Ben and I had a rare evening out together on Saturday when we enjoyed a meal at Thai hotspot Giggling Squid – newly opened in Wokingham. The restaurant has been completely transformed from its previous dark and cavernous incarnation – the atmosphere is cosy but airy, and the place has a buzz about it that makes you feel instantly at home. I love picking up interior inspiration from spaces such as bars, restaurants and shops, and Giggling Squid has plenty to offer in the way of ideas.
I was lucky enough to have some time to chat to Giggling Squid’s owner Pranee before Christmas about the interior design of her restaurants. She’s heavily involved in the design of each space, from the first location she opened with her husband – in the basement of a tiny fisherman’s cottage in Brighton – to this one, their 19th, with the 20th soon to open in Farnham. Each restaurant has a different look and feel, with common themes running throughout all the quirky interiors.
Here are my takeaway interiors ideas from Giggling Squid:
CHOOSE OLD WOOD
Giggling Squid’s first restaurant in Brighton was decked out in driftwood because it was free and easily found on the beaches around Brighton. Pranee’s husband makes the striking panels of small driftwood pieces – a trademark that appears in all the couple’s restaurants. The use of reclaimed timber adds a sense of history and character (for Pranee it recalls the look of Thai village houses), and the warmth of the colour makes the space feel relaxed and welcoming.
ZONE THE SPACE
The Wokingham restaurant is essentially one big rectangular room, so Pranee wanted to find ways to make it feel less vast. She’s used zoning to create different sections within the one space, with a screen helping to divide up the space. It’s actually constructed from an old door (Pranee loves to play with the sense of reality) and helps to make the front of the restaurant feel more cosy and intimate.
BLUR THE LINE BETWEEN INDOOR AND OUTDOOR
Pranee looks for unexpected design ideas that’ll surprise people when they come in, and one way she does this is by bringing the outdoors inside. The Wokingham restaurant has a pergola at the back of the space (it’s Pranee’s second pergola – the first is in the Norwich branch), with silk plants hanging from it. Next to that is a little area that feels like a garden room. Pranee also uses the silk flowers to experiment more with colour – the hanging floral display is a great feature, created by suspending woven bamboo trays from Thailand, laden with silk flowers, from the ceiling. I love the idea of trying this above our dining table at home.
GET CREATIVE WITH UPCYCLING
A huge fan of reclamation yards, Pranee always has her eye out for anything she can use in her restaurant designs. She’s got a network of contacts who’ll give her a call when anything interesting comes in (I can’t tell you how jealous I am of this!), and so she never knows what will play a part of the latest design – she waits to see what she has to work with, and the design starts from there. All the tables in the Wokingham restaurant have been made out of old floorboards. This organic approach to fitting out the restaurants means each one is different and avoids the mass-produced look that would take away from the sense of character and individuality.
Pranee’s designs evolve and have their own life – they don’t follow a standard template. This sense of freedom and experimentation is really refreshing, especially in a world increasingly dominated by large chains of identical fit-outs.
Oh, and it helps that the food tastes darn good, too! We’ll definitely be back.