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Padded Perimeter | Restaurant


Padded Perimeter in restaurant design is applied as a long upholstered banquette back that encompasses one or more walls, in effect, acting as a low three-dimensional wall.


The Padded Perimeter appeared as an interior archetypical practice at the turn-of-the-twentieth century. Surprisingly booth or banquette seating was adopted first in residential dining rooms at about the same time as in bars and restaurants. Padded Perimeter became an often-used treatment for wall organization and as a defining architectural element.

In 1903, the architect Adolf Loos designed his own apartment and the American Bar in Vienna. Both included booth seating, with padded upholstered seats and high backs. The apartment’s square booth, tucked in a corner of the room, was U-shaped. The padded upholstered back was twice the height of the seat, and it was crowned with a wooden frame. The entire booth and back are well integrated with a symmetrically placed fireplace. The American bar (1903) is also dependent on booth seating. The back of the booth was raised to be the same height as the bar counter, creating a long upholstered back that encompassed two walls, and in effect, acted as a low three-dimensional wall.1

In the 1911 Salon of the Lisbeth Steckelberg Apartment Josef Hoffmann located a U-shape booth in one corner of the room. The height of the padded and upholstered back is approximately double the seat height.2 By 1912, however, Hoffman’s idea of a high booth back that serves as a wall element (a Padded Perimeter) took shape in the Graben Café, Vienna.3 In this instance, the back wrapped around two walls, effectively elongating the horizontal effect. The back height was also been adjusted higher on the wall.

In the 1930 decade the linear booth, comprised of a rectangular table between two booths facing each other, was the first booth configuration used in American diners. Early diners with narrow interiors included long counters and stools, and clientele was comprised almost exclusively to males. Booth seating made its appearance about 1929 in efforts to cater to women clientele. As the range of patrons grew from men to women and then families, upholstered booths provided more comfortable seating. Early booths were constructed of wood with matching benches. By the 1940 and 1950 decades, booths were made of tubular steel and upholstered in Naugahyde, a trade name widely used to describe all brands of artificial leather made from polymer vinyl and coated plastic.4 Booth seating for restaurants also included round booths that could seat five to seven people at a round table. Linear diner booths and round booths created more enclosure than tables and chairs which enhanced the privacy and intimacy of the dining experience for patrons in diners, cafes or restaurants.

Fine dining restaurants in the 1940s were the first to incorporate a banquette, an upholstered couch fixed to the wall with a table placed in front of it. Most often, the banquette configuration seats four people using the bench for two and two chairs. Banquettes maximize seating by filling up corners and allowing more guests to be seated than would fit at tables with individual chairs.5 The button-tufted Padded Perimeter in the Monte Carlo Cinema restaurant (1946) in Chicago is one of the earliest examples. The Monte Carlo Padded Perimeter integrates three walls of the U-shaped dining area. The Padded Perimeter balances elaborate ceiling and wall treatments. By the 1960s and 1970s reiterations of Padded Perimeter were in common use in fine restaurants as lengthy low walls.

During the 1980 decade Padded Perimeters most often appeared with Billboard in the form of mirrors or murals. For example, the design for the Woods Gramercy restaurant (1985) featured a black Padded Perimeter above which were hung four-feet-high mirror planes. The Square One restaurant design (1990) offers another reiteration of a Padded Perimeter paired with a Billboard, In this example, the muralist, Carlo Marchiori, painted Il Paese della Cuccagna” (a veritable Canaletto of edibles) on the wall above the long banquette seat.

