For most diners, selecting a restaurant boils down to food and ambiance. The menu is created by the chef but the real world of victuals stars may be interior designers, who touch all your senses and keep you in your seat. With Art Basel upon us, it's appropriate to showcase Karen Hanlon, an accomplished woman who has left her mark on the South Florida dining and entertainment scene for more than a decade.
Whether she's working on a corporate chain like Houston's or her recent project in Aventura -- Zuckerello's --, her focus is on the customer's five senses. She's worked with some of the most innovative restaurateurs in the industry and her career has taken her from Chicago to NYC to South Florida where, 13 years ago, she started her own firm; Karen Hanlon Design Inc
. Her insights give us a new appreciation for our surroundings.
New Times: How did you get your start in designing restaurant space?
As a kid I was always drawing and building "models" of the buildings. When I ran out of Legos, I built models out of cardboard, paper, and whatever else I could find. Our living room was always full of my construction projects. I spent my high school and college years working in restaurants and was truly fascinated by them. I graduated from Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration but spent my first year in the School of Art, Architecture and Planning there. After transferring to the Hotel School I "designed" my own independent study program in facilities management and design.Can you take us through the main parts of the design phase?
We always start with the menu as that gives the "flavor" of the space. The next two most important influences are the space itself and the clientele -- the local market. You can't design in a vacuum -- take a concept and design out of NYC or Las Vegas and expect that it can work in a place like South Florida. People have very different expectations in different places. More »