5 Restaurants That Take Tonal Design to the Next Level

by Dean Jeffery

It takes a keen eye and some serious editing chops to pull off a tonal or monochromatic interior. One wrong decision and the space could feel dull and uninspired, but if done properly, it could be a showstopper. As an aesthetic it dances delicately between minimalism and maximalism. Characterized by its limited palette, a tonal interior then layers in materials, textures, and accessories to enliven the space. While the details are often times subdued, they embody a sense of modern sophistication that feels familiar yet unexpected. Whether you’re opting for a bold punch of color, or a more neutral atmosphere, the tonal trend has officially made its way off the runways and into our favorite restaurants and cafes. 

Consider this your crash course in tonal design. Here are five examples of tonal/monochromatic interiors that hit all the right notes. 

Photography by Tom Ferguson

A Neutral Japanese Restaurant in Sydney

Love the tonal look but afraid of color? Cho Cho San, a contemporary Japanese restaurant designed by George Livissianis, combines natural wood tones with creamy white brick, concrete and brass accents for a modern, minimal interior that feels timeless. When combined, the glowing back lit ceiling and repetitious circular design elements are almost mesmerizing.

PinkPizzaHumble Pizza London Interior Photography, Child Studio (​Chieh Huang and Alexey Kostikov)

A Millennial Pink Pizza Parlor in London

Just when you thought you were over Millennial Pink along comes Humble Pizza, the plant-based pizzeria designed by London design duo, Child Studio. The space pays homage to the “Formica caffs” that were popular throughout the West End of London in the 1950s. Here, the walls, counter fronts, and table tops are clad in sheets of pink Formica laminate. Rich velvet banquettes and subtle strips of cherry wood layer in to add depth to the 1,200 square foot restaurant.


RedBarPhoto by Nina van Ewijk.

A Former Garage Reborn as a Chic All-Day Restaurant

Amsterdam-based design studio, Studio 34 South, took cues from the building’s previous life as a garage in the 1930s to inform their design decisions. The result is an interior space that feels both bespoke and polished. The red candy-colored bar and matching stools stand out against the neutral backdrop of the restaurant, while cherry wood shelves add just enough tonal variation to keep things interesting. Red leather banquettes and matching clay tiles continue the color story throughout the space.

BluePizzaPhotography: Josie Withers

A Pizzeria in Australia with a Penchant for Seawater

Designed in collaboration with RAD Studio, Madre is the latest high-design restaurant to open up in Adelaide, Australia. Aside from their Mediterranean sea water infused pizza dough, the restaurant is winning fans over with it’s predominantly blue dining area. Everything from the table bases to the tiled pizza oven are coated in the same cobalt color, perfectly accented with blush tones.

Green_Cafe_ToneonTone-1Photo by Conrad Brown.

An Italian-inspired Cafe in Canada

Ste. Marie has become widely known for their luxurious interiors and La Tana is no exception. Their website describes the space perfectly, “Bedecked with deep green marble, antique shelving and custom woodwork, classic tiled flooring, and a tailor-made, hand-drawn wallpaper, the space is a physical manifestation of the Italians’ age-old gift of making art out of life.” From the plush green velvet to the swirling marble bar and muted green walls, this space is a shining example of  how to create a rich monochromatic interior by curating the perfect collection of finishes. 

There is this overwhelming sense of escapism and playfulness associated with each of the spaces above. While the look isn't suited for everyone, or every space, we do appreciate the departure from the ordinary that the tonal/monochromatic look provides, and if nothing else, these spaces act as a reminder to have fun with design. 

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