A Window Into Nature

Creating a new direction for a well-established Japanese restaurant in the heart of Auckland’s Ponsonby district, inspired by the name of the restaurant itself – ‘Soto’ – which means outside.

We used the idea “bringing the outside in” to create a connected brand and environmental design palette, taking traditional Japanese elements and giving them a contemporary relevance. The new identity, inspired by traditional Japanese family “Mons”, created windows into nature. These flow into a range of collateral and environmental pieces and drive a feeling of a unified space. Brightly lit and contemporary, the new design connects the previously separate front, side and back sections of the restaurant. Subtle nods to Japanese culture in the detailing ensure the look and feel of the fit-out is timeless and traditional, while retaining a modern relevance.

Steel and reeded glass partitions and bar canopy reference shoji screens, typically found in Japanese houses. A ceiling hung macramé sculpture (named “Koku Ryu Kumo” or black dragon cloud), an oversized macramé plant hanger at the rear of the restaurant and necklaces fashioned for the staff, all reference fishermen’s boat ropes and symbolise their being part of the fabric of the restaurant. By taking a material traditionally found outside and bringing it inside, the philosophy of an inside-out space is further reinforced. Use of natural materials like handmade ‘jade’ wall tiles, ‘tobacco’ coloured banquette seating, raw steel, glass, timber flooring and plywood wall graphics enhance the feeling of a warm and engaging space.

Ricky Lee, Soto Restaurant
Soto Restaurant