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Fresh design for fresh food

Fresh design for fresh food


A traditional Japanese aesthetic consisting of a monochromatic palette, strong lines and the warmth of natural timbers set the tone for the design of Sushi Kenzen’s new restaurant in Brisbane’s Brunswick Mall precinct. In approaching the interiors, design agency whitewood wanted to communicate the restaurant ethos of using sustainable and ethically sourced produce.

ADR caught up with whitewood director Julie King to learn more about how her design references and embellishes the ideals of the restaurant.

ADR: What was the driving concept for the project?

Julie King: To create a brand and interior that has integrity and reflects a premium offering, with a nod to the Japanese aesthetic. The palette was classic but executed in a modern clean way. Black structural framing, gloss white pegboard counter fronts, concrete-look flooring and feature wall, and, to add warmth, we used Good Wood Oak timber panelling from Vic Ash – a supplier of sustainably grown Australian hardwoods.


ADR: Can you give an overview of the site and its context?

JK: The site is within the Brunswick Mall precinct, on the corner of Wickham St and the Mall. It is an area with heritage overlay with surrounding buildings being iconic to the heritage of the Valley in Brisbane. This area of the valley is occupied by office workers during the week, market stalls on the weekend and bar hoppers and club goers during the weekend nights. The design had to be sympathetic to all these patrons and create a dynamic feel at night – hence the lighting under the awning.


ADR: Were there any challenges that came up throughout the process?

JK: The site is small and a very unusual shape, with the shopfront just one-third of the perimeter of the tenancy. This made it challenging to work a functional and dynamic design into the space. Further, into the construction we found the underground waste and plumbing locations stated on Council documents were incorrect, which meant we had to move the grease trap further into the tenancy and reduce the already limited back of house space.

Other than the site, the brand as it looked when I was brought on was not in line with the offering my client was describing and nor were there any clear values or vision for the brand. I had to put the brakes on and delve into what was important to my client and what his brand would value and whom they wanted to speak to.


ADR: Is there a design feature or element you’re really happy with?

JK: The counter front design. This uses a faceted layout for the counters and bulkheads and was drawn from the angular shop front and connected by a full height black steel framing structure with track lighting suspended from the gantry to light the counters. Gloss white pegboard cladding was used on the counter fronts and bulkhead with the black steel framing and connecting all the angular faces. This is a really strong feature and was certainly a challenging one for the builders to get right.


ADR: How does the branding play into the overall design and aesthetic?

I was fortunate that I was able to develop and refine the branding with the client and Juno, the graphic designers brought onto the job. The linear features in the main logo informed the direction of timber planks and the steel structure. There was also a circle element introduced into the shop front to allow visual privacy with selected views in and to contrast with the linear element. This element was taken further by the graphic designers when finalising the branding and website. There is a very strong message, which I developed with the client #thoughtfulsushi. This statement has a strong presence in the interior, on the seating area feature wall, while also informing material choices. Cube signs on the shopfront with the branding also reinforce the minimal Japanese aesthetic of the brand and interior.


Builder – VPG Projects

General Lighting – Lumen8

Feature pendants – Mutating Creatures


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