In the twenty-first century, Padded Perimeter has been featured in various ways. The Chez Es Saadda restaurant (2004) in New York City paired Padded Perimeter with a back wall as an abstract work by artist Izhar Patkin. He treated the space as a canvas or, more accurately, a three-dimensional sculpture on which stories would be layered.6 The upholstery pattern and the mural blend together, effectively camouflaging the Padded Perimeter. The main concept for the Washington Square restaurant (2005) by Rockwell Group was inspired by a new 2,400 square-foot courtyard; the interior is divided into three contiguous garden-facing dining rooms. Behind the cream-colored back of Padded Perimeter in the dining area, a dematerialized steel screen adds an aesthetic quality of the restaurant concept.7

end notes

  1. 1) Adolf Loos Apartment and American Bar [1903] Adolf Loos; Vienna in Roff Toman, ed., Vienna Art and Architecture (Cologne, Germany: Konemann, 1999), 312-313.
  2. 2) Salon, Lisbeth Steckelberg Apartment [1911] Josef Hoffmann; Vienna in Peter Noever, ed. Yearning for Beauty: The Wiener Werkstatte and the Stoclet House (Brussels, Belgium: MAK Vienna and the Centre of Fine Arts Brussels, 2006, 94.
  3. 3) Graben Café [1912] Joseph Hoffman, Vienna in Peter Noever, ed. Yearning for Beauty: The Wiener Werkstatte and the Stoclet House (Brussels, Belgium: MAK Vienna and the Centre of Fine Arts Brussels, 2006), 100.
  4. 4) Larry Cultrera, American diner expert, e-mail message to author, July 25, 2008.
  5. 5) Costas Katsigris, Design and Equipment for Restaurants and Foodservice: A Management View (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley, 2006), 44.
  6. 6) Donna Paul, “Rock the Casbah,” Interior Design 75, no. 3 (Mar. 2004): 268.
  7. 7) Evidence for the use and the chronological sequence of Padded Perimeter as a restaurant archetype was developed from the following sources: 1940 The Monte Carlo Cinema Club [1946] Franklin Hughes, Interior Design; Chicago, IL in Lisa Skolnik, "MOD is in the Details," Interiors 106, no. 1 (Aug. 1946): 96; PhotoCrd: Anonymous / 1960 Restaurant Vasata [1960] Norbert L. Troller, AIA, Architect; New York City in "Restaurants," Interior Design 31, no. 4 (Apr. 1960): 149; PhotoCrd: Motal; Safari Lounge, Paul Young's Restaurant [1960] William Pahlmann Associates, AID, Interior Design; Washington D.C in "Restaurants," Interior Design 31, no. 10 (Oct. 1960): 163; PhotoCrd: Anonymous; Heather House Restaurant, Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co. Department Store [1961] Hal Lorey, Interior Design; Chicago, IL in "Restaurants," Interior Design 32, no. 4 (Apr. 1961): 149; PhotoCrd: Idaka; President's Walk Restaurant [1961] Idea Associates; Chicago, IL in "President's Walk," Interior Design 32, no. 6 (June 1961): 135; PhotoCrd: Hedrich Blessing; Chateau Fleur de Les Restaurant [1966] Alan L. Ferry and Hugh Latta; Atlanta, Georgia in "Restaurants," Interior Design 37, no. 4 (Apr. 1966): 190; PhotoCrd: Alexandre Georges; Orangaire Tea Room, National Hotel and Motel Exposition, New York City [1967] Umberto Marucci, AID, Chandler Cudlipp Associates, Interior Design in Anonymous, "Designs for Dining," Interior Design 38, no. 10 (Oct. 1967): 152; PhotoCrd: Anonymous; Walnut Mall Shopping Center [1969] Brock Arms, AIA, NSID; Petersburt, VA in "Cater to the Busy Shopper," Interior