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The Glamourous Design Behind Leo’s Oyster Bar In San Francisco

When Anna Weinberg, co-owner of Big Night Restaurant Group, set out to create Leo’s Oyster Bar, she wanted to create the best raw bar in San Francisco. She wanted a raw bar with the feel of a glamorous cocktail lounge, and its unique design has helped Leo's Oyster Bar achieve this goal.

The Hideaway room inside Leo's Oyster Bar in San Francisco

The restaurant’s designer, Ken Fulk, said the initial idea behind the design was to provide a space that transports guests to another era.

“It was designed as a quintessentially masculine space that introduces tension with a lot of feminine qualities,” Fulk said. “Think Mad Men’s Don Draper on a visit to Palm Beach: wood paneling and brass details mixed with tropical prints and a glowing pink bar.”

The James Beard Foundation has taken note and nominated the restaurant and Fulk for a design award. The restaurant received an award for its design from Bon Appétit magazine in 2016.

Leo's Oyster Bar in San Francisco

The space is divided into a series of intimate experiences, Fulk said. The double-height entrance offers an atrium with hanging ferns and mother-of-pearl globe pendants. The dining room is clad with wood paneling and anchored by a bar of pink onyx and hammered brass. A row of banquette seating is directly opposite. A dimly lit private room with a terracotta floor makes up “The Hideaway,” where guests can lounge on metallic leather banquettes and vintage rattan furnishings.

The custom wallpaper is a defining feature of the restaurant and was a big part of the design collaboration. The way food was presented on platters with banana leaves provided a tropical feel, which inspired the wallpaper design. Many guests love the wallpaper so much that they often ask if they can buy it, according to Weinberg.

Leo's Oyster Bar in San Francisco

Both the custom wallpaper and The Hideaway are Weinberg’s favorite elements because they capture the tone of 1950s Betsy Bloomingdale glamour. Fulk presented pattern samples and inspiration for The Hideaway to Big Night Restaurant Group.

“To create something unique that would harken back to the bygone days of liquid lunches and tiki lounges, the creative folks at Big Night developed the final design in two colorways,” Fulk said. “We all loved it so much that we brought the wallpaper into the entrance, too, and it has become the signature Leo’s moment.”

Fulk said his company strives to create transportive and timeless elements within all of its projects. These spaces are meant to be memorable and experiential, but also convey the feeling they have been around for generations.

“Ken elevates everything and adds glamour,” Weinberg said. “I think everybody should feel glamorous when they go out.”

The Hideaway lounge inside Leo's Oyster Bar in San Francisco

Weinberg said Fulk has been a longtime friend and partner. She typically has a vision and a concept and Fulk is her editor.

“I think Ken does the most gorgeous restaurants,” Weinberg said. “I can’t underscore enough how that partnership has been really inspiring and how people really are entertained in a more fabulous way.”

Big Night Restaurant Group is working with Ken Fulk for a new French wine bar, Petit Marlowe in San Francisco, which is expected to open in 2017. Big Night owns six restaurants in San Francisco.