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The Architecture of a Restaurant

Designing commercial spaces for beauty, function and safety

Article by Alpharetta City Lifestyle Staff

Photography by The Baldwin Architectural Group

Originally published in Alpharetta City Lifestyle

Enjoying a meal at a restaurant is about more than just a delicious menu and a smiling waiter. Before the chef dices, chops or mixes, an architect creates a vision which ultimately makes or breaks a dining experience. We sat down with M. Christopher Baldwin who designs commercial and residential spaces in and around Johns Creek. He is the mastermind behind the charming restaurant, Lapeer Steak and Seafood.

Are there similarities in designing a commercial space and a residential space?

​Commercial and residential design are very different. A lot of the work that goes into creating a home and a commercial project have a lot of variables. Commercial design is based on how the client is trying to attract customers, whereas residential design is getting the client the things that they are personally attracted to. There are more requirements for creating a commercial space than a residential space. Accessibility and life safety rules are among the most primary details. You need to ensure you have all of the accessibility to that space and are able to get hundreds of people out of the space in an emergency. We also manage many engineering details that come up. Structural engineering is needed for both types of design when a new structure is being created, but the mechanical, electrical & plumbing details that are required on commercial are often more optional on residential design.

How does the architect collaborate creatively with the chef, interior designer and brand managers to create a cohesive concept?

​We work with a lot of these entities when it comes to commercial spaces, especially when creating spaces like restaurants where the public is coming to enjoy their time eating out and relaxing and enjoying great food. Seeing something that attracts their attention is one of the biggest goals. Walking into a space that gives that "WOW" impact is critical. Sitting down and enjoying a nice meal is important to keep these clients coming back over and over again.  

What aspects of the Lapeer project were unique or memorable and what features will diners appreciate most?

The exterior of this building dominates the visual for this location. We created a building based on what had been a similar church building in the area and created the entrance to get the clients excited for what they see on the outside. We enjoyed creating all the exciting interior spaces: the finishes for the bar, the seating area, and a nice covered dining area looking out at a beautiful outdoor space. The open ceiling and suspended lighting was key to giving it a great focal point. 

A great seafood menu is critical too, but that is up to the owners to keep that exciting for the clients. 

M. Christopher Baldwin, President 

The Baldwin Architectural Group


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