Design 40, no. 5 (May 1969):153; PhotoCrd: Anonymous / 1970 Gatsby's Restaurant [1970] Joseph Braswell, AID, Interior Design; New York City in "The Greats at Gatsby's," Interior Design 41, no. 4 (Apr. 1970): 133; PhotoCrd: Anonymous; Dining Complex, E.R. Squibb and Sons Headquarters [1972]; Jerome J. Sincoff, Principal, David Shuttle, Designer, HOK; Lawrenceville, NJ in "HOK," Interior Design 43, no. 9 (Sep. 1972): 137; PhotoCrd: Alexandre Georges; The Big Four Restaurant [1978] Anthony Hail; San Francisco, CA in "The Big Four on Nob Hill", Interior Design 49, no. 4 (Apr. 1978): 233; PhotoCrd: William A. Porter / 1980 Clyde's at Tysons Corner [1980] John Richards Andrews; Fairfax County, VA in Monica Geran, "Clyde's at Tysons Corner," Interior Design 51, no. 12 (Dec. 1980): 159; PhotoCrd: Mark Ross; Woods Gramercy [1985] James D'Auria Associates; New York City in Monica Geran, "Prepared to Order," Interior Design 56, no.1 (Jan. 1985): 265; PhotoCrd: Norman McGrath; Tiger, Tiger Teahouse [1988] Joyce/Snweiss Design Group; Miami, LF in Monica Geran, "Tiger, Tiger," Interior Design 59, no.10 (Oct. 1988): 233; PhotoCrd: Steven Brooke / 1990 Square One [1990] Andrew Belschner Joseph Vincent, San Francisco, CA in "Square One Recombinant," Interior Design 45, no. 1 (Apr. 1990): 163; PhotoCrd: John Vaughan; Remi Redux [1990] Adam Tihany; New York City in "Remi Redux," Interior Design 61, no. 9 (Sep. 1990): 185; PhotoCrd: Peter Paige; Yello Giraffe [1996] Arthur de Mattos Casas; Sao Paulo, Brazil in "Jungle Fever," Interior Design 67, no. 14 (Nov. 1996): 96; PhotoCrd: Tuca Reines; Bondst [1999] Studio Gaia; New York City in David M. Joseph, "Zen and the Art of Dining," Interior Design 70, no. 11 (Sep. 1999): 210; PhotoCrd: David M. Joseph / 2000 Kosushi Bar [2000] Arthur de Mattos Casaa; Sao Paulo, Brazil in Monica Geran, "Sushi e Sake," Interior Design 71, no. 8 (Apr. 2000): 167; PhotoCrd: Tuca Reines; Sushi Jones [2001] Mark Oller & Victoria Kirk of MOVK; New York City in Jen Renzi, "A Clean Palette," Interior Design 72, no. 11 (Sep. 2001): 118; PhotoCrd: Mark Ross; Opaline [2004] Nicholas Budd Dutton; Los Angeles, CA in Kathryn Harris, "Shine On," Interior Design 75, no. 2 (Feb. 2004): 168; PhotoCrd: Eric Laignel; Chez Es Saadda [2004] Patkin; New York City in Donna Paul, "Rock the Casbah," Interior Design 75, no. 3 (Mar. 2004): 268; PhotoCrd: Eric Laignel; Washington Square [2005] Rockwell Group, Philadelphia, PA in Jorge S. Arango, "The Secret Garden," Interior Design 76, no. 8 (June 2005): 206; PhotoCrd: Eric Laignel; Coconut Groove [2006] Bender Design; Miami, FL in Joachim Fischer and Martin Nicholas Kunz, eds., Café and Restaurant Design (Stuttgart, Germany: teNeues, 2007), 95; PhotoCrd: Friedrich Busam; Blue Velvet [2007] Mandi and Mehdi Rafaty; Los Angeles, CA in Edie Cohen, "Into the Blue," Interior Design 78, no. 9 (July 2007): 60; PhotoCrd: Eric Axene; Dolder Grand [2008] Foster and Partners and United Designers; Zurich, Switzerland in Craig Kellogg, "The Dolder, Bolder," Interior Design 79, no. 8 (June 2008): 269; PhotoCrd: Edmund Sumner.

bibliographic citations

1) The Interior Archetypes Research and Teaching Project, Cornell University, (accessed month & date, year).

2) Cho, Jasmin. “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary Restaurant Design.” M.A. Thesis, Cornell University, 2009, 113-125.