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Restaurant Architecture: The Bonfire Grill Renovation in Milford, CT

We all love restaurants. Someone else cooks and serves us delicious food and all we have to do is relax and pay. But when a restaurant also has a great ambiance, it becomes an experience worth writing home about. Good restaurant architecture will add dramatically to the bottom line.

The Bonfire Grill, in Milford, CT just opened a week ago after we were hired to design an extensive renovation of the existing structure. Restaurant architecture is one of our favorite kind of projects because they are a mix of beauty, flow and functionality. All very important to the overall experience of the clientele.

To describe this project will be a pleasure. The new Bonfire Grill is across the street from the Long Island Sound, a beautiful setting as the natives who know the area can tell you. Milford also has a very diverse mix of people which made our project challenging. Fortunately, everyone loves a good watering hole/eatery near the water for that perfect getaway, beachy feeling.

Applying the 50% zoning rule to save money

The style of the original building was Mediterranean with an ugly, stucco finish. It had no basement and was built on a slab. Challenging!

Even worse, Milford’s 17 miles of shoreline were decimated by Hurricane Sandy and many of the waterfront structures didn’t survive. New zoning regulations sprouted like weeds.

One of those regulations is what we call the 50% rule. If a property owner renovates less than 50% of the original building, they do not have to raise the structure onto 12-foot pilings like everyone else. When we told the future owners of the Bonfire Grill about the rule, they asked us if we could give the building an amazing facelift without crossing over the other side of the 50% rule. The answer was yes, and away we went to provide their dream design for a waterfront restaurant… without spending a ton of money.

Douglas Cutler Architects specializes in both modular and traditional architecture, but this renovation was clearly a classic renovation. We did not expand the footprint but included a plan for additional dining rooftop patio to be built down the road. For now, all they needed was everything else!

Our design included renovation of the interior and exterior and we opted for a modern, seaside theme to go with the gorgeous location. Greys and whites, hewn beams, high ceilings to expose the framing wood. Simple windows and even a rolling garage door behind the bar to serve drinks to patrons on the patio.

More Restaurant Architecture Details

Airy and light and fun, the floors became exposed cement sealed with epoxy in natural, nautical grey. We even designed the bar to be poured-in-place concrete. A real showstopper covering over 60 square feet!

We modernized the existing kitchen to bring it up to code and were also able to save the existing restrooms along with quite a few plumbing features. We designed an electrical plan to safely suit the needs of a modern restaurant and it’s big appliances and topped it all off with a rubber roof with a waterproof membrane. The roof can be covered with patio pavers once they decide to open the rooftop patio. What a view that will be!

The whole place now seats 130 people including the outside patio. Seafood, raw bar, burgers and so much more. Come on down and see the place, enjoy a drink, some great food and a delightful atmosphere.

And please let us know if you hear about someone planning a restaurant renovation. Or any renovation. We are happy to help!


Douglas Cutler

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