Shopping mall dining halls are not places where one would expect to find an inspiring environment. In that regard, The Kitchen at De Bijenkorf Utrecht is extraordinary. Bright, airy and punchy, the space resembles a hip urban eatery more than a cafeteria for weary shoppers.
Local firm i29 Interior Architects is behind the recently opened restaurant. The challenge was to “create an environment that was made for heavy use, whilst still keeping quality in sharp details and natural materials.”
Hexagon tiling, similar in shape to a honeycomb – a nod to the department store’s name, which translates to ‘beehive’ – is the dominating design move, providing an eye-catching graphic treatment. i29 has installed them in a pattern that seems to swarm over the floor and the bar and counter fronts. The mostly white application switches over to all-black in food preparation zones.
The graphic tile treatment is complemented by flashes of green, yellow and brass details. These contrasting colours and materials help delineate seating areas that provide diners with open spaces or more intimate options.
Communal seating at a high-top table is contained by an expansive living wall. The vivid greenery is carried over to nearby booth seating and to transparent acrylic partitions; the hue pops against the white walls and ceilings, and the black-and-natural-wood furniture.
In another area, private dining tables are demarcated by an absence of colour. Black room dividers separate all-black dining sets, which are lit from above by matching matte-black pendants.
The restaurant has been devised as a cluster of open-air food stalls, situated in the centre of the room, with different counters dedicated to coffee, sweets, sandwiches, salads, pizza and so on.