“Designing a restaurant is like designing a sports car,” says architect Stephen Francis Jones. “You have a sleek looking body that needs a big engine and has to perform at top speed all the time. How do I keep it sexy? How do I keep it running well? How do I keep it adequate to the task of satisfying customers?”
Jones, who is well-known for his local restaurant designs such as MB Post in Manhattan Beach, the retro chain Lucky Strike Lanes, and the original Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills, continues to be one of the burgeoning food scene’s secret weapons—a designer who works tirelessly to meet the needs of his clients in any variety of situations by listening carefully to their expectations and adapting his process accordingly. Jones’ recent endeavors branched out from not only creating designs for new companies, but evolving existing designs for companies looking to rebrand, rethink and revive their image. Jones collaborates with a handpicked team that provides turnkey branding and technical services. Together they work with a network of talented designers and fabricators to establish fresh, evocative imagery that interprets and amplifies the clients’ initial vision.
Recently Jones took on the rebranding and re-launch of the iconic La Brea Bakery after it moved half a block down from its original location in Los Angeles. Jones facilitated a seamless blend of traditional ambience and artifacts from the original bakery with a refreshed logo and new “jewel case” displaying the luscious array of pastries and breads. He also revived Mister Donut, the largest donut chain in Japan, after it experienced declining profits in recent years. Jones borrowed the “jewel case” concept from La Brea Bakery and rebuilt the structure into an inviting shop complete with a Japanese garden-esque entrance. Opened in July, Mister Donut now has a revived image that will be used as a prototype for future Mister Donut shops across Asia.
Although Jones keeps busy with clients needing his expertise in their rebranding and rethinking in the US and abroad, he still pays homage to his own community in Manhattan Beach, California. Recently Jones took part in a fundraising project to transform the Teachers’ Lounge at Mira Costa High School, a dingy, aging room un-renovated since 1949. Jones used budget-friendly means for transforming the unappealing space into an enlivened, inviting retreat for teachers to dine and discuss.
Now in its eighteenth year, SFJones Architects is renowned among Los Angeles architecture firms for designing spectacular entertainment and dining destinations that radiate fresh, balanced aesthetics, making bold statements for national and international companies. “When people go out to dinner, their expectation is to have a stimulating sensual experience involving taste, ambiance and social interaction. My objective is to make the visual experience as delicious as the food,” says Jones.
The firm’s recent restaurant projects include upscale casual restaurant Del Frisco’s Grille in Irvine, Pasadena, and Santa Monica; Greenleaf restaurant in Hollywood; American Tea Room in both Beverly Hills and Downtown Los Angeles; two Simmzy’s restaurants in Burbank and Huntington Beach—projects spearheaded by the same owner as the famous MB Post—and the rebranding of more Java Houses in Kenya. Up next are two more Greenleaf restaurants in Laguna Beach and Pasadena; the Tin Roof Bistro in Marina Del Rey; and a new concept restaurant in Honolulu, HI, featuring star chef Peter Merriman.
Whether creating an instantly-recognizable identity for national restaurants or cutting-edge quarters for a high-end dining destination, Jones creates dynamic environments for dining, relaxation, business and pleasure.
Stephen Francis Jones’ website is located at: www.sfjones.com
STEPHEN FRANCIS JONES
Reaching success is one journey—remaining successful is another. To continue to be the best in the field, one must respond to a whole range of challenges never even considered on the way to the top.
Imagine what recently confronted architect Stephen Francis Jones of SFJones Architects. For nearly two decades, he has been designing restaurants, hotels and spas all around the world, from Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in Beverly Hills, to the retro chain Lucky Strike Lanes, to the wildly successful MB Post in Manhattan Beach, to Java House franchises in Kenya. But the challenges do not emerge only in new projects, where blank canvases, new developments, and empty tenant spaces can mean the freedom of endless possibilities for a designer. A uniquely talented architect must also showcase his ability to evolve existing structures and designs, thoughtfully and seamlessly marrying the old with the new in a transcendence from the original company image and brand.
Jones’ recent endeavors have capitalized on that challenge, and as a result, his renowned firm has expanded its services to excel in three vital “R’s” in company design evolution: Rebranding, Rethinking, and, perhaps most importantly, Reviving.
After its original building of 25 years was purchased, La Brea Bakery sought a new home half a block down at La Brea Avenue and 6th Street in Los Angeles. The relocation was an opportunity to rebrand and re-launch, and Jones rose to the design challenge. La Brea’s owner requested a “jewel case” to display the iconic bakery’s wares. Jones brought the concept to life with a 35-foot-long illuminated display case that allows patrons to survey a luscious array of pastries, focaccia, sandwiches, and other fresh items. The new location seamlessly melds the new lowercase “b” logo—prominently displayed at the entryway on the blackened steel oven hood—with La Brea’s familiar “bread dough” logo, which reappears above the display case. Artifacts from the original bakery, including a photograph of its famous window, recall the homey ambiance beloved by longtime patrons who now enjoy treasured tradition in a revamped home.
