The new face of Buddha-Bar Dubai by LW Design

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The venue at Grosvenor House Dubai Marina gets a complete makeover by LW Design, The Original Interior Designers of the high-end fine dining space.

Following a major refurbishment at the end of last year, the interiors of Buddha-Bar Dubai by LW Design offer a fresh take on its previous design, yet staying true to its original concept of fusing influences from China, Tibet and the Ottoman era.

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Originally envisioned by restaurateur Raymond Visan back in 1996, the Buddha-Bar brand is now present in Beirut, Budapest, London, Manila, Kiev, Moscow, Milan, Mexico City, Monte Carlo, Prague and Dubai. The three-storied venue in Grosvenor House Dubai Marina is among the largest of the Buddha-Bars worldwide.

Pia Sen, associate at LW Design, was part of the design team who worked on the original Dubai Buddha-Bar concept, which opened its doors in 2005. To get inspired, Visan advised her team to watch the film “Seven years in Tibet”. That’s how her design journey with the brand started. Last year, she was tasked with the same space for the recent refurb.

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“I’m happy that I’ve been given a chance to do this design one more time,” admits Sen. “It was my ‘baby’ from the very first moment. With so many details everywhere, this project was very challenging as you have to be very creative, but at the same time, you can play with it since it is almost a theatre stage setting.

“We talked to the client about putting new dining chairs in the main restaurant and refreshing the bar area, but it just grew from there. One of the things with the Buddha-Bar is that you can go on and on, so we tried to keep it down, but making sure that the old and new parts blend in well.”

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For the client and design team, the refurbishment was an opportunity to revise and improve the original concept by repurposing certain “quiet pockets” of the venue, such as private dining and tatami rooms in the back, which hadn’t been used enough. A new open plan Robata Grill kitchen has been added to create a live cooking show experience for diners along with large bay windows that offer views of Dubai Marina.

“The back area hasn’t been used enough, so the client’s requirement was to open up this space and extend the restaurant area. We also took all the walls down but framed the windows with traditional lambrequins with dragon embroidery. In this area, the entire colour scheme is new and includes more vibrant shades of green and purple.”

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LW Design worked closely with 17A Art consultants and artist Steve Chambers who painted all the wall and ceiling murals. At the back of the restaurant, Heron birds are featured on walls.

The layout in the main restaurant stayed the same, featuring a two-storey high statue of a Buddhist monk, which was given a fresh coat of gold paint.

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“We got new chairs and upholstery with dragon embroidery, which was specially woven for this project. The massive golden chandeliers with red shades in the main dining area have been cleaned up, and we added new black fabrics around the cords so in the evening it seems as they are floating in the air.”

For the bar area, the designers completely stripped the bar fronts and made a new finish by using 3D tiles from UK-based studio Giles Miller. They used five different tones of tiles to achieve the effect of dragon scales. They also added two golden columns with golden dragons on each side, wine displays, new high chairs and lights with long tassels.

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Another client requirement was to create better connectivity between the two floors, so the design team extended the area and added a new bar on the mezzanine level, but also built an elevator for easier access.

“The question we asked ourselves was ‘how do you pull people upstairs?’. Before you had to book a table or otherwise, you were not allowed to come up here. It wasn’t used as much while there was always a lot of people in the bar downstairs, so we built an additional bar that brought people up here as well. A big dragon mirror on the back wall has a major ‘wow’ effect.”

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