accents make up the majority of the design elements inside the brick structure.
About Collective Architecture
DC-based, award-winning Collective Architecture is headed by three principals. Alex Hurtado is a founding partner and principal-in-charge of design. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture from Howard University and later returned as a professor. Some of his former students have eventually ended up working with him at Collective. Charles Plymale is responsible for leading the day-to-day operations of the firm, while Olivia Millar, who merged her firm Millar + Associates with Collective in 2016, is principal-in-charge of operations. Collective Architecture is the proud recipient of the Honor Award for projects between 60,000 and 100,000 square feet, and The Pinnacle Award—the premier award of the evening—at the 2017 International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Premiere Design Awards. It has also been recognized for its other work, including winning a National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) VA Award of Excellence.
One of Collective Architecture’s featured projects is the design for Arlington, Virginia’s Epic Smokehouse. Its team infused the restaurant with a nostalgic smokehouse feel, with distressed leather furniture and reclaimed woods throughout. Custom wallcoverings of larger than life cows make for a unique focal point in both the bar area itself and the large bathroom. The environment mixes down-home roots with urban professionalism, creating a hip and trendy hangout spot for patrons. A confidential client project that shows a spacious eatery with various deli counters throughout. Collective Architecture created an industrial vibe with exposed piping, metal furniture, and high ceilings. Floor art including green to resemble an expanse of grass under cafeteria-like seating makes for unique design elements and a farm-like feel.
DC-based multi-disciplinary firm CORE architecture + design was founded in 1991 and has won over one hundred awards since its inception. Principal Dale Stewart co-founded CORE. He specializes in projects in the DC area and brings nearly four decades of expertise to the table. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Maryland. Allison Cooke is the director of hospitality design at CORE and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Miami University of Ohio. While leading CORE’s restaurant design projects, she is also rocketing to the top of the restaurant design industry and is constantly in demand for various speaking engagements around the country. They are joined by David Cheney. Many of the other architects on this list have worked for this firm at one point. CORE is perhaps best known for the complexity of its designs and its ability to take on projects regardless of scale. Further, it utilizes a “co-creative” design process which integrates client vision throughout the duration of a project. Aside from restaurants, the firm also showcases skills for mixed-use developments, public buildings, large-scale office, and residential developments. It services the entirety of the Washington metropolitan area and has also worked on numerous projects across the country.
CORE has designed a multitude of restaurants within the DC metro area. Barmini, by chef José Andrés, is one of their most notable projects. Cooke notes that it has a surrealist Salvador Dalí feeling to it. The firm played with form and function by creating surprising pieces, including a comfortable, fabric chair that has the appearance of marble slabs; hands for coat hooks that hold fruit; and even an infinity mirror in the minibar. Its work on fast-casual CAVA Grill earned them a Merit Award from AIA-Washington and the honor of being a Gold Key Finalist, Fast-Casual Dining from the DC Chapter of Interior Design Magazine. The all-natural Mediterranean grill was built with simplicity in mind, with an edgy and industrial design. CORE took the long, narrow space and created built-in elements that make for a cozy atmosphere. Clear wine bottles were used to create light fixtures that are interspersed throughout several wooden beams.
About Design Republica
Formerly known as Beltran Design Group, Design Republica was founded by principals Francisco Beltran and Jeanne Jarvaise. The firm specializes in restaurant, hospitality, and retail design, especially in the DC area. While earning his Bachelor of Architecture degree and an Arts and Sciences degree from the Catholic University of America, as well as two honors programs in Europe—the Rhode Island School of Design in Italy and L’Ecole Des Beaux-Arts in France—Beltran waited tables and learned about the hospitality industry from the inside. He brings that experience to all of his designs and has worked in the restaurant architecture industry for over two decades. Design Republica has been featured in several DC publications, such as Architecture DC, the Washingtonian, and the Washington Business Journal. It offers a full and comprehensive range of services and specializes in not only architecture, but also interior design and business development.
Design Republica’s re-design of the restaurant Nooshi took the neighborhood’s changing demographic into consideration, and the restaurant’s revenue tripled after the reopening. The upscale lounge-feel of the restaurant makes patrons at ease, while also appealing to a sentiment of fine dining. The simple yet crisp decor, including the hanging lanterns, minimalist booths, and communal-style tables, perfectly blends function and formality. The firm’s design for the Edward Marc Chocolatier near the Pentagon helped the establishment become the highest-grossing location for the company. Design Republica likely took the product itself into consideration when designing the interior, with deep brown structures, walls, and furniture evoking the chocolate itself. Hanging light fixtures spotlight the products being sold, and the relatively open floor plan allows patrons to peruse the shop without bumping elbows.
Division 1 Architects
About Division 1 Architects
Division 1 Architects was formed in 1994. Since then, they have worked on a variety of projects and a growing number in the hospitality industry. They often take what they learn in one sector and apply it to another. Ali Reza Honarkar is a co-founder of the firm. Honarkar was educated at the University of Maryland College Park. He notes that he always rebelled against his conservative college professors, and, since then, he looks to find new ways to use space creatively. The principals and team members emphasize their philosophy: “Define architecture with distinctive, innovative and unexpected design solutions.” They use their projects to speak for themselves.
Barcode is a notable project that architecture lovers enjoy for its use of granite on the ceilings. The neon lighting makes it a favorite among those that frequent the establishment. The firm also worked on the bar and nightclub Lima, which features a three-story floating wall. The wall is made of reclaimed wood, by which Honarkar has always been fascinated. Division 1 has also designed Vetro, an exclusive and sophisticated dance club located within Lima. Ping, an Asian-fusion small plates restaurant and bar in Shirlington, Virginia, also has been noticed for its elegant design. Division 1 also provided the designs for both the Naples, Florida, and Centerville, Virginia locations of Charlie Chiang’s. Their work has been featured in publications such as DC, Objekt, Deco, Home & Design, and the Washingtonian.
