Meet the Minds Behind Restaurant Design

By Will Speros

Gin Braverman is the founder and director of interiors for gindesignsgroup. Having formerly applied her design expertise as a movie set designer and the lead designer on the HGTV home remodel show Home Rooms, Braverman has lead her Houston studio to success with the creation of numerous thoughtful, contextual, and ultimately unique spaces. Here, she discusses the cities that inspire her, what defines her firm, and why she feung-shuied her bedroom at 7 years old.

Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
I always knew I needed to design, but I wasn’t sure how that translated into a career until I was much older and my other paths just weren’t feeling like a good fit.

What are some of your first memories of design?
I was around 7 years old and I’d be killing myself by constantly moving my heavy bedroom furniture around to find the right layout. My mom thought I was ridiculous but it was very important to me that the layout felt just right. I’d lay in bed thinking about it and sometimes get up and change something in the middle of the night. I was ridiculous!

Did where you grew up influence your career path?
My mother got to move into her dream home when I was about 10. Watching her decorate this perfect little white colonial house in upstate NY was very inspiring. My grandmother was a fabulous designer as well and her homes always fascinated me. I can still remember every detail of her furniture and accessories because she was so ahead of her time.

Give us a bit of your background: college, first jobs, early lessons learned?
I went to the University of Texas at Austin where I was a pre-med major at first but I didn’t find my time at the hospitals enjoyable. I did, however, love working in bars and restaurants, which gave me my first experience in the hospitality industry, so it seemed only natural that when I started designing that I’d find my niche there. My first restaurant project was remodeling a very old, rundown grocery store in New Orleans into a modern Vietnamese restaurant. I quickly learned about the pitfalls of remodeling old buildings—the project took twice as long as anticipated due to us ultimately having to rebuild the entire structure from the inside out, but we got it done.

Why and how did you start your own firm?
I was working as a production designer in New York and had just finished remodeling three residences with very short lead times and very small budgets for an HGTV extreme home remodel show. It was taxing, but also so rewarding that I decided I would totally leave production design and start doing interior design. I started my firm in Houston, where I had recently moved, and designed my first logo on the flight home.

Can you discuss some of your recent projects?
We are currently working on a new music venue in Houston called the White Oak Music Hall, which will open this summer, and on its campus was this crazy building called the Raven Tower, which we just finished remodeling into a private lounge. It was built in the 1970s by the owner of the property and resembles a box on a stick. It’s literally a 700-square-foot room perched on a four-story core consisting of just a stairwell and elevator shaft. The views are incredible and the space is very cozy and versatile with a 20-foot-long long custom shuffleboard table that converts to a table for dinner pop-ups or parties.

What are you looking forward to at your office?
I’m looking forward to expanding to other markets. Houston is booming and keeping us very busy, but I’ve got my eye on New Orleans and Mexico City—two cities with strong local cultures, a real appreciation for design, and that are experiencing tremendous growth in their hospitality industries.

What are the most challenging and exciting aspects of your job?
Coming up with new concepts for projects is both challenging and exciting for sure. At first your brain is just swirling and so many ideas seem possible and yet ridiculous all at once, but then there’s that moment when you hit on just the right name or logo or design detail that pulls it all into focus and you get that magic aha moment. And it’s all downhill from there.

What is the most important thing to remember when designing a restaurant—both in terms of branding and interiors?
My firm really stresses the importance of creating integrated, consistent, and authentic branding and interiors while at the same time remaining unique. We feel so strongly about this that we have partnered with some very talented graphic designers in order to implement in-house branding and concept development services for our hospitality clients.

Is there an architect or designer you most admire? Why?
I absolutely love Joseph Dirand and Luis Barragán for their clean architectural lines and minimally perfect approach. Also Ian Schrager, Piet Boon, and AvroKO group for their avant-garde applications of materials and perfectly developed and executed concepts.

What would be your dream project and why?
Designing a hotel in Taipei, Taiwan, where I lived for a few years in my 20s. Asia is known for pushing the boundaries of creativity and pretty much anything goes, from Zen to zany as long as it’s well executed. Taipei is such a darling, off-the-beaten-path place with lots of opportunity for and appreciation of fresh, new design.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Frida Kahlo. She and Diego Rivera had the most elaborate and intriguing dinner parties with guests from all walks of life: politicians, artists, musicians, clergy, etc.

Where would you eat and what would you be having?
Apparently they made incredible homemade meals, with tostadas, tortilla soup, chicken mole, and other traditional desserts like flan at their lovely Casa Azul, in Coyoacán, Mexico City, which was always beautifully decorated and full of fresh flowers.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
I’d want to be a hotelier or a developer of hotels and I’d cheat the question by designing them myself. The hospitality industry would call to me in one way or another.

Courtesy of Hospitality Design

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