Interior image of the main bar area at SOMA Soho

Max Radford and Cake Architecture design curtain-wrapped speakeasy in Soho

Cake Architecture and interior designer Max Radford have decorated a subterranean cocktail bar in London's Soho with colours borrowed from Indian artworks.

Situated near Central London's Picadilly Circus, on a side street in Soho, SOMA is a basement cocktail bar that takes design cues from the "spirit of India" and is organised around a communal bar.

Interior view of SOMA Soho through curtains
SOMA Soho was designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford

"We started the design process in April 2021 asking ourselves the question of what does it mean to create a new bar for a post-pandemic city," Cake Architecture and Radford told Dezeen.

"In response to that question, we have tried to create a contemporary interpretation of the Soho subterranean speakeasy, inspired by the spirit of India and beyond," said the team. "We wanted SOMA to be a space for communal festivities that encourages physical interaction and in-person exchange. Where friends and strangers can meet across a communal surface."

The interior of SOMA Soho has a dark and moody look
Spherical pendant lights are suspended above the nine-metre-long communal bar

Radford and Cake Architecture explained that they looked to 15th-century depictions of the ancient Hindu Holi Festival when designing the bar, which led them to use hues including indigo and saffron across the interior.

The walls are painted shades of deep blue and enveloped by similarly hued curtains, a nod to the nearby theatres of the West End.

The draping curtains serve as a soft backdrop to the cocktail bar while also functioning as screens that conceal hidden booths, a timber-clad lounge, private rooms and back-of-house areas.

View from across the bar at SOMA Soho
The stainless steel bar is fitted with communal wine coolers

"The architectural concept explores an elemental approach to space making, with two principal interventions: the counter and the curtain," the team said.

"These two interventions work to define SOMA as a contemporary space with a singular identity whilst preserving the character of an underground Soho hideaway."

View of a booth in an arch at SOMA Soho
Booths are set within arches and concealed by large curtains

A nine-metre-long, stainless steel communal counter – designed with an "altar-like quality" – dominates the centre of the cocktail bar.

It was hand-finished with an angle grinder to create a swirling pattern that mimics an abstract expressionist painting.

Rows of bottles line the rear wall behind the bar, above a built-in drinks-prep station, adding pops of colour against the dark indigo walls.

Staffordshire Blue Dreadnought Quarry tiles cover the floors, and extend across the walls and ceiling of the vaulted lobby that leads visitors into the bar and adjoining restrooms.

Interior view of the lounge area at SOMA Soho
The lounge area is filled with saffron-hued furnishings

SOMA's restrooms contrast the rest of the bar, with walls and ceilings coated in a high-gloss coral red that reflects and mirrors the tubular lighting mounted across the walls.

Bespoke stainless-steel sinks and wash units are fitted beside a trio of cubicles, which are trimmed and finished with dark wood fixtures.

Detail image of the sink unit at SOMA Soho
The designers chose pigments found in ancient Indian imagery for the interiors

"The colour palette was developed through research into the natural dyes and pigments used throughout Indian art, textiles and culinary traditions, with a focus on indigos, silvers, deep reds, oranges and browns," said Cake Architecture and Radford.

"These colours manifest themselves across the walls, ceilings and floors as well as in the furniture and upholstery."

Interior view of the bright red toilet cubicles at SOMA Soho
The restroom walls and ceiling are painted coral red

Cake Architecture has offices in London and Basel, while Radford is also based in the UK capital.

Over the summer of 2021, Radford launched The Radford Gallery and debuted his first exhibition titled Uncommon Found, which showcased designers whose work fringes design, art and craft.

Photography is by Felix Speller.

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SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford
SOMA Soho is a bar in London designed by Cake Architecture and Max Radford