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Three Baltimore Restaurant Design Trends

Open kitchens, floor-to-ceiling windows and restored mansions are some of the design features diners will see in new and refurbished restaurants in Greater Baltimore, including The Elephant, Citron and La Food Marketa.

1. Refreshing Historic Mansions


The building that held the iconic Brass Elephant restaurant reopened July 28 following an 18-month renovation. Owners Steven (pictured) and Linda Rivelis preserved the 19th century mansion’s historic details while adding modern touches. The Elephant, as it’s now called, serves food that’s globally inspired, much like the interior finishes.

Fans of the former incarnation will recognize the restored Tiffany-stained glass dome, Waterford crystal, Italian marble bar and intricately carved wood, sourced from a teak farm in India more than a century ago.


But diners will also see cleaner lines and fewer brass details. Metal railings get an updated treatment with top-to-bottom circles that mimic effervescent champagne bubbles.

“There was so much architecturally, we had to bring it down,” Linda says. The couple, who got married in the former restaurant, own a social change consultancy, design lab Eye Byte Solutions, and Very Special Older Properties, which restores older buildings.


Diners can opt for the formal, white-tablecloth dining room or grab a bite at one of the two bars, communal tables (pictured), or upstairs lounge, outfitted with contemporary black-and-white furniture.


Out in Baltimore County, the owner of the 70-year-old Milton Inn is refreshing the 1740 building to attract younger customers. Photos take the place of paintings depicting the surrounding horse country in the 1740 Lounge, says owner Brian Boston.

Track lighting has brightened up the space while padded, larger chairs were added to make it more inviting. The $400k renovation is wrapping up the first week in September and coincides with the Sparks restaurant's 70-year-anniversary.

2. Bringing Nature Into The Space


Caterer Charles Levine’s 275-seat restaurant at Quarry Lake at Greenspring will house a unique feature when it opens later this year: expansive views of the man-made lake, the defining feature of the 230-acre Pikesville retail, residential and office development from Obrecht Properties. Charles has installed floor-to-ceiling, 12-foot-high windows that allow diners to take in those lake views while digging into the contemporary American cuisine.


A glass NanaWall, or sliding glass wall, opens up to the 100-seat deck and 2k SF lounge. It will open up on warmer days, blending the outdoors and indoors.

“You can see the rippling of the water. We wanted that to flow inside,” Charles says. “It extends the outside in.”

3. Open Kitchens


For The Food Market owner and chef Chad Gauss, the most important element of restaurant design is transparency. With that in mind, Chad designed an open kitchen at La Food Marketa, the Latin American restaurant he’s opening in early September at Quarry Lake. (His popular Hampden restaurant also incorporates this feature).

Everything should be visible and open for the guests,” Chad says. “It’s like a fish tank—you see exactly what’s going on.”


Having an open kitchen also means there’s no wall separating the front-of-house from back-of-house staff.

“I want everyone to feel like they’re part of one team,” Chad says. “It creates unity with your employees.”

Other design features at the 120-seat restaurant at the Shops at Quarry Lake (pictured) will include use of steel, tiles, oak and chandeliers. A neon sign will greet guests, giving the space a retro vibe.


The operators of the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore’s Wit & Wisdom also embraced an open kitchen with its recent $500k renovation. The Harbor East restaurant knocked down a wall to allow dining room guests to watch chefs prepare the restaurant’s contemporary, seasonal cuisine. The operators also added 12 premium seats right next to the kitchen, dubbed The Kitchen Table, for diners who want to be closer to the action.