Zapverr Restaurant & Lounge
Client: Kay Fuengarom
The Fremont neighborhood of Seattle is known for its unusually weird landmarks. It is a place where you can find a troll, a drawbridge, a rocket, dinosaurs, art you can dress up and a Lenin statue all within walking distance. It is also the home to Adobe, Google and other several tech startups.
This is the setting for Zapverr, an Isaan style Thai Restaurant. Zapverr, (which means very spicy in Thai) was taking over an existing traditional Thai restaurant in a funky storefront. It was important to make a big splash with the design to differentiate the new restaurant from its predecessor and give it a fresh start. We were tasked with creating the branding, including logo design and various environmental graphics, the interior design, and storefront and signage design. The owners, Kay and Aom, requested ‘modern, futuristic design.
Branding and Logo
Issan Thai food is very spicy and quite different from traditional central Thai Cuisine. We created the logo to show the love of spice and the double entendre of the Thai word Zap, which means hot and spicy and can be applied to food or to an attractive woman. Hence the ‘kiss lips’ combined with the pepper. Verr, means over the top, or very. The typography was chosen to help clarify the pronunciation and meaning for even non Thai speakers.
We created a series of vector symbols in the same style. These are abstract depictions of Thai culture, issan, and Thai letters used for window graphics.
We developed a color scheme for the storefront that created an interesting contrast to the black and red theme of the logo. The signage was designed for maximum iconic impact.
The floor plan layout was approached to have maximum impact from the moment of entry. We also created three distinct dining areas as well as the bar without making the restaurant feel ‘blocky’. The kitchen remained the same, with the exception of a new exhibition grill.
One mainstay of Issan Thai food is a dish called Som Tum which is a spicy papaya salad. The design of Zapverr was inspired by Som Tum and the specific Thai mortar and pestle used for its preparation. We imported hundreds of these pestles and used them to create the short partition walls in the restaurant. Taking our inspiration literally, then turning it upside down and ‘futuristic’ created a series of giant rings that took advantage of the tall ceilings and guides the customer through the restaurant.
These concentric rings mimic a mortar turned on its side, inside each ring is an abstract graphic of papaya salad lit from within. This creates the experience of walking through a giant mortar, or floating planetary rings of papaya salad. The custom 6 foot tall lights at the front of the restaurant are abstract glowing pestles that help fill the cavernous ceilings. Several custom metal soffits with abstract leaf design help keep the seating cozy.
Client communication and involvement
We worked closely with Kay and Aom throughout the design process. Through a series of 3D models and conversation the final design was reached. In the process Kay and Aom requested other items that needed to be incorporated into the design, a statuette that had personal significance for them was incorporated into the fountain at the restaurant entrance. The front door which was originally solid was changed to transparent for Feng Shui compliance.
The restaurant was the talk of the town after it opened. In the years since it has hosted local and visiting bands, regular boisterous karaoke nights, private parties, and a steady stream of customers.