Grizform Design Architects
About Grizform Design Architects
Grizform Design Architects, founded in 2003, is a firm specializing in the hospitality design industry. Griz Dwight is the founder and principal. He first earned his Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Studio Art, from Williams College. He then went on to earn his Masters of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. Dwight earned the 2008 AIA|DC Emerging Architect Award and was chosen as one of the Wave of the Future designers from Hospitality Design Magazine. Dwight works closely with Brittany Schapanski, Grizform’s Director of Interiors. She received a bachelor’s degree in interior design at the Colorado State University. The firm has been reviewed and mentioned in publications such as DC Magazine, Interiors & Sources, and The Washingtonian. One of their unique specialties is custom furniture, which can be seen in many of their designs around the city.
Grizform honored the history of the 14th Street Corridor with their design of Radiator. Because the street was once home to staples of the automotive industry, the design reflects that with garage details and car parts on display throughout the restaurant and bar. There are several semi-private spaces for groups, as well as an outdoor space for gathering in the warmer months. This 4,000-square-foot restaurant boasts a bar area with 57 seats, as well as an outdoor shuffleboard court. Grizform’s design of the new District Distilling Company is causing everyone to pause upon walking in the door. Accents include framed paper drawings of the distilling process, wall sketches of distillery parts, and, of course, rows upon rows of bottles.
An architecture and design firm, HapstakDemetriou takes on projects of all sizes. Its founders, Olvia Demetriou and Peter Hapstak III, lead its team with a wealth of experience and knowledge. Demetriou graduated from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and is now considered one of the experts in Washington’s growing hospitality scene. In 2000, she was selected to be in The College of Fellows of the AIA, becoming one of the youngest architects ever to be chosen for this honor. Hapstak received his Bachelor of Architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He was actually one of the founders of CORE, another firm on this list. The founders of HapstakDemetriou used to be rivals but ended up joining forces in 2011. Now, the firm has become a trailblazer in the industry, known for its hands-on approach that emphasizes the importance of overseeing a project from start to finish.
An especially noteworthy project is Capitol Hill’s Rose’s Luxury, which embodies the feeling of a French cafe in a renovated DC rowhouse. Whitewashed brick walls and exposed concrete create a soft, sophisticated atmosphere. A stunning bar area juxtaposes exposed brick, softly painted white cabinetry, and a vibrant, lime green marble countertop. The design has certainly contributed to the restaurant, which has earned several awards for food and ambiance. Its collaboration with chef Mark Furstenburg led to the creation of Bread Furst, a “baker’s workshop” in the Connecticut Ave neighborhood. The bakery has a classic minimalist feel, with top to bottom windows that allow passersby to watch the breadmaking process in real-time.
Queue Design Agency
About Queue Design Agency
A boutique firm based in Los Angeles and DC, Queue Design Agency has designed some of the most intriguing bars and eateries in DC. Educated as both architect and interior designer, Michael Francis is the founding principal of Queue Design Agency. Like another architect on this list, Francis also waited tables through college, learning about the restaurant industry from behind the scenes and understanding what restaurant spaces needed. He also splits his time between Los Angeles and DC, and that bi-coastal vibe can be seen in his designs. Francis is also the founding principal of PH Living, which focuses on sustainable, site-fabricated home design. Before opening his own firm, Francis worked for EEA-Erick van Egeraat in Europe and Core. Under his direct supervision, the firm offers a full and comprehensive range of design and branding services for commercial, hospitality, and residential design projects with a particular focus on the concept-driven bar, restaurant, and nightclub designs. Its team is made up of not only architects but also interior designers, lighting designers, craftsmen, and LEED accredited professionals.
The firm’s most well-known project is perhaps Maketto, an expansive restaurant, retail, and coffeeshop space on H Street NE. It is a 6000-square-foot revolutionary marketplace, featuring a second-story courtyard and lots of communal gathering space. QDA’s design certainly helped Maketto top many lists, including a finalist spot in the RAMMY awards and a semifinalist spot for the James Beard award. Its design for Denson Liquor Bar was inspired by a 1920s hotel and looks every bit the part. The Art Deco design features glass that was salvaged from the historic Hecht’s warehouse. Another alluring design was created for the hidden bar Harold Black. It was recognized by Architectural Digest as one of the best designed underground bars in DC.
Branded as a “design collective,” Streetsense is a top restaurant architecture firm in Washington DC. Brandon Diamond, the director of architecture, has worked on several large-scale projects in the city and across the world. Diamond holds three architecture degrees: one from the University of Illinois at Chicago and two from Catholic University. Bruce Leonard is the managing principal and the leader of the Architecture and Planning Studios at Streetsense. In 2014, Edit Lab, co-founded by Lauren Winter and Brian Miller, merged with Streetsense. Their specialty is chef-driven restaurants and specialty bars in diverse neighborhoods throughout DC. In addition to new restaurants, the firm has also worked with well-known brands such as Starbucks, Chipotle, Organic Avenue, and Chop’t.
Streetsense has designed many of DC’s most-loved restaurants. Their work on Tail Up Goat, a 3200-square-foot, Caribbean-inspired restaurant, reflects the spirit of the US Virgin Islands. Chairs and booths were painted in yellows and blues, and murals in seascape colors evoke a pleasant maritime sentimentality. Restaurateurs and chefs often frequent Tail Up Goat, and the restaurant recently earned a Michelin star. Streetsense’s design for All-Purpose helped to make the welcoming and warm restaurant a staple in the Shaw neighborhood. The Italian pizzeria features an open kitchen, deep blue booths with wood dividers that reach the ceiling, and a custom hex tile pattern on the floor of the dining area