How the Design Industry Responds in a Time of COVID-19 21st April 2020 | IN CORONAVIRUS | BY SBID

As the UK lockdown continues, we’re continuing to share the design industry perspectives from SBID Accredited designers and manufacturers as they reveal the realities of life and business for them during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Maximilian Boutique Hotel

Sans Souci / Maximilian Boutique Hotel

Maximilian Boutique Hotel

How has the reality of social distancing affected you and your business operations?

Tobias Trigg, founder, Tobias Oliver Interiors: “We have taken the impact and effects of coronavirus on a day to day basis since it landed on our shores.  We operate out of our luxury lifestyle showroom on the ground floor of our premises, and interior design studio and gallery on the second floor.  As social distancing has gradually been introduced into our society, we have followed the guidance in the most appropriate way possible. We began with ensuring a deep clean was carried out every morning and evening. We followed this with changing our opening hours of the showroom to by appointment only and making sure each client or customer entering were provided with antibacterial gel (as well as a glass of fizz to lighten the mood!).

Our local community has been very supportive of us and have used our online shop to make purchases (which we can still currently fulfil). We also took the measures to take a pause on live projects and we are now working from home, until the guidance from the government advises we can re-open the showroom and studio.”

Matěj Buďárek, junior business development UK, Sans Souci: “Most of our business operations were based on long distance communication, as it is required in the international nature of our business. Therefore, the new rules are applicable mostly for business operations that require personal presence i.e. production. The production itself took a very strict precautions in order to ensure the wellbeing and safety of the employees.”

Deborah Beaumont-Griffin, director, Deborah Beaumont Interiors: “Sadly social distancing has all but stopped the business. We work as a close knit team both amongst ourselves and with our clients. We can no longer design or specify properly as we cannot access our vast library of fabrics and papers and we cannot present concepts. Design is not just about pulling some nice pieces together, it is about getting to know our clients and working with them closely on their project and being there to encourage them to make decisions they feel really happy with. As a team we pride ourselves in our client relationships and we are trying to carry this on from home, but it’s not easy!”

Nick Fong, co-founder & director, Nu Infinity: We do not just engage with design works; our business involves makeover constructions as well. Whilst our design works will move as usual, albeit some challenges but the things affected most are our on-site works. Naturally, where there is no site progress, there is no progress payments. There is little we can do about it. So the challenge is to manage the collateral from other perspectives such as managing your internal funds, diversify your portfolio and plan for the coming months by securing jobs virtually at this moment.

Tobias Oliver Interiors

Tobias Oliver Interiors / Luxury Lifestyle Showroom

If you’ve had to work from home, how do you stay motivated / preserve your mental wellbeing?

Tobias Trigg, founder, Tobias Oliver Interiors: “What’s been paramount is working together as a team to find ways of ensuring the business can continue in terms of thinking outside the box – challenging our minds in this way is a great way to stay motivated. This way of thinking has stirred up some really interesting ideas on how our business can adapt to our changing landscape. Taking breaks every 45 minutes from the screen and ensuring to try and exercise every day to boost our endorphins, I try and do at least an hour on my road bike. I’ve also found that just having a video call with colleagues or friends can also really help ground ourselves. I’ve also found keeping any work related items (laptop, iMacs, notebooks and sketchbooks) all in one room at home. So I can shut the door and swtich off (easier said than done!).”

Matěj Buďárek, junior business development UK, Sans Souci: “We support our employees and give them freedom in personal time management. By having this approach, we managed to keep the same work flow and efficiency while making everyone happy. We strengthen our company culture by sharing positive vibes and activities with the rest of the team via social media, exercise plans and self-discipline ideas and tips.”

Deborah Beaumont-Griffin, director, Deborah Beaumont Interiors: “Two of us work from home together, as we are family and the others work from their respective homes. We try to self discipline and have made an “office” space at home and we make sure we are up and dressed ready for work. We are sticking to our coffees and meetings and have group staff meetings by Zoom for morale and necessity.”

Nick Fong, co-founder & director, Nu Infinity: Our team has been trained and we have leaders brought up from the ranks to operate in smaller departments. They will touch base occasionally with the members and organise small motivating discussions and reporting work updates. As a whole, the management have purchased online lessons covering all sorts of skills and we play that at 3:00pm on every working day. We hope this will allow them to have something to look forward to every day.

Nu Infinity

Nu Infinity / Villa 14

What has been or will be the biggest challenge you or your business will face throughout this uncertain time?

Tobias Trigg, founder, Tobias Oliver Interiors: “The biggest challenge will be not being able to interact with our clients face to face. Especially in the showroom where we can have one to one conversations with clients and customers about anything from accessories, lighting and furniture in the showroom – to working through bespoke designs we have created for whole rooms and homes.”

Matěj Buďárek, junior business development UK, Sans Souci: “Our business has a planned procedure in which one process is dependent on another. The biggest challenge will be making sure that everything is in order and there are no delays in terms of suppliers, travels and delivery restrictions, and new additional rules. Our marketing team is working on new forms of presentation and channels we are using the most when working from home.”

Deborah Beaumont-Griffin, director, Deborah Beaumont Interiors: “Keeping everyone’s spirits up and trying to ensure there will be an exciting company to go back to business after this is all over.”

Nick Fong, co-founder & director, Nu Infinity: We believe that this is the best time to take a step back and review the well-being and operation of our firm; fix the imperfections, hone every individual’s skills and rethink what the future holds for businesses like ours. Like it or not, this crisis will change the way we work and the perception of working and meeting virtually. We have to be prepared as well the manner and attitude if and when we restart operation; be prepared to implement the necessary measures and keep on a positive vibe that you can make up for lost time and opportunities.

Deborah Beaumont Interiors

Deborah Beaumont Interiors / Wimbledon Family Home

What measures have been put place for employees, customers and clients in response?

Tobias Trigg, founder, Tobias Oliver Interiors: “We remain in touch on a day to day basis, keeping each other uplifted (as much as possible) – and using the time to pause and reflect on everything we have achieved since opening the showroom last July, to what exciting new challenges we can set for ourselves in the future.  Our clients have been very understanding of the situation and fortunately we are a few months away from any installations – which we are grateful for!”

Matěj Buďárek, junior business development UK, Sans Souci: “The work efficiency is generally measured by employees reporting and weekly-based online meetings. Our customers and clients are part of social impact which we have developed in two directions. First is to make our clients sure we are fully and normally operational, second is to provide enough information and materials so they are completely informed of our new technologies and products. By fulfilling these criteria and by the clients’ response, we measure the efficiency of our approach.”

Deborah Beaumont-Griffin, director, Deborah Beaumont Interiors: “We have kept all our suppliers and clients updated with short news emails and we are trying to keep some form of momentum going for our projects.  We have furloughed our staff from next month to ensure they are all as financially secure as they can be in this present time.”

Nick Fong, co-founder & director, Nu Infinity: These are the times when you realise if you have a done a good job building the structure of the company and whether the company’s culture can withhold and works even if everybody is working from home. It is important to touch base with each of the employees to ensure they do not lose focus and know what to expect to do for the duration of this crisis.

As for our clients, we make every effort to keep them informed that it is business as usual and we are prepared to give attention to their needs and keeping the design aspects of their projects running. Assurance and confidence are ever the more emphasised during this time.”

Maximilian Boutique Hotel

Sans Souci / Maximilian Boutique Hotel

Have you got any plans to change the way you do business and provide flexibility during this period to keep your business running?

Tobias Trigg, founder, Tobias Oliver Interiors: “We have just rolled out a new e-design service which provides an entirely new service to make interior design more accessible, especially whilst we hunker down at home and are looking for affordable design services to assist with re-designing peoples rooms. It also gives access to interior design services, not just in our local community, but anywhere!”

Matěj Buďárek, junior business development UK, Sans Souci: “Our actions started working from the very first day they were implemented. In the future, we would definitely continue to using these new methods and tools that people have gotten used to, and those that help us at work. As we say in Prague ‘all for the best’!”

Nick Fong, co-founder & director, Nu Infinity: “We have always provided our consultancy services to clients from abroad hence we are familiar with such practices. However, we prefer to provide top notch services by being physically present. We are also open to the idea of close collaborations with different related parties including Interior Designers from other parts of the countries, the region and the world to extend our company’s outreach.”

Tobias Oliver Interiors

Tobias Oliver Interiors / Luxury Lifestyle Showroom

Have you been inspired to help support communities around you?

Tobias Trigg, founder, Tobias Oliver Interiors: “We launched an affiliate program from our followers who are social media influencers or bloggers in our local community – to assist them with providing content and a way of income during this financially difficult period. Otherwise we keep in touch with local business owners and our community via social media – keeping morale up.

Before lockdown we also placed 50 Lindt chocolate rabbits on locals cars, post boxes and areas in our area we treasure in and around Berkhamsted: each tag had an electronic gift voucher and a scroll with a secret message. All to liven spirits. One of the lucky winners found one of our bunnies (#turnyourbunnyintomoney) at the Ashridge Monument in Ashridge National Park, Herts and won a £250 photo frame and £20 gift voucher!”

Deborah Beaumont-Griffin, director, Deborah Beaumont Interiors: Yes!! Sitting in feeling very useless in this time of need, so we have decided to shop for as many essentials as we can and drop them to our nearest two food banks.  I suppose every little gesture from us all, helps in these worrying times and when I see what so many amazing people are doing, it makes me feel very humble.”

Nick Fong, co-founder & director, Nu Infinity: We believe that what we willingly give out, we will gain back in abundance in various ways. We have previously worked with different parties and organisations to reuse discarded items and furniture. These go out to local nursing homes, orphanages and even just every day people who need furniture and appliances – this helps to extend the life and usability of these items and reduce wastage. We have now also pledged to accept a good number of interns throughout the year from all the different schools and institutions.”

SBID is dedicated to supporting the interior design profession and the interior designers in practice during this time.

For more related articles surrounding coronavirus and its impact on the industry, click here.

If you need help or advice, see our overview of the Business Support options available in the UK.