The influential reach of La Brea’s successful re-launch is not limited to Los Angeles—or even the United States. Founded in 1955, Mister Donut is Japan’s largest donut chain, with more than 1,100 stores. To increase profits, the company’s management team traveled to the States to find popular design trends and talent they could implement back home. They saw the success of Jones’ work on La Brea Bakery and were inspired to give a similar makeover treatment to Mister Donut.
Jones worked with a graphic design company to create a fresh new prototype for the Mister Donut chain in Osaka. Rebranding focused on the shop’s unique products—the donuts. The fuchsia and green tea color scheme is based on the company’s vivid donut colors. A stylized donut sporting a bowtie replaces the original Mister Donut logo (a bow-tied chef). The playful new logo on all four sides of the exterior announces the rebranding from afar. Borrowed from the “bread wall” concept at La Brea Bakery, a “donut wall” showcases the product. As of July, the company is revived and ready to thrive with a prototype that will soon be implemented in Mister Donut shops throughout Asia.
In addition to rebranding existing companies, Jones also tackles the challenge of creating unique yet unified designs for each of the multiple locations of the same restaurant chain. Del Frisco’s Grille, for example, opened in Santa Monica last year, and Jones recently worked on the Irvine location that opened in August. At Del Frisco Grill Irvine, Jones created a grand sense of occasion, announced at the dramatic “glass box” entryway showcasing a spectacular wine collection and continuing in the distinctive atmosphere of each space—bar, main dining room, private dining room, sun room, and patio. Throughout, the rich chocolate brown of distressed walnut and the earthiness of rustic metals combine with vivid amber accents to create a memorable dining ambiance.
Jones has also risen to the challenge of a third design for the Del Frisco’s Grille opening in December in Pasadena. This location was ingeniously carved out of ground floor office space on Lake Avenue. At the entrance, a gleaming display of climate-controlled wine adjacent to the bar sets the tone of warm hospitality. The chevron-patterned walnut ceiling that appears to hover above the bar, the hanging liquor bottles at each end, and the recessed lights below create a striking effect of weightlessness. In addition to the bar seating, two communal tables—each with its own TV—offer a social experience for guests gathering with friends.
Being able to adapt his working process to whatever each unique client demands is a key principal of Jones’ work ethic, as is establishing solid collaborative relationships with clients, contractors and fellow designers who have active interest in each project. For example, Jones is currently working on his fifth Greenleaf restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, which illustrates “how different each job can be . . . every time we return to our main concept, we keep fine tuning.” Each new project provides a sensory challenge, as Jones is particularly attuned to issues of acoustics and takes pride in his ability to use various types of light to mold and color the space.
There are also the practical considerations of time and space that can’t help but have an impact on how Jones works: another current focus for him is rebranding and expanding the largest chain of casual dining/coffee shops in East Africa, with locations in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. While some challenges are practical—getting materials overseas and dealing with time zone differences and lengthy travel—others are more theoretical. Navigating through different perspectives on the importance of design can pose challenges, but the coffee chain’s forward-thinking CEO understood the value of design and its ability to help set the chain apart from its competition. “I’m still applying the same basic elements that I developed for my clients here,” Jones explains. “It’s all about understanding the needs of the client and responding to them as they let you know what is and is not working.”
Jones is well-prepared for a successful career. After studying architecture at the University of Florida, Jones got his Architectural Master’s degree at UCLA. He began his career in Boston, working with Jung/Brannen Associates designing high-rises. The experience was valuable, as it taught him that his interests and strengths were in more personal venues. “The scale of those projects was so large,” Jones recalls, “you lost the sense of detail and a certain amount of control: you delegated tasks and moved on to the next project before you could see the last one to completion.” He wanted to work on a more intimate scale, taking a concept and making it real, overseeing each project to its end in a short period of time.
After his first year at UCLA, he went to Tuscany: “I perfected my sketching abilities, studied Italian hill town architecture, and fine-tuned my knowledge of architecture,” he says. While living in Europe, he worked for a year in Barcelona during the exciting buildup to the 1992 Olympics. There, he worked with the internationally renowned firm, Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura, where he was the designer on the Cagnes-sur-Mer mixed-use complex in France, and the Institutio de Mediteraneo in Barcelona.
