Indoors or outdoors? Prior to the pandemic, picking the right seat when dining out was a matter of mood, whimsy, and weather. Not anymore. While dining is (thankfully) back to normal in many parts of the U.S., the way we perceive restaurant layout may have changed irreversibly. We want to sit inside but enjoy a free, breezy vibe. Or we want to sit outside while still having a sense of place in thoughtful surroundings.
Several establishments that opened their doors in late 2020 and 2021 have taken this new reality to heart. By incorporating clever design solutions, they blend the previously strict divide between the restaurant’s interior and exterior. This trend of lively hybrid spaces that feel both airy and defined is, hopefully, never going away. And we may soon see some of these tricks influencing residential design, as homeowners seek out their own year-round oases. Here are seven indoor-outdoor restaurants around the country that we can learn from.
Miami has always been a great destination for outdoor dining, but Layla, which opened this April as part of the first hotel by the online platform Kayak, takes matters to the next level. To unite the outdoor terrace with the indoor dining space, the team behind Life House Hotels used lightweight and see-through elements like wooden blinds and rattan furniture. While a movable glass wall that erases the indoor-outdoor divide might be hard to re-create at home, using adjustable blinds and placing plants at eye level is easily achievable.
New York: Rosemary’s East
Rosemary’s East, the East Village branch of the popular Italian restaurant, opened this spring, brimming with neat tricks. Creating a warm, relaxed atmosphere in a boxy postwar commercial space wasn’t easy, but the women of Dekar Design made it work. Indoors, plant boxes, orange trees, and hanging planters add a splash of nature, while sparkly lanterns create a terrace-y, intimate feel. Is that a field of flowers? No, just smartly chosen iridescent floor tile. Lush exterior planters and mint-hued chairs, on full display through the big windows, carry the feeling outdoors.
Cardiff, California: The Waverly
The stunner, open since October, is located steps from Highway 1 and the beach it runs parallel to. Bringing the outdoors in was the mission of the San Diego–based Design 4 Corners studio, which achieved this by bringing in abundant indoor palm trees as well as fabric panels on the ceiling that all gently move with the sea breeze. Inside, the pale, sandy chairs and sofas absorb the sun rays that pour in through the floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. No matter where you sit, the space feels spacious and bright—inspired, according to the design team, by the all-day cafés of Bali and Melbourne, Australia.
Austin, Texas: Lutie’s
Leave it to Ken Fulk to create the most seductive of gardens. The new Austin restaurant, part of the Commodore Perry Estate, opened in April of this year, and its theme couldn’t be more timely. Fulk dreamed up a dining hall that blends with its surroundings. In it, hanging plants, as well as plant-shaped chandeliers, textured fern branches on the tables, and scalloped banquet sofas covered in leafy prints submerge eaters in greenery. The massive windows bring the estate’s manicured landscape inside.
Charleston, South Carolina: Little Palm
The vibrant Little Palm, located at the newly opened Ryder hotel, uses the oldest (and coolest) trick in the book to create a seamless indoor-outdoor transition: the double-sided pool bar. Local star designer Cortney Bishop let pink and turquoise rule the color palette. Bar-facing booths and wide cocoon armchairs create an open, welcoming dynamic, while a striking palm mural from the local practice Headspace Murals completes the tropical vibes.
Los Angeles: Cha Cha Cha
The hottest reservation in L.A right now is the first U.S. outpost of the popular Mexico City restaurant by the same name, with a winning patio and an even stronger tile game. Built and designed by architect Lena Kohl, who is based in L.A. and Mexico City, the Cha Cha Cha patio is submerged in plants, accented by sting lights, and outlined with trendy breeze blocks, an element making it big in home design this summer. The patio seamlessly transitions into the indoor bar area, where deep-green countertops and low seating extend the easygoing mood.
Tampa, Florida: Willa’s
Minimalist and intimate, Willa’s, which opened this spring, was conceptualized with post-pandemic dining in mind. Austin’s FÖDA Studio designed an open floor plan that allows for spaciousness and distance, adding glass doors that shower the space with light. The most genius takeaway? Perforated dividers and furniture that let air and sunlight flow freely.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest