Balham, South London‘s up-and-coming neighbourhood, has welcomed Piraña – a South American-inspired bar and restaurant located in the area’s emerging nightlife hub of Bedford Hill. Sella Concept was charged with designing a new bar that could win the hearts of locals, while also having the potential to expand beyond Balham as a brand.

The owners of the venue, brothers Alastair and Nicholas Heathcote, who are behind several other hit venues in London, were keen for their new venture to avoid drawing too closely from the South American aesthetic. Sella Concept founders, Tatjana von Stein and Gayle Noonan, resisted the soft, warm colours and traditional patterns associated with the region, and developed a bolder, engagingly retro design theme that transcends specific cultural roots.

“While the food concept touches on South American cuisine, the brief was to create something unique with no particular cultural reference but that invites guests to eat and drink in a relaxed manner throughout the day. Our approach rests on colour and flow, creating spaces within spaces to drink and dine,” explains Sella Concept’s Tatjana von Stein.

From the shell of a former restaurant, the designer duo had conjured up a fluid, immersive space, seamlessly subdivided into different areas, each with a subtly different mood. The owners were keen for the atmosphere to be casual and easy-going, with no sense of division between diners and drinkers, and this comes across in a layout governed by a feeling of flow rather than division.

Light and welcoming, Piraña’s front room houses a chef’s table, a curved bar, a banquette-lined platform and a ‘secret’ snug with a private bar hatch. The back room is darker and more indulgent in tone, lined with cozy and intimate private booths.

“We are both fascinated by the psychology of behaviour behind the design and the question of how to encourage behaviour through layout, design and materials – what design makes us feel. Our favourite projects are those that allow us to answer one question: how can we transport an audience?” says Tatjana von Stein.

The exterior has been styled with mosaics of blue and white tile and striking window façades dominated by a red metal framework. Inside, Piraña’s playful, trend-agnostic aesthetic is created through the use of a rich, sensory palette of colours and materials. Apart from the chairs and lights, everything else in Piraña has been custom designed for the space by Sella Concept, including the restaurant’s visual identity, deployed on menus, business cards and online.

The result is an unusual and inviting venue that somehow packs a host of different atmospheres into a comparatively small space and a bold new bar brand for Balham.


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