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Luxury Hospitality’s Q&A with hospitality designer, Yuna Megre

The 30 year old Founder and Head Designer of Megre Interiors is Russian born, British educated.

With over 46 projects in the hospitality sector to date, which earned her, and Megre Interiors industry wide recognition, she is currently venturing out into luxury hotel design. As a part of her projects Yuna creates many bespoke pieces of furniture and lighting, which are currently being shaped into an own brand collection.

What do you think are the most important things to think about when designing for a restaurant or bar?

The most important this to remember is that it’s a business. It is there to serve a function for its guests and to make money for its owners. It is not there to please a designer’s or, I am sorry to say, even the client’s ego. It is created to make money by pleasing its audience. I am not in any way belittling the importance of the client’s idea, their wishes and desires, no! Without them there would be no project. I am neither belittling the importance of us, as designers, the chefs, the graphic designers and all others involved in the conception and development of a restaurant. I am simply pointing out that “we all serve at the pleasure of the queen”. And the queen here is our audience. And it is our group challenge to see them, feel them, give them what they want, what they need, to surprise and challenge them. Coming back to the ‘make money’ aspect – a restaurant is a functioning business, and we, as designers have to make it function at its price efficiency. We have to design bars, in a way that make bartenders work efficiently, we have to design seats in a way that serves our concept – either provoking people to quickly eat and leave or to stay for a long time and relax, we have to design flows, so that both staff and guests do not disturb each other and interact in a pleasant way…. The list is endless. The essence is – we have to create a working organism.

Where do you pull inspiration for your designs from?

Everywhere and everything, and sometimes from the most surprising places. Like a nameless vase a bought years ago became the prototype for the massive melting ice inspired chandelier in Ruski restaurant. Or reading about human design, inspired the shapes of tables for a restaurant I am working on right now. Also, I give a lot of time and attention to the analysis of factors that build the DNA of a project. I created for concept development. I call it the hourglass, because of similarity in shape of the diagram. You see for me, all these factors go into the concept, factors we can influence and those we cannot, we analyse and distil them until we have ‘the concept’. And once I arrive at the quintessence, the concept, I unravel it through all human senses, arriving at the development of the design language of the project. Therefore I actively seek factors that shape, or as you put it ‘inspire’ a project to be what it has to be.

What factors do you take into consideration when you are designing for a client?

As I mentioned I have a system for concept development. I am very structured at this point in my design process. I break down all my inputs into categories. I analyse what it is we are set to design, and for what

purpose, who we are doing it with – both on my client’s side and mine, what assets and tools we have at all our disposal, why are we doing this, who are we doing it for and last but never least, what is the end goal. I know that sounds terribly dry, but it is the foundation that is essential for a great concept.

How do you balance the vision of your client with your own vision in each project?

It is easy because both my clients and I adhere to the philosophy where the concept we are creating is the essence, is the key. We analyse it together, we conceptualize it together, so by the time we get to making design decisions we are so much on the same page, our logic is all vocalized and in tune, that its very easy. If the clients taste and vision is what the project needs, what the concept needs, I will gladly facilitate its realization. If on the contrary it is not, I will work tirelessly until they understand that this is not the right approach and we will find the path together. You see, my whole design process is centred around replacing personal egos, and inserting its own ego, its own identity in each project. They are in a way living organisms to me.

What is the biggest advice you would give someone who wants to design their own restaurant or bar?

Make sure you understand this is the toughest business to be in. Very volatile and unpredictable, but when all works out, extremely rewarding. Apart from being a HoReCa designer for ten years, I am also a restaurateur, and thus I understand my clients as peers, I appreciate their problems, challenges, goals and they are truly my own. Make sure you surround yourself with professionals who know what they are doing. Listen to them, be open, analyze but always make your own decisions, do not get pulled in all directions. It is your project, your concept, stay true to it. Pay close attention to physical, cognitive and social ergonomics. Make sure your design works, quite literally. There is no point in a pretty restaurant if it takes a barman 15 mins to make a coffee because his work space is ineffective. And finally, learn on your feet. Every day.