He began working for the famed L.A. firm Grinstein/Daniels while still at UCLA, and after completing his Master’s degree, Jones spent a year in Miami rebuilding hurricane-damaged homes and then returned to Los Angeles to work on the design of a co-generation power plant in Sacramento. Jones was given the opportunity to reinvigorate his passion for restaurant design when he was hired as the in-house architect at the Wolfgang Puck Food Company. In 1996, he left the Wolfgang Puck Food Company to start his own firm, SFJones Architects. Eager to continue his association with Jones, the famed chef and Barbara Lazaroff hired him to recreate Wolfgang Puck’s most celebrated restaurant in its new Beverly Hills location. Jones continued to work on Puck’s fine and casual dining restaurants all over the world. He then went on to create the original design for Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood, a combination restaurant, bar, and bowling alley that quickly became a popular hipster hangout. It was such a success that Jones was hired to develop other Lucky Strike Lanes in Chicago, Toronto, Denver, St. Louis, Louisville, South Beach and Orange County. The fresh concept of a retro bowling alley/lounge became fiercely popular nationwide: Jones was hired to design Big Al’s, a bowling alley and sports bar in Vancouver, Washington, and Ashton Kutcher’s Dolce Group hired Jones to design Ten Pin Alley in Atlanta. “I’ve created an unexpected niche in stylish bowling alley architecture!” laughs Jones.
Rental shoes are not an essential feature on all of his projects, handled by a ten-person team at the SF Jones Architecture offices, who altogether work on 15 to 20 projects a year. “My favorite projects are the ones when the client comes to us with a well-defined idea of their concept,” Jones explains. “We interpret and enhance that idea, creating dynamic and imaginative results that resonate with our clients, fully realizing their innovative ambitions.”
Jones’ client list now second to none when it comes to some of the most respected and successful eateries on the west coast and beyond. That list now includes Jones’ most recent gigs for clients like American Tea Room, which is setting up two shops in Beverly Hills and Downtown Los Angeles, two Simmzy’s restaurants in Burbank and Huntington Beach, and the expansion of Java House restaurants in East Africa. Up next are two more Greenleaf restaurants in Laguna Beach and Pasadena, the Tin Roof Bistro in Marina Del Rey, and a new concept with the owners of MonkeyPod in Honolulu, HI, featuring star chef Peter Merriman.
It’s no surprise that healthy restaurants and spas are part of Jones’ portfolio. Jones, a Manhattan Beach resident, is an avid cyclist, rower, and volleyball player. In fact, it was his frequent playing of volleyball on his local beaches that connected him with restaurateur Chris Simms, which led to working on a few Lazy Dog Cafes, and then developing vintage vogue M.B. Post for celebrated chef David LeFevre, which led to the additional assignments for Simmzy’s restaurants. As clients expand their restaurateur frontiers, they return time after time to Jones for top-quality designs that engender results.
But how does a designer supply to client demand for fresh, new ideas that will breathe vitality (and profits) into a business? Jones says the key is diversity in lifestyle. “Lifestyle translates to one’s design sense. I think a designer is always thinking about design in their environment and the more diversity you have in your life, the more ideas that present themselves to you.” As a married father of two (his wife, Stephanie Eyestone Jones, is owner of Matrix Environmental, an urban planning firm), Jones lives a carefully integrated life. His mornings begin very early at the UCLA Aquatic Center, near his office in Marina Del Rey. An hour or more of rowing in a single scull gives him time and tranquility to think through his day. “Relating it to my daily regiment lifestyle,” explains Jones, “it’s a meditation period of my day—when I have my best ideas.”
Flourishing success in the States and beyond has not caused Jones to forget to pay homage to his roots, however. The local high school, Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach, California recently received some TLC through a recent fundraiser project that compelled Jones to offer his revamping and reviving services to his own community. The school’s dingy, aging Teachers’ Lounge was so unappealing that teachers avoided it. Jones’ 12-year-old daughter, Camryn, will be attending Mira Costa in a few years, and he realized the project would be a great way to give back to his community.
Jones installed a long communal pine table in the center of the room, where teachers could gather over lunch to discuss common issues. The seating is walnut with black leather on the chairs and budget-conscious faux-leather and faux-suede on the booths. The ceiling was stripped of its unsightly acoustic tiles and painted to harmonize with the deep brown of the wood. Jones and Camryn even spent a busy father-daughter weekend transforming hanging light fixtures with decoupage in order to match the school’s colors of green and gold.
With a donated 60-inch TV, campus location and large windows, the Teachers’ Lounge offers a refreshing vista for those inside and attracts admiring glances from passersby. And one day, Camryn Jones will be able to tell her teachers that her father revived their lounge into the warmly welcoming space they enjoy.
In these types of projects—where clients need their companies treated to a fresh start through rebranding, re-launching, rethinking and reviving—what may appear to be limitations to novice designers are seen as opportunities by the more seasoned architect deeply refined and committed in his craft. The experience does not merely call for a challenge in design, but also calls for one in discovery. “My ambitions go beyond architecture,” Jones explains. “I like to live my life with the same passion that I bring to design. I want to do work that feeds the spirit, not the ego.”
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Stephen Francis Jones’ website is SFJones.com