Studio Plenty designs Byron Bay diner to feel like “a warm hug”

Asian diner chain Light Years has renovated its flagship restaurant in the bustling Australian surf town of Byron Bay, with interiors conceived by local practice Studio Plenty in collaboration with a group of home-grown artists and designers.

The team behind Light Years wanted to mirror the playful visual identity established across its three other venues on Australia’s East Coast while refining and elevating their aesthetic.

Overview of dining room in Light Years Asian Diner
Studio Plenty has renovated the Light Years diner in Byron Bay

“We were asked to reimagine the Byron Bay restaurant, taking cues from its sister diners but with greater restraint in composition,” Studio Plenty founder Will Rathgeber told Dezeen.

“We were looking to achieve something refined without letting go of the relaxed culture behind the brand, with satisfying colours and patterns, and playful shapes and materials.”

Dining room of Byron Bay restaurant by Studio Plenty
Terracotta tiles were used to finish the walls and floors

Soft corners and gently curving walls help to create a sense of intimacy, according to Rathgeber, while the restaurant’s colour palette of soft pink and terracotta tones “embraces you like a warm hug”.

Underpinning the playful feel of the eatery is a careful focus on the practicalities, with arched openings and material thresholds helping to define three distinct spaces – the main dining room, a curved bar with counter seating and a private dining area for larger groups.

Arched opening leading through to private dining area in Light Years Asian Diner
Arched openings separate the restaurant’s different dining areas

The restaurant’s material palette incorporates handmade terracotta tiles with a rustic brushed finish and a rusty colour that is also picked up in the restaurant’s floors and the Fibonacci terrazzo bar counter.

In the main dining room, the ceiling was treated with an acoustic spray to absorb sound while contributing to the earthy, vernacular look of the diner thanks to its bumpy texture.

Wooden reception desk of Byron Bay restaurant by Studio Plenty
Rattan acoustic panels cover the ceiling near the entrance

Since the acoustic spray does not adhere to pipes, Studio Plenty specified a motorbike exhaust wrap for the pipes to achieve a harmonious ceiling plane.

In the bar area, ceilings are clad in rattan acoustic panels by local product designer and interior stylist Sarah Ellison, who also worked with Studio Plenty to design the restaurant’s custom furniture including the chunky tables and bistro-style chairs.

Artist collective Studio of the Sun created two colourful murals for the restaurant, with one featuring playful illustrations laser-printed onto a section of glossy white tiles.

“The client was committed to a locally focussed project, hence approaching Studio Plenty to design the restaurant and Sarah Ellison and Studio of the Sun to collaborate,” said Rathgeber.

Bar of Light Years Asian Diner
A curved terrazzo bar provides counter seating

Rathgeber founded his Byron Bay practice in 2020 after cutting his teeth working for architecture firms Woods Bagot and Jackson Clements Burrows in Melbourne.

“We believe happiness is achieved through sensible design, not excess,” he explained of his studio’s ethos. “We have an appetite for rational design and an obsession with functionalism.”

Private dining area of Byron Bay restaurant by Studio Plenty
The private dining area is defined by a Studio of the Sun artwork

Elsewhere in Byron Bay’s bustling bar and restaurant scene, Australian studio Pattern has designed the interiors for an eatery serving South America-style small plates and cocktails.

Its patchy grey surfaces and concrete fixtures were designed to reflect the “raw beauty” of late-night eateries in Mexico.

The photography is by Jessie Prince.

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