Tom Strother, Fabled Studio

There was a review on one of our restaurants that said  “you can smell the money when you walk into this place”. Things like that make me nervous.

‘Storytelling is one of the guiding principals of what we do’, states London-based interior designer Tom Strother. Reimagining the spaces of London’s iconic restaurants, Strother shares how the delicate balance between food and ambience is integral towards informing the experience of a meal. As the creative mind behind some of London’s most renowned restaurants, the co-Creative Director of Fabled Studio explains that ‘creating a story is really important towards contributing any kind of substance or depth’.

There are a lot of interiors that were designed to look expensive,” observes the designer, “I think this is a reflection on society.” Ostentatious displays of wealth and “good taste” that had dominated design in the eighties, have been replaced with the restrained sensibility characteristic of modern tastes. Lavish marble accents and polished brass fittings that lined the interiors of luxury restaurants in the eighties, have now fallen out of fashion. “I think the best restaurants are the most understated, discreet places that serve knockout food,” declares Strother.

In conversation with the London-based designer, we speak to him about how Fabled Studio has navigated and helped to create the stories of some of London’s trendiest restaurants including Margot, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Noble Rot and The Luggage Room. In addition to discussing his designs, Strother also shares some of his favourite places to eat when he’s not in the design studio.

Tom Strother, Fabled Studio

I love that feeling when you walk into a room, and as you start to look closely at each element, certain details start to reveal themselves. That, for me, is design excellence.

Interior of Berner's Tavern

‘Steven and I are often championing Berner’s Tavern just for the lighting more than anything else. Jason Atherton’s food is amazing but, what’s really great in there is that there’s no downlighting, all the lighting comes from around the space and the ambience that creates it quite awe inspiring, It’s not like a room that I think we definitely would have designed but you walk in and again, its that emotional response. That’s what makes an incredible restaurant.’

Margot


45 Great Queen St, London WC2B 5AA

 

 

Referencing the work of Gio Ponti, Fornasetti and Carlo Mollino, Margot was designed as both a celebration of the Italian design masters, and a homage to the humble Italian kitchen. Discussing his creative inspiration for this space, Tom speaks about creating a harmonious clash between the image of the ‘old nonna’s hand-making pasta’ and the crazy geometric wallpapers that lined Italian kitchens in the fifties. Inviting elements of the traditional Italian kitchen into its design, the space is accented with copper, referencing the pans that would line the walls, and offset with hand-printed wallpaper. Balanced with deep blues, dark leather and pale marble, Margot is an elegant imagining of Italian style and hospitality.

Inspiration


CARLO MOLLINO’S APARTMENT

 

The influential designer and architect Carlo Mollino’s Turin apartment (right) is an iconic and enigmatic edifice to mortality and the imagination. Kept a secret from those who knew him, his apartment was only uncovered after his death in 1973. Described by curator Fulvio Ferrari as a “modern-day Egyptian Book of the Dead”, Molino’s garçonnière is furnished with cases of butterflies, erotic polaroids and walls decorated with leopard spots. Designed with a room set aside for his journey to the afterlife, Mollino’s secret apartment was designed as an expression of mysterious ideas and associative metaphors. Created as a homage to Mollino’s eccentric style, Margot’s lower ground floor is detailed with butterflies engraved on gilded glass panels and wall panels that echo those found in his apartment.

Image courtesy of Museo Casa Mollino

( Below: Other design elements that have inspired Strother’s designs for Margot. These images have been taken from the designer’s moodboard)

GIO PONTI

GIO PONTI

FORNASETTI

RESTAURANT GORDON RAMSAY


 68 Royal Hospital Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 4HP

Tom Strother, Fabled Studio

We spend a lot of time really trying to get under the skin of what the idea of the restaurant is.

 

 

When working on Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, the design team at Fabled Studio decided to take an approach that ran contrary to the celebrity chef’s fiery, on-screen reputation. Inspired by the Restaurant’s then Chef Patron, Clare Smyth, the team created a restaurant whose style and tone embodied the work and philosophy of its Chef Patron (also the only woman in the UK to hold three Michelin stars). Beginning with the four words Chef Smyth uses to define her style; ‘finesse, precision, refined and timelessness’, they set about designing a space that complemented the diner’s experience of its cuisine; delicate but filled with exquisite flavour and detail. Strother comments, “I think design should feel effortless, but I think you should be able to see the craft that’s gone into it. With this restaurant, you walk and it feels very simple, harmonious and then, when you sit down at your table you start to see detailing like the Art Deco bookbinding pattern engraved into the oak paneling. It reflects Clare’s food very well.”

Inspiration


THE MENU

 

Bridging both classic and contemporary schools, Gordon Ramsay’s flagship restaurant serves delicate French-style dishes with a ‘lightness of touch’ (Michelin Guide). Bringing the food to the forefront of the design, the space is simple and stripped back, punctuated with subtle textures and soft pastel shades. To maintain the privacy of the kitchen, Fabled Studio chose to bring the chef’s table into the main space, creating an opportunity for the chef to host masterclasses and showcase the restaurant’s new dishes.

FENNEL PRE-DESSERT

Chefs Table at Restaurant Gordon Ramsey

CHEF’S TASTING TABLE

clare smyth MBE

CLARE SMYTH, MBE

Tom Strother, Fabled Studio

We have to challenge everything we’re told in order to create more exciting things. That’s how we progress not just as designers but as an industry and in life in general.

STROTHER RECOMMENDS

NOBLE ROT


 

51 Lamb’s Conduit St, London WC1N 3NB

 

For Strother, the concept of luxury for the sake of luxury is superfluous. It isn’t essential and does not necessarily make life much better. For the designer, it is not the cost of things that determine its value, but rather, the pleasure and excitement gained through an experience, that makes life more exciting.

One of their recent projects, a Parisian-style wine bar called Noble Rot, falls perfectly into this category. Running a magazine of the same name, the owners’ idea behind the bar is “to take the pretentiousness out of wine and to make it exciting to people who want to appreciate the finer things in life but find it a bit scary.” Strother goes on to explain, “they’ve done amazing work in breaking down the barriers, doing interviews with amazing musicians and getting them to say ‘I don’t know much about wine, but let’s go and taste some in this great vineyard.” At Noble Rot, patrons are able to sample some of the best wines in the world by the glass, without the burden of luxury watering down the experience of a robust vintage- something you can’t do anywhere else.”

BIOGRAPHY

Inspired by architects like Mies Van Der Rohe and Adolf Loos, Tom Strother describes his design style as ‘an overpainted classicism with mid-century and modern influences.’ Fabled Studio, founded by Stother with Steven Saunders and Simon Gallagher in 2011, specialises in Hospitality, Retail and Commercial Residential design with a penchant for storytelling.