Fourteen years ago, Matthew Parker was a frustrated artist new to Seattle, living at the Green Tortoise boarding house in Queen Anne and working as a server at the Lux Café in Belltown. Next year he’ll open his fourth venture as lead designer at the Huxley Wallace Collective, the city’s latest restaurant-building empire. It’s been a long road but a natural progression: Parker’s goal all along has been to merge creativity and hospitality.
“Design has an equal footing in our company with service and food,” he says.
Parker’s spaces balance clean, modern lines with funky details and bold statements of character. Witness the Steve Zissou-themed back bar at Westward, which opened on the north shore of Lake Union last summer, or the deluge of vintage lampshades hung from the ceiling at Hollywood Tavern, a destination restaurant that occupies a 70-year-old former service station in Woodinville. (As of press time, artisanal bodega Cone & Steiner is weeks away from opening in a new condo building on Capitol Hill, and Parchment, a bakery-focused café and beer hall, will open in early 2014.)
“I don’t know if Westward would’ve popped five years ago, but now the public is savvy enough about art and design around the world,” he says. “The nature of branding is changing immensely. It’s becoming more personal. We’re making the customer the hero of the story.”
Parker is indebted to Linda Derschang—“she tells stories through her spaces”—and the late Alex Calderwood—“an amazing crafter of experience and space”—for paving the way. But most of all, the time is right for the influx of energy and originality Parker brings to commercial design.
“It’s a great time to be an artist in Seattle—design is blowing up. Craft has come back in a beautiful way.”
Hometown Palo Alto, Calif.
Inspiration Passionate people who help push our culture forward
Achilles’ heel I can do anything, but I can’t do everything
Current obsession Telling better stories
Photo by Mike Hipple