Continuing the conversation surrounding the ongoing disruption to life and business during the coronavirus pandemic, our final instalment sharing the real-life industry perspectives of SBID Accredited designers highlights how the interior design community is showing solidarity in this time of crisis; offering their advice for preserving mental wellbeing, supporting communities and coping through Covid-19 in the hope that our shared experiences will bring the industry closer together than ever before.
Image credits: Elicyon
Richard Angel, founder, Angel O’Donnell: “The social distancing measures are completely necessary for us all to try to return to some sort of normality as swiftly as possible. Clearly we are not visiting any client’s properties to ensure that everyone is kept safe well but we have managed to cope, continuing to meet with both clients and suppliers using Microsoft Teams, Zoom, FaceTime and other video calls. Where work was happening within homes, thankfully, clients fully understand that we’re not able to visit their homes and work on site has needed to be paused during this time.”
Charu Gandhi, founder & director, Elicyon: “We commenced working from home as a Studio on the 11th of March, and have not met each other as a 20 strong team face to face since. Our on site projects have paused baring a few where the contractor can continue to work within the confines of the government regulations. Several of our FF&E suppliers around the globe have had shifting impact of varying degrees, many of which they have found innovative ways of working around. We had several upcoming trips, as we are constantly on the move, sourcing material and objects for our projects and meeting clients around the globe, which have been paused.
Amidst all the impacts, the list of negatives is long, but one of the striking positives has been a burst of creativity from the Studio. Perhaps as a result of the slowing down, perhaps as a form of escapism, or an enthusiasm to push even harder to fulfil our clients aspirations, our creativity has been thriving and we are producing some of our most beautiful work. One of my abiding memories of this time will be the immersive creative process that has emerged out of this, and how it has focused us all afresh on our shared passion that drives Elicyon.”
Rachel McLane, director, Rachel McLane Ltd: “Hugely! We are a design team who focus mainly on commercial projects for the hospitality sector. Unfortunately 80% of our projects have been put on hold whilst companies deal with this unprecedented situation. We are a very close team that work well together in an open plan studio and are used to hearing each other’s calls and being involved in various aspects of each project. So the adjustment to working in isolation has been particularly difficult.
We have a large hotel project at the moment which is continuing but the social distancing means there are less trades on site, and the supply chain is getting increasingly difficult which means the project is going at a far slower pace. We are struggling to get hold of paint and materials now and any 2nd and 3rd fix items such as case goods, bespoke lighting, shower screens and so on are delayed due to manufacturing facilities and workshops being closed.
Before the social distancing was put into place, we were a team of nine, however due to 80% of our client base stopping all work for the foreseeable future, three of our employees have now been furloughed and 2 have reduced their days of work.”
Elisabetta De Strobel, founder, Terzomillennium: “It was a bolt from the blue! We were all convinced that the COVID-19 wouldn’t have affected us, if not just superficially. Instead, everything changed overnight: Tuesday, March 10 we were in the studio full of appointments booked for weeks and the very next day forced to work remotely from home. It was a shock. Just when the “human perspective” seemed to be an effective way to overcome the overwhelming power of social networks, we all found ourselves at home in front of a monitor! And without knowing when all of this will end.
Unaware of what was about to happen in Italy, I had already been experimenting this ‘new reality’ for a couple of months back at that time in my working relationship with an important Chinese company in the Wuhan area that I collaborate with.”
Image credits: Taran Wilkhu / Angel O’Donnell
Richard Angel, founder, Angel O’Donnell: “We talk!! Ed and I have a video call almost everyday, that could be to talk shop or it just have a chat and a laugh! I’ve also started to heavily get into my exercise, I’m lucky to have both a Peloton spin bike and rowing machine at home and have been using one if not both of these everyday, I’m on the road to feeling almost as fit as I was a few years ago when I participated in a charity white collar boxing match after 6 months of intensive training! I’ll return to the office a new man!
The other important aspect for mental wellbeing and motivation during this time is knowing when to stop. We all have good and bad days, and if I’m having a bad day, I leave my desk, go off for a walk, get on the Peloton bike, or whatever it may be to keep me sane but it’s so important to realise when to call it a day, then reset the next day. There’s no point sitting, trying to be creative and productive if you’re not feeling it! It’s completely counter-productive!
I have also had a life/professional coaching session with James Parris at Parris Performance Coaching which was incredibly helpful to take me through a process of problem solving and ensuring that I was on the right track! James is offering a complimentary 90 minute session at the moment and I’d highly recommend it to anyone reading!”
Charu Gandhi, founder & director, Elicyon: “Keeping to a routine that balances the Studio and family has been important. Schedules and routines keep you focued and give a framework to work and family life! Creating a workspace, exercising daily and trying not to let work drag into the evening… This is a perpetual challenge as a Studio head and when you love what you do, but even more so and when the boundaries between home and work are blurred. I have a clear end to my day, dinner with my son – which I normally miss – so it also casts a light on one of the positives. I let myself work in the evenings if it is imperative but try to limit it to no more than twice a week.
Keeping my home clutter free and organised and regular team video calls also help. Our clients have been wonderfully supportive and encouraging and ultimately, the motivation comes down to creativity and people – if the team and clients are safe and happy, and I can create a haven within my home to be creative – then I continue to find joy in our design endeavours.”
Rachel McLane, director, Rachel McLane Ltd: “We are all working from home now and have installed the Microsoft Teams App which allows the team to meet each morning and discuss any changes to our schedules and what we’re going to do that day. We also do our weekly team meetings and run through all current projects like we used to. We feel it gives us purpose to getting up in the morning and getting ready for work.
The team also stay in touch on our team WhatsApp group and there’s always photos of our office dog, Olive, and other 4-legged friends doing things throughout the day. Most mornings someone will post a positive message or photos from daily exercise walks to cheer each other up. There’s always tips from the team on how to stay focused too, like when you put the dishwasher on or some washing in the machine, aim to complete a project or task within the time it takes the wash to complete, just to give ourselves a little focus and challenge!
I have made it very clear to all my team that I don’t want or expect people to stay chained to their desks for 8 hours. We have to be fluid and flexible to keep mentally strong and to be able to adapt to the pressures that surround us all with our personal lives now intertwined. My team’s mental health is very important and I don’t want anyone to beat themselves up over ‘trying to keep busy!’”
Elisabetta De Strobel, founder, Terzomillennium: “Suddenly, you realise that working from home has many advantages: in my case, I’ve realised I can work with more peace of mind and get things done anyway. Compared to what has been my ordinary working routine for years, working from home is certainly much more sedentary: space is small and displacements reduced to a minimum. You don’t need to attend so many meetings, which alone save you a lot of time and end up with being sometimes more productive for your works… but on the other side you can’t even have an in person chat with a colleague or other professionals you know. So, since I’m lucky to have it at home, I forced myself to go to my gym twice a day! And then I have many WhatsApp/ Skype / Zoom groups now – useful also to cook and eat together remotely!”
Image credits: Maurizio Marcato / Terzomillennium
Richard Angel, founder, Angel O’Donnell: “It’s been cutting costs where we can, which sadly included not taking on a new team member who was due to start with us at the end of March. It’s also the acceptance that our business might not grow at the same trajectory as it was previously, but we count ourselves fortunate as we’re in a strong cash position and will see this through, where others will not be so fortunate.”
Charu Gandhi, founder & director, Elicyon: “The initial challenge was moving to a remote working set up; thankfully we have invested in technology over the years and are accustomed to presenting to our clients via video calls as they are often not located in London or travelling over the course of projects. However, to have the entire team remotely set up, our sample library decanted across various team member’s homes and conducting all our design brainstorms remotely, took some getting used to but with discipline and by applying the same rigour we do to our day to day Studio running, we have adjusted to this.
In the mid-term, the uncertainty around the return to normal working conditions and the reopening of our project sites is a challenge. The COVID situation has cast a spotlight on how internationally connected our Studio is, with clients and projects and suppliers around the globe. We source items from artisan makers and larger brands around the world, the impact of this on each one of them is something we are tracking closely and working dynamically around.
More long term, the ability for us and our clients to travel will become relevant and limitations on international travel will have an impact. We are looking strategically at both the mid to long term challenges, while focusing on the immediate situation – if we cross each hurdle as it comes, I am confident that we can overcome these challenges.”
Rachel McLane, director, Rachel McLane Ltd: “We know this epidemic will end at some point and that the hospitality sector will be back up and running hopefully as quickly as it stopped. However, the priorities for our clients will be recouping the money they lost during this time as opposed to reinvesting into future projects. Therefore, our original projects and agreed time scales will potentially be put on hold for at least 18 months. In which time their priorities and business plans may have changed. In which case it will be back to the drawing board.
The uncertainty for my team has been a big challenge. We’ve never worked from home before and we all like being at the office together and working as a tight team, so it feels strange for us all to be apart.”
Elisabetta De Strobel, founder, Terzomillennium: “The big challenge is the market. Nothing will be the same as before – it was like pulling the parking brake on a train at full speed! Maintaining contact with customers is extremely difficult. Everyone is afraid and will proceed really carefully or put projects on hold. The result? Even new customers are more sceptical. What we need to try to figured out then, for our business and for our customers, is how to be able to realign resources to focus on the future and not on the past, aiming for agility and not austerity and closure. To do this we have to re-educate ourselves, to open our mind to the necessity of a continuous updating that can teach us speed in decisions and give us insights to realign the business even in an uncertain period.”
Image credits: Twine & Barrel, York / Rachel McLane
Richard Angel, founder, Angel O’Donnell: “We’re continuing as normal but following the government advice, so Ed and I are working from home, we use Microsoft Teams and Zoom for meetings and can continue with our drawing and design work. We’re still able to present to clients remotely and indeed that is what we’ve been doing, sharing screens and where necessary, samples can be couriered. All our mood boards etc have been digital for some time so there really is not a huge change other than lacking the human touch. ”
Charu Gandhi, founder & director, Elicyon: “We have spent time reviewing each project, clients requirements and employee requirements in detail. We had a week to prepare before the government announced lockdown, as we perceived it was coming we used the days in the lead up to test run and prepare for it.
This meant that we had a plan ready for each project, depending on its status, any impact and could swiftly reach out to clients individually to give them a comprehensive update on their project and any impact. Luckily, we have had limited impact as most of our projects are in the design or drawing stages. The projects we do have on site have been impacted with varying degrees.”
Rachel McLane, director, Rachel McLane Ltd: “This is the perfect time for us to design. It sounds ridiculous but there never seems to be time to design as clients tend to come to us at around the time that they want something built or installed, forgetting there is an actual design process to go through.
We have been in touch with our clients to explain this and some have completely agreed and have allowed us to continue with their projects. This means when we come out of lockdown we are one step ahead and their projects can start up immediately.”
Elisabetta De Strobel, founder, Terzomillennium: “Specifically in my studio we are working on two tools:
1) WELCOME FUTURE: An academy in collaboration with the IXL Center in Boston, which organises innovation courses in management, marketing, design and personal balance. In our first edition last year we designed classroom courses, for this edition things had to change a little and on April 16th, the first Webinar started! The course will allow participants to obtain a certification, issued by the GIMI Institute, as well as the enrolment in the International Association of Innovation Professionals.
2) MAGIS3: A tool that allows the online presentation of important projects. We have designed both the software and hardware part of it. We strongly believe in this tool since, even more after this period, online communication platforms will be increasingly popular. Therefore, having a tool that can facilitate contacts with the world and also that can allow for a professional and reliable presentation of your products and projects’ strengths will be fundamental. In my opinion, flexibility and agility will be increasingly important skills for every business.”
Richard Angel, founder, Angel O’Donnell: “Even before this period, we were a small and nimble operation with flexibility in the way that we work. When Ed and I set up Angel O’Donnell, the systems and procedures we put in place were focused around ensuring we were paperless and that we could work from anywhere. We’ve been using Microsoft Teams for over a year now so this is not a new thing for us, we just don’t have the luxury of being able to visit all our fantastic suppliers face to face to see what new products they’ve got to show us!”
Charu Gandhi, founder & director, Elicyon: “We all have to deal with this situation through social distancing. While none of us want to be limited in our movement, we should immediately do so and be grateful that of all places we are asked to stay, nothing is better than being home with those we love.
We will learn through this how to truly work from home and be effective. This could have a huge positive impact on how we live our lives and work together going forward. The office workplace will look very different after this I believe and the investments we are continuing to make in the Studio in terms of technology and ways of collaborating remotely, are allowing us to be agile and flexible both now and in the future.”
Rachel McLane, director, Rachel McLane Ltd: “We’re currently working on how we can increase our presence on social media to showcase our skills and processes, and to show what we get up to day-to-day when working with our clients. We would also like to run some social media features on our commercial clients and their hotels and restaurants as I’m sure people will want to visit some new places once social distancing is a thing of the past.
We are also considering showing some of the products we source or have had bespoke made for our commercial projects which could possibly be purchased through us. It would be a small range of eclectic items that would bring something of our story into your home. This is definitely working progress and something that needs more thought.”
Richard Angel, founder, Angel O’Donnell: “Absolutely! We really wanted to be able to try to offer support, however we could. We reached out to our social media following to see how we could assist them with home design problems to provide free advice for which we would usually charge significant fees for. We realised that so many people could feel stuck in a rut but could also use this time to redecorate and/or re-purpose areas of their homes to allow them to work from home, the response we received was incredible! Off the back of this, we’ve set up Angel O’Donnell’s ‘Wednesday Wisdom’ where each week, Ed and I are providing design tips via Instagram and following up with inspiration boards on our Pinterest page. On top of this, I’ve been delivering meat for my local butcher each Friday to help them out together with doing the shopping for my elderly neighbours, it’s great to support where we can as we’ve got to rally together at this time!
Ed and I will also shortly be launching a live interview with us, talking about the design business, how we can remain creative during this period, helpful thoughts and soundbites around business generally, so watch this space!”
Charu Gandhi, founder & director, Elicyon: “Yes, I have signed up to support via the ‘youth volunteer network’ which is a fantastic initiative. I have also donated to a few causes that support the poor in India. For them, being able to lockdown at home is a luxury they cannot contemplate, and access to food and clean water is a challenge. It makes me grateful that I can actually stay at home safely, and I feel we should all contribute as best we can to causes that resonate with us.
There are some fantastic examples within our design community of causes brands are undertaking and we are supporting as many as we can; LuxDeco have launched a campaign to support independent brands and artisans, Cameron Design House have turned over production in their London workshop from sculptural lighting to the manufacture of face shields for the NHS and care workers, Women in Luxury Interiors has created a regular forum for its members to share knowledge and support each other through this crisis.
I feel passionately that we have to keep design, and our commitment to the beautiful and special alive in these times, and support each other as a community.”
Rachel McLane, director, Rachel McLane Ltd: “Coronavirus has left a lot of people feeling uncertain and worried, but if you’re a business owner, especially with a team relying on you, it can be incredibly difficult. We don’t have the answers. You are trying to protect your business and also the livelihoods of your team. I have tried to protect all my staff as best I can even in these uncertain times. By me being flexible and accommodating they can then support their own families and community without having to worry too much about the business.”
Elisabetta De Strobel, founder, Terzomillennium: “In this difficult time we received help and support from our Chinese client who, with extreme kindness, sent us some masks which in turn we distributed to those we know. It’s like living in a movie, a sort of distorted reality kind of movie. We can’t wait to get out of this bubble but then we will find us catapulted into a totally new world, where we’ll have to start over again. In the hope of moving toward a new reality build on trust, on the circular economy, on collaboration, all human-centred.”
Angel O’Donnell | Elicyon | Rachel McLane | Terzomillennium
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As we are all navigating this period of unprecedented uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus outbreak, SBID Accredited professionals continue to come together to share their industry perspectives from across the interior design profession; from the biggest challenges they face, to how they’re staying motivated in lockdown.
RS Interiors / C.Bankei
Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “We have delivered concept presentations via PowerPoint on a Zoom call and that has worked really well. The detailed design stage has been more of a challenge since of course so much of it involves touching and feeling sample materials but we have boxed up design boards and sent them ahead of a video call. As a small husband and wife run business, we have always provided a personal service so clients have us involved from first meet and greet meeting to the final dressing. Despite clients being really happy with the schemes being delivered to them via courier, they have said they missed that face to face element and to quote “having Jacqui bring it to life”.”
Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: “I think there’s an awful lot of good/bad fortune associated with the timing of the pandemic. I’m aware of others working within the industry who have been relatively untouched (in terms of workflow) in the short term, whilst others (including myself) with a significant weight of current work within healthcare and hospitality who are really struggling.
On one current healthcare project which is heavily NHS funded, the separation measures have put a stop to planned meetings and workshops – but all work in general has been stopped for the time being. Finance teams are using this period to take stock a little and re-assess project programmes etc. This is all fine and understandable but for me, working under an agreed purchase order for services scheduled over 6 weeks, it means no income against that project. Unavoidable but just the harsh reality of the situation.”
Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “The reality of social distancing affects greatly our line of work. Our everyday life is being surrounded by sub-contractors, employees, meetings for brainstorming, client-studio meetings and overseeing on-site construction. Therefore, even if it doesn’t affect the design process that much, it does affect the steps that happen before and after. ”
HomeSmiths / Henley Manor
Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “We have always worked from home but yes, this is different. We usually have 2 staff members in the office with us so that in itself is a big change. On the up side we have loved having our house back. To stay motivated we keep to our usual work start time and I prepare myself as if I were video conferencing first thing with a client. We’re not suited and booted, but we still make an effort. David is the same, neither of us would feel right working in our scruffs. We have a coffee break (something we never used to do) and currently enjoy that in the garden. We finish work at about 5.30 (unheard of) and then go for a long walk and enjoy a small glass of wine with dinner. We don’t watch the news before we go to bed.”
Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: “I’m fortunate in that I own my office and it’s just a minutes walk from my home. I’ve tried to avoid going in too regularly, but the drop off in work has left a bit of a hole anyway so I can email and keep general correspondence ticking over without leaving the house. I’d already begun cancelling meetings and visits a couple of weeks before the lockdown so it’s been quiet office wise for a little while.”
Aicha Maset, founder, Marc Maset: “As my offices are so close to my flat, I still go to my office every day and work there. I cannot bring all my work home – particularly files, software and computers to draw and also the information to be collected to study a project. I feel more inspired at the office, albeit alone, and get back home in the evening as usual. But I do practice pilates by video with our coach from the fitness club on Instagram and also meditation – it is a great help to be safe in mind!”
Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “The way I stay motivated throughout this pandemic varies. I try to find a bit of time in between home responsibilities and homework with the kids, to turn on some inspiring music and get to work! I can imagine how hard it’s been for everyone but honestly, I can really hear the birds chirping and singing and it’s lovely.”
Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “Almost all of our clients are in the care home and retirement living sector. Planned refurbs will be delayed due to the immediate issues with COVID-19 but beyond that I am concerned that these projects will be pushed into 2021 as budgets will no longer be available.”
Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: “There are two main things that concern me; finance and longevity. Being able to bring any money ‘home’ will be difficult for a while. Project fees worth £20k + VAT that were due before June have all been frozen/delayed without any indication as to when/if they’ll pick up again. In terms of longevity, although I’m confident that this or other work will be attainable, I have a number of fee proposals in place/ready to go, the societal shift we’re seeing does have me questioning what my own, long-term aspirations are. I tend to be very hands-on with my work and client base, but it can be all encompassing.”
Aicha Maset, founder, Marc Maset: “The biggest challenge for me is to keep my clients informed and following up new prospects offering work by mail or video conference so I begin to give some details about their project – even if I have not visited the place physically – so that we stay focused on their projects to be resumed after the confinement. I offered clients to send over the raw plans of their home, so I can still begin to give an idea of the works to be done, suggest proposals and discuss ideas.
I keep my websites www.marc-maset.com, Houzz.fr, Instagram and Facebook account fully illustrated with inspirational notices about interior design, project images and encouraging words to help keep content positive and informative. I am also working on a website to sell some decorative items such as textiles, lamps, small furniture, rugs and wall papers – this keeps me completely busy with no thinking/worrying about COVID-19.”
Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “The biggest challenge we are currently facing with our business is that for the projects we have already begun, the furniture selection have now been put on hold since many factories all over the world have stopped production. This will of course cause a overlap in production once it begins again, resulting in an unfortunate delay of the overall project.”
Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “We have one of our team on furlough leave and will probably have to furlough our other employee. In such a fluid situation, it’s hard to know when that might be. All it would take is for a new brief to come in and we would need that staff resource back. Clients understand as they themselves have been the ones right at the outset asking for meetings to be remote or postponed.”
Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: “I’m fortunate in that I work collaboratively with other studios/practices so I don’t have to worry too greatly about business dependants. I’ve actually been spending some time helping out other businesses over the last couple of weeks where I reasonably can. As far as measures go; I’m here and available to help support no differently than before the crisis hit. I’ve checked in on clients and colleagues where possible in case I can be of any help.”
Aicha Maset, founder, Marc Maset: “As I have some workers who are not my employees, I try to find work for them where possible. I connected one with an old client to do all the levels of a 3 storey building so he could remain to be employed during this time as the building will be empty, so he can work alone with no risk for his health! I also made sure any goods needed were ordered online and delivered directly on site.
For clients, I am going to write a weekly newsletter to keep my them informed about our upcoming activities, as well as keep them interested in interior design and give them ideas for their homes. Even though my show room is closed right now, I am still able to deliver out material samples when needed to help keep progress moving forward and retain those clients.”
Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “We have placed a few measures in place in order to keep working on anything we can. For example, we are still actively working in project brainstorming, ideas and design.”
Marc Maset Interior Architecture
Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “Yes we have. I am embracing this time and using it to plan how we work differently. Having the house back as a home (we have been working from home with employees in the house for over 10 years now) has been great. I think this will change how we work in the future.”
Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: “Everything is very fluid right now, but I don’t see any way that the ongoing situation doesn’t encourage fundamental changes to how I/we operate in both the short and long term. It’s hard to know in what way exactly but I think open mindedness is going to be very important.”
Aicha Maset, founder, Marc Maset: “I had to think more about utilising our communication and being more opened-minded when it comes to finding new clients. Communication is very important and as we have internet and social networks, it is time to work hard on them. I am also sending a link to all my clients to get their reviews about past works we’ve carried out on their home to help keep us front of mind, as well as use their testimonials to reach new ones with confidence and reassurance.
I have also been trying to find new ways keep studying and improving my knowledge and skills when it comes to drawings and other matters dealing with my work.”
Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “Right now, we try and hold virtual conferences with our clients and partners in order to make all the ideas we have in mind come together into designing the plans and details for the projects. Other than that, we have had to be flexible with our fellow design team, who also have a lot of household responsibilities to tend to at the same time, seeing that families are in lock down together.”
Jacqui Smith, director, HomeSmiths: “I am already Chair of the Haywards Heath Dementia Friendly Community and this work is more important than ever right now as we try to support people in our community living with dementia and those caring for them. My road has also started a WhatsApp group and I have got to know more about my neighbours in 2 weeks than I had in 10 years. That’s been lovely.”
Tommy Cairns, director, Three Percent: “Rather than be inspired, I’ve found the current situation has reinforced both mine and my families resolve to help local business and organisations that need a bit of support. My fear is that it may not be enough for some, but there is always someone that needs a bit of assistance somewhere – I’ll end up getting too political if I keep going!”
Aicha Maset, founder, Marc Maset: “I am mainly inspired to help all the workers who work with me and have a small firm to run with families to be feed. I try to find them some work where I can during this complicated period. I think as interior architect, it’s important to keep providing them with work and income as they work hard on the flats and houses, and they deserve respect and help. I feel responsible for them.
I think we all need to keep busy and focused on the industry of interior design, the beauty of our work and the benefits they create for clients. We should continue support those who work for us and help those people who are less fortunate than ourselves along the way.”
Rosadela Serulle, CEO and founder, RS Interiors: “I personally think the best way for us to help our community right now is to stay in place, stay home and try to spread a positive messaging through social media. Unfortunately, most people use the internet to spread negativity. There is also definitely a lot to learn about the most important design of all – EARTH, so we must instruct ourselves once we can to go out and enjoy nature, and learn more about how to embrace it, value it and protect it.”
HomeSmiths | Three Percent | Marc Maset Interior Architecture | RS Interiors
With lockdown measures extended and social distancing continuing to impact industries world-wide, we’re sharing more industry perspectives from across the interior design profession. SBID Accredited designers and manufacturers provide their personal insights into how they are dealing with daily life and work in lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic.
Deirdre Dyson / LOOKING GLASS
Rebecca Leivars, managing director, Leivars Interiors Studio: “Due to the nature of our work and being at multiple locations throughout the UK, I adopted the remote team working model 3 years ago and have never looked back. My team and I come together a couple of times a month and meet on site (ordinarly) and we spend a lot of time on the phone, FaceTiming and of course Zoom meetings, with so many shared files through Cloud / Dropbox we haven’t seen a difference in output if anything we are all a lot more focused. Recent COVID events naturally have meant we can’t meet up but have applied the same working practice we adopted 3 years ago with our clients, suppliers and contractors. So far it’s working. From a personal point of view however, current events have made me realise how tactile I am and that I hug everyone, so a lot of trades will get a lot of hugs when we do get the travel ban and social distance restriction lifted!”
Sonia McEwen, marketing & social media manager, Deirdre Dyson: “In the past we have felt it essential that clients can see, touch and feel the quality of a Deirdre Dyson rug in person and our Kings Road gallery showcases our designs perfectly. We love meeting prospective clients and showing them around. However, in recent years Deirdre’s designs have had increasing global reach and outside of these extraordinary times, we have regularly been dealing with clients worldwide (particularly in the United States, Europe and Asia) remotely. Clients will initially talk through their requirements, then send photographs and floorplans to agree on designs and size, swatches or RAL colour codes which Deirdre and her Design Technician, Nichola will use to select colours. We then expedite the delivery of quality samples, colour tufts, digitally transfer artwork revisions and finally send a printed render of the finished design for sign off before production. We are lucky in that this remote process works so successfully and have several very happy clients, both retail and trade, who have been delighted with their finished carpets without ever having ‘met’ Deirdre or her team in person. So though we’re not physically ‘in’ the gallery we can still liaise with our clients and deliver everything they need to create their perfect version of Deirdre’s designs.
We are hugely lucky that stylist, Louisa Grey and photographer, Jake Curtis created such eye catching lifestyle images of this years LOOKING GLASS collection and continuing to advertise in key publications is key to ensure the brand is ‘out there’ while we are all ‘in here’ so to speak! Also our social media feeds have never been more important, maintaining quality content and visibility is a challenge but we hope to keep standards high and showcase Deirdre’s rugs as much as possible without overwhelming or boring our audience.”
Hannah Soulsby, director, Anima & Amare Interior Design: “Interestingly it hasn’t effected us as much as I thought so far, all our work can be done remotely as long as we have a computer with the software we can carry on with floor plans, schemes and 3D designs. Suppliers are still in operation albeit remotely so we can still get samples sent through. I can still communicate with staff and clients via video call and email but unfortunately site visits and site measures can not be done; neither can design face to face meetings. Usually we like to do face to face so we can go through in detail and show samples so for this we are having to adapt or put on hold with the hope it will be back to normal in a few weeks.”
Medhat Etman, owner, Integration: “I divide my business into 3 different lines; (1) ongoing business concerning design (2) supervision for projects which are under construction and (3) potential jobs. For ongoing projects regarding the design or working drawings phase, we have managed to work online with our associates from home. For supervision, I conducted my weekly meetings with mask & gloves on until a complete lock down by the state was enforced. For potential jobs, these are totally on hold – and no one can forecast until when!”
Leivars Interiors / Hampstead Home
Rebecca Leivars, managing director, Leivars Interiors Studio: “This is advice I give to anyone with anything in life, you need structure and a degree of boundaries. We’ve recently written about this in our March 2020 Journal. Each day you must wake with purpose and a to do list, no matter whether work related, chores at home, things you wish to do for yourself, have a plan, get up, get focused, work out whether that be physically, mentally, do something that is good for yourself. Enjoy the surroundings and take time to be still and absorb the nature around you. With so many methods of communicating with loved ones, seeing their faces through use of technology makes the world feel smaller which is what we need right now.”
Sonia McEwen, marketing & social media manager, Deirdre Dyson: “Maintaining a schedule is key. There are essential functions each of our small team need to do on a day to day basis but by far the most important is design work. Deirdre produces a collection annually unveiling it in Paris in January every year. We are very lucky that this period of lockdown coincides exactly with the time of year when Deirdre would hand draw her designs and work on digitising them and colour selection with our Designer, Nichola. Nichola is set up to work from home and both she and Deirdre have the technical capacity to work as closely as they always do. Deirdre and Nichola are in regular contact creating the rug designs that will be next year’s collection. We are so lucky in this respect that the natural trajectory of the year has been maintained.”
Hannah Soulsby, director, Anima & Amare Interior Design: “Well my office is at the end of the garden so I’m fairly adapted to this already, however the addition of a 15-month year old boy no longer in nursery has been an interesting add to the mix. I have had to adapt my working hours around nap time (never thought that would be a statement I would ever write), however I have noticed a much happier household all round with a healthy balance of work and play whether that’s with my son or exercise in the garden. I’m no longer running around from meeting to meeting, so need to get the exercise in somewhere! I would say being at home in general with the family for me has been enough for positive mental wellbeing. I have also found I’m able to get more work done with not flying in and out of the office and having meetings via video instead.
This whole situation has definitely made me re-think my structure of work. With everyone now forced online I feel the whole attitude of being everywhere will change and having to meet face to face will no longer be as important in building relationships.”
Medhat Etman, owner, Integration: “Working from home isn’t new for me; having said that, I always like to be in my own bubble especially if it’s a design phase. I love to work within my own space locked with my music in the background. Luckily, I could still implement this at my home and isolate myself from my family. However, it won’t ever replace my space at the office where I have enjoyed working for 27 years now.”
Deirdre Dyson Carpets Ltd. / PINNACLE
Rebecca Leivars, managing director, Leivars Interiors Studio: “Our biggest challenge will be getting work completed on site in order to progress to the next phase of the work programme. Without being able to achieve that through physical trades on site, supply chains being able to deliver, cash flow could be affected in the coming months so for us for now we are thankful it is business as usual. It is a priority to us though as a business that all of our work family and clients remain safe and that we all regardless follow the government working guidelines, the rest we will figure out if we need to. Our clients have been tremendously supportive, afterall, we are all in this together.”
Sonia McEwen, marketing & social media manager, Deirdre Dyson: “Like any small company specialising in the bespoke and without an online sales arm, it will be investing this time in maintaining brand awareness, reminding people that now is the perfect time to enjoy the bespoke process albeit virtually, invest in an heirloom piece of design and enjoy it when this surreal and worrying time ends. We hope once life returns to ‘normal’ people will spend and invest in quality products that will not only support British businesses but also, for us, the communities in Nepal where our hugely valued weavers live who will be suffering so much more than we are at the moment.”
Hannah Soulsby, director, Anima & Amare Interior Design: “Well I don’t know for certain yet but I have a feeling the commercial side will have a big hit due to all hospitality and most commercial premises being closed and most likely loosing money because of this. I’m sure redesigning is going to be the last thing on their mind at the moment.
We were also at a point of re-branding and scaling up the business just before this lockdown hit, I wasn’t sure whether to hit pause on the project, however I have decided to carry on. I figured there is never the right time to start anything and although some business’ will not bounce back from this, new ones will be created so there are always clients – you just have to look in different places.”
Leivars Interiors / Golders Green
Rebecca Leivars, managing director, Leivars Interiors Studio: “Measures are purely based on daily communication and adapting to the rules and advice as we get it. We tried to preempt as much as we could by procuring goods / materials that will keep sites going. I individually contacted all clients and we talked through how they wished to progress and if they were comfortable with work continuing and with alternative communication methods. Those communication chains remain open daily and we are all keeping each other positive.”
Sonia McEwen, marketing & social media manager, Deirdre Dyson: “We started working remotely prior to the official government lockdown so our immediate team was isolated quite early on and confidently able to continue working. We are in close contact with our clients and have a long standing, close relationship with our manufacturer, keeping all informed and updated as necessary.”
Hannah Soulsby, director, Anima & Amare Interior Design: “We are following government guidelines, and will continue to adapt if we need to but for now all site visits, measures and meetings have bee either moved on line or put on hold. If its a small enough project and measurements of the site can be emailed over this is a positive and means we can continue with the design.”
Medhat Etman, owner, Integration: “So far nothing has affected the employees financially as they have got their salaries in full, when the crisis will be over, and when tourism will be back to Egypt as my work is dependent on tourism to a great extent. Currently, we are working on a major project in Sharem Al Sheik by the Red Sea and projects at Upper Egypt with Floating Hotels.. For the moment, our clients can be provided with the required work.”
Integration / Airport Hotel
Rebecca Leivars, managing director, Leivars Interiors Studio: “Nothing that we haven’t previously mentioned. New enquiries coming through we are having virtual tours of spaces through FaceTime which is helpful and being sent dimensions / images from potential clients so we can at least start initial conversations and quoting for projects. Again, it’s having an open mind in all aspects. There is always a way.”
Sonia McEwen, marketing & social media manager, Deirdre Dyson: “We will continue to maintain the highest levels of customer service and advice to all our clients whether at the enquiry or fulfilment stage. Keeping brand awareness high and reminding clients that whilst face to face contact may be the ideal scenario remote designing is absolutely possible and we have done so very successfully many times before.
Additionally we have decided to have a stock sale. We don’t usually sell our display carpets as our business is bespoke however for 8 weeks from 1st May we will offer stock rug designs (excluding Deirdre’s 2020 collection) for immediate purchase at a 25% trade discount (15% retail) so that clients can enjoy their perfect rug design now rather than wait out standard manufacture time of 14-16 weeks.“
Hannah Soulsby, director, Anima & Amare Interior Design: “I was hoping I wouldn’t need to make any drastic changes to how we work but I am having to think about the long term measures if need be. We used to promote digital design when the business first started but it wasn’t as successful and clients much preferred a face to face design process and so did I, however we are looking at introducing this back in for the time being as long as suits. We’re hoping people are so sick of looking at that their current home design that they will be desperate for a good re-design once quarantine is over, so now would be a great time to start those discussions!”
Medhat Etman, owner, Integration: “When the crisis is over, we will consider working from home on a more frequent basis in terms of our business structure. But for sure the times to come will be more about survival than making profits!”
Leivars Interiors / Esher Family Home
Rebecca Leivars, managing director, Leivars Interiors Studio: “Yes, myself amongst friends have produced care packages and have sent to the local hospitals, I have been walking dogs for two eldery neighbours who are considered high risk and generally, like most offering to get items on supermarket trips. Close friends have given up their properties that they would ordinarily Airbnb for use by local nurses and doctors so they can be closer to the hospital so we have been using our social media platforms to promote this. There is such a wonderful sense of unity throughout this awful time, we are seeing beautiful acts of kindness on every corner, something I hope will carry through once this is over and we get through the other side, and we will get through the other side.”
Sonia McEwen, marketing & social media manager, Deirdre Dyson: “We are proud partners of the charity GoodWeave and a portion of every hand knotted rug sale goes to their invaluable work on the ground where our carpets are produced in Nepal. GoodWeave has recently set up a specific Covid-19 Crisis Fund which you can donate to here.
Personally, local food banks have suffered hugely due to panic buying so on a community level regular financial and physical donations, plus making sure our elderly neighbours have all they need has been a focus.”
Hannah Soulsby, director, Anima & Amare Interior Design: “Well actually today we have made the decision to donate as much food as we possibly can to the local food banks in Southampton who are in dire need for support, so we are working on a campaign for donations now. I am feeling very hopeless not being able to do much to support people so this is the least I can do.”
Medhat Etman, owner, Integration: “Charity in Egypt is a big concern; with or without the virus. However, honestly my focus throughout this time has been more focused on my bigger family (my staff). How to secure their income? Will the crisis allow me to sustain the business and their salaries? But there is light at the end of the tunnel. We operate within the Gulf area and during this difficult time have been approached by some colleagues to cooperate on a major project – I just pray it will come true!”
Leivars Interiors | Deirdre Dyson | Anima & Amare Interior Design | Integration
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.
Sans Souci / Maximilian Boutique Hotel
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 / Luxury Lifestyle Showroom
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 / Villa 14
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 / Wimbledon Family Home
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.”
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 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.”
Tobias Oliver Interiors | Sans Souci | Deborah Beaumont Interiors | Nu Infinity
Continuing to uncover design industry perspectives, we’re sharing more views and experiences from SBID Accredited designers and manufacturers on how the impact of coronavirus and the lockdown measures put in place to protect us have effected them and their business.
Graham & Brown / Glasshouse
Tom Marquardt, founder, Marquardt+: “First, we at marquardt+ encourage the use the term physical distancing as it gets to the point of the intent and meaning of social distancing, without insinuating we are to also socially disconnect, which is an important part of my response to these questions. On a professional level, of course no one is physically working in the studio or on any job sites as part of our self-isolation in Chicago (as in the majority of states in the US). We have both Zoom and Go-To-Meeting conferencing systems in place, as many of our team do not live in Chicago, but in other parts of the US and thus we were predisposed to having the systems and processes in place to work remote prior to the pandemic, fortunately. This is not the case for many medium to smaller practices. We also have reps from companies like Laminart and Knoll, who are doing digital product updates and presentations that we are scheduling in leu of them being able to come to the studio in person for such updates.”
Alan Kemp, head of brand marketing, Graham & Brown: “We began by reducing the numbers in the office by working alternate patterns, then eventually to working from home for everyone able to. The design studio go into check proofs but minimising the amount of people on site and keeping safe distances apart. Ultimately the production facility had to shut down. This has meant putting much of the factory workforce on furlough but the Business has generously agreed to pay the additional 20% to ensure our colleagues are on full pay at the current time. Our distribution centre is still open dealing with the spike in web orders, but with a reduced number of people to ensure safe working distances – while our customer service teams continue to work many from home thanks to our recently upgraded phone systems. These are unprecedented times and I’m really proud to work for this company and how everyone has pulled together – with daily bulletins from the board on what is happening in relation to our business has been wonderfully communicated.”
Elliot Barratt, managing director, Elliot James Interiors: “Being based in Singapore, we have been living with these conditions a little longer than Europe so are getting used to remote working. Fortunately we are not on the same level of lock down as the UK but we are taking temperature checks twice a day, my whole team are working from home, however it is working well. Our business runs on Google Suite so our server, documents are all accessible, most of our software is either on our laptops or web browser based so operationally it hasn’t hindered us too much… but arguably the most important piece of software has been Google Meet. It has allowed us to meet with each other each morning, discuss projects throughout the day and have joint meeting with our clients locally based or overseas.”
Joe Walmsley, managing director, Daedalian Glass Studios: “Social distancing had forced Daedalian Glass Studios to close our site completely. We were starting to have difficulties in our supply chain and our studio Founder, Davia Walmsley and our Technical Director (her husband), Chris Walmsley live next to our glass studios and are both in the ‘at risk’ category so it was an easy decision make to protect their safety. Now that a safe time period has passed, Davia has the run of the studio so we await to see what exciting new glass designs she has to unveil once this is all over!”
Elliot James Interiors / ARDMORE
Tom Marquardt, founder, Marquardt+: “Fortunately, the City of Chicago allows for short times out to exercise, so my partner and I take 3-5 mile power walks every morning, maintaining the appropriate physical distancing, and we now wear masks and gloves, more so to get used to not touching our faces! We also try to maintain a consistent weekday schedule and weekend activities, even if it’s planning at home. We also try to regulate our eating as much as possible, as it’s easy to fall into stress eating. We also limit the time we spend watching any news programs and updates, unless there is a specific announcement from the City of Chicago or State of Illinois. Here is an exceptional article the A&D account manager for Sunbrella Fabrics posted that really sums up our approach and thinking, and was extremely helpful to the team and our friends: Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure.”
Alan Kemp, head of brand marketing, Graham & Brown: “We have increased the amount of video conferencing. We recognised early on how important it was to have face to face contact with colleagues and friends. I have a morning “huddle” with the team at 9:30 which gives me time to do PE with my two children and Joe Wicks! Home schooling has been far more challenging than working from home. I then catch up with the team at the end of the day. Over the last week I have had to furlough some of the team in the best interests of the business. Again the company is paying the 20% top up to these employees.”
Elliot Barratt, managing director, Elliot James Interiors: “This has been a concern of mine and who we stay motivated. My solution has been retain a level of routine, get dressed for work (within reason, I’ve forgone the three-piece suit), and dedicate a room to be the office. I’ve tried to position it in the furthest room in the house from the living room or bedroom, it allows me to move to that part of the home for work, and close it off at the end of the working day and close myself off from it. To keep my team motivated, we are having regular catch-ups throughout the day, we work across email, messenger and video calls so we can ensure we’re still all in touch whenever we need to be.”
Joe Walmsley, managing director, Daedalian Glass Studios: “The change of routine is the first hurdle to overcome. I know the situation varies across our team as some live in shared accommodation, some with family, some alone – and each has its own associated challenges. We have tried to set up a new routine with conference calls for our regular meetings, etc. and to work toward making that the new ‘normal’ (at least for the time being). Flexibility is also important, and having a chat during these conference calls to keep the human connections we have formed alive.”
Graham & Brown
Tom Marquardt, founder, Marquardt+: “I have always operated marquardt+ as a “cash” business, and to date never borrowed money. Thus at this juncture we are still financially secure, but also because we had reduced our overhead and operations significantly in our evolution as a practice in 2018. Still, it’s scary – and also the fact that I cannot provide more work at this time, to my employees and consultants, but time will tell. Looking at essential services and making sure we are not being wasteful is critical now, as it should be at any time running a business!”
Alan Kemp, head of brand marketing, Graham & Brown: “We know things are uncertain. The manufacturing part of our business has closed mostly because our core business suppliers retailers who have had to shut themselves. This has driven more online traffic, but 10% of wallpaper was sold online prior to the outbreak, so we are not going to be able to cover off all of the missing 90% of income, inspite of the demand for home deocr increasing. The biggest challenge is how long will it last and no one knows. Fortunately everyone is in the same boat – its going to be like an IT approach to the economy – turning it off and back on again. All I worry about are the people in the nhs dealing with the frontline – its going to be like we’re at war.”
Elliot Barratt, managing director, Elliot James Interiors: “I think in all honesty… it will be survival. We don’t know how long these conditions will actually last, I suspect the landscape will look very different when we do resume “normality”. Fortunately we have always run scenarios and build financial models so we can be as ready as possible to weather a storm. I think as designers, it will be our job to create the new environments, new ways of living, working, socialising.”
Tom Marquardt, founder, Marquardt+: “Construction of infrastructure can be considered an essential service, yet there many construction sites still in operation. I am not sure how I feel about that because any risk could mean lives, yet some of our clients are in a bind with where they are in their work and needs to move in whether this continues or not. We did have to explain to one commercial client that we would not be making site visits during the self-isolation period as I could not ask my employees and consultants to take any risks – first and foremost for their well-being, yet also due to any liability it could bring to our workman’s comp insurance. That said, it is not difficult to have the general contractor who is on site, to connect through an iPad or mobile to do a virtual walk through and site checks – which we also have done so in the past with clients in other cities in the US. We are also communicating internally with live conferencing, and sometimes keep our employees desktops live on our system, so we can work along with them in real time as if they were sitting next to us!”
Alan Kemp, head of brand marketing, Graham & Brown: “Delivery and customer service is being maintained in order to keep the business working for as we are allowed. We are supporting our retailers with this service also. For the employees, the company has communicated daily on an ever changing landscape and are topping up the furlough payments currently in order that people are effectively on full pay. This encourages our team to play its part in the fight against the virus by staying home.”
Elliot Barratt, managing director, Elliot James Interiors: “We have been working with clients who live all over the world so from a communication point of view, we’ve been able to speak, having meetings via video conferencing. We are sending more indepth site updates via video and photos. We are sharing screens more to discuss features we have designed. For our employees, as previously mentioned, we have built financial models to ensure we can sustain this for a while. Our team are set up with their laptops and diverted phones so they are able to work from home.
We are also extremely honest with our team so they know where we are and how we’re doing. It’s important that everyone feels a sense of responsibility for the success or survival. I always want my team to feel that they have control or the ability to make the difference. I feel this experience will only make us stronger and closer as a company.”
Joe Walmsley, managing director, Daedalian Glass Studios: “We have a stock of raw materials remaining on site, and we are working with clients to reserve pre-existing stock from our suppliers (to be delivered once safe to do so) so that we can begin manufacturing for their projects as soon as we are able to reopen the studio. Our office team (marketing and sales, finance, glass design) are all working from home and able to assist clients with all phases of their project up to the manufacture stage in the meantime. All our studio team, who are unable to work from home, have been furloughed with their wages covered by the company until the government scheme is up and running.”
Marquardt+ / Carnegie
Tom Marquardt, founder, Marquardt+: “As the format of marquardt+ has been predisposed to work remotely already, we are using this time to actually start to populate our newly completed website, so as we pull out of the pandemic we can launch it and market for new work. Also, we are working with our brand and marketing team here at marquardt+ to develop strategy consulting to other businesses, in light of the effects of the pandemic, to reposition themselves and their teams to the new normal that is yet to be defined.”
Elliot Barratt, managing director, Elliot James Interiors: “We have projects that are continuing to run as we are working under these conditions and there will likely be delays but the newly implemented system of working seems to be working. I don’t think we’re about to give up the office after this, but we consider ourselves to be a flexible company that often works from various places around the world and we feel we can adapt. We have always worked on across residential, commercial and corporate interior design and I feel that this is very important to continue this in the future. Many of the office projects have instantly halted, however residential projects have continued and its important for us spread many types of design as we will need to think very differently once this situation lifts.
I envisage we may have requests to redesign many homes to cater better for a work / live lifestyle. A home that can allow us to spend large amounts of time in without feeling claustrophobic. These spaces will have to separate work and play and ensure one isn’t detrimental to the other.”
Joe Walmsley, managing director, Daedalian Glass Studios: “We have used this as an good reason to upgrade our computer systems and their software to allow a smoother transition to remote working when necessary. Upgrading the collective teams ability to stay in communication when working remotely will have a long term benefit to Daedalian Glass Studios as it will improve our ability to disseminate key information to the team following client meeting or when working on-site.”
Daedalian Glass Studios / Brooklands Hotel
Tom Marquardt, founder, Marquardt+: “A CPD police officer and friend of ours that we have known for years tested positive for COVID-19 this week, as have many City of Chicago officers. I am not telling you this as an example of us helping as much as being inspired at the way people are pulling together socially and culturally, to help each other and the greater community at large. We offered to get them provisions and so forth, but fortunately he has a good network of friends and support to help, which is not the case for everyone.
We also have a large number of once thriving independent businesses here on Clark Street, our high street in the Andersonville neighbourhood of Chicago that have taken a serious hit due to the pandemic and shut down orders from the city. We are continuously publishing the importance of those with means to still order food for pick up or delivery, and buy locally as possible online from these businesses, but we have also committed to do so at least twice a week, in hopes they can hang on and recover once this is over. It’s a small gesture but an important one, as they all add up to us helping each other in any way we can while taking care of ourselves in the process.”
Alan Kemp, head of brand marketing, Graham & Brown: “When our factory closed with the factory shutdown all the food was parcelled up and delivered to Blackburn Youth Zone a local charity that also had to close its facilities but supports the youth of the area through food parcels and online support.”
Elliot Barratt, managing director, Elliot James Interiors: “Absolutely. We have enjoyed helping people by offering advice on spacial planning. We’ve looked at how we can share our resource and outsource our skills to other design firms, clients and join forces.
We have also looked at how we charge. We have various stages and break points like many design firms, but we can offer a design concept as an inital stage so clients can begin the process ready for when they are able to move back to their offices or new home.”
Joe Walmsley, managing director, Daedalian Glass Studios: “This is very difficult given much of the local community around our studios is now closed – the team are however all doing their bit for those in need in their own local communities, and of course heeding the government instruction to help beat COVID-19 and support our world class NHS.”
marquardt+ | Graham & Brown | Elliot James Interiors | Daedalian Glass Studios
In a time where the global impact of the coronavirus has affected our ability live, work and do business, we got in touch with SBID’s professional network of Accredited designers and manufacturers to provide a platform for the design community to share experiences of the new reality we are currently living and how they are managing through the virus; from the challenges that companies are facing to, most importantly, what they are doing to adapt to business interruptions and respond to the pressures of social distancing, remote working, and loss of income.
Across April we will be sharing these unique perspectives across the industry to help us come together as we navigate this period of personal and financial uncertainty and hopefully, inspire and encourage others with ways they too can act and respond to the situation at hand!
Portview / Arsenal F.C. Avenell Club / Guy Archard
Simon Campbell, managing director, Portview: “While the government remains somewhat ambiguous in regards to the closure of construction sites, we took the precautionary action to temporarily close all of our sites to ensure the welfare of our team and community. We are continuing to work closely with our clients and supply chain to support their needs and advise them of our contingency plans for when we return. In the meantime, our teams are working on the administrative and technical aspects of our projects remotely, whilst we await further guidance from the government on relaxing social distancing measures.
It is regrettable that we are not able to create amazing spaces for a while, but with time, we will again. We look forward to coming back stronger than ever and creating beautiful new spaces that everyone will be able to enjoy with their friends and family so much more. I believe, that if there is one positive thing to come out of the crisis for the industry, it will be a revitalised appreciation of space and an increased appetite for experiential environments that bring people together and enhance their social wellbeing.”
Sophie Stevens, founder & creative director, SGS Design: “Following the initial shock of leaving our lovely Studio our team comprising of 5 designers, procurement manger and myself are now all established at home and working efficiently remotely. We decided to close down the Studio quite early in the gradual lock-down so we had a chance to experiment and make a return visit to collect anything we’d overlooked before it was too late. Our biggest challenges are partial site closures and reduced or no access to live projects, being unable to visit suppliers (although most have been fantastic and are still working hard to provide everything we need) and no face-to-face contact with clients to share designs and samples for sign-off is tricky.”
Sarah Holey, marketing manager, Parkside Architectural Tiles: “The situation is changing all the time, but at the moment the majority of the Parkside team are working from home, using Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp to stay in touch. Our supply chain has been affected as some factories are currently under production lockdown, although they can still ship stocked product. That said, our sampling department is still able to operate safely, so we are continuing to despatch for now. Our ethos has always been about collaborating with our clients and recent events have made that even more important. We’re focused on staying in touch and supporting our partners, but of course, our number one priority is to protect the wellbeing of our staff.”
Averil Blundell, founder, Averil Blundell Interior Design: “We are lucky that all of our current projects are currently at the initial pre-build stage (although one of our main projects was due to start on site imminently) so although the current situation will likely push back site start dates, the majority of our current work we can do from our computers. The social distancing restrictions do however mean that we aren’t able to meet potential clients to discuss future projects which will also have a knock on effect on our pipeline of projects. The Studio is at my home so we are lucky that we can still get access to our reference library etc without having to travel.”
Averil Blundell Interior Design / Cunelands House
Simon Campbell, managing director, Portview: “We are in a fortunate position as we have an in-house occupational health nurse who has been brilliant at sending employees daily tips and advice on how to stay motivated and healthy whilst in lock-down. On top of that we have an internal social network called The Hub, where employees have been posting regular photographs of their new exercise routines at home, batch cooking recipes, home schooling timetables and so on, which have really helped to keep the spirts up and maintain a strong team mentality. We’re in the process of populating a designated resource library on The Hub, where employees can access further tips and advice on how to stay healthy, as well as interact with more social activities like virtual ‘Coffee and Catchups’ on Microsoft Teams or take part in creative workshops such as learning calligraphy or guitar.
For me, I think the most important thing is to keep communicating with friends, family and colleagues to help alleviate any anxiety or feelings of isolation. And of course, making the most of your daily exercise!”
Sophie Stevens, founder & creative director, SGS Design: “We have a team meeting every day at 9am on Zoom and run through the day’s work challenges but also check-in on each other’s well-being. I’ve been so impressed but not surprised by the teams ability to adjust to the new normal and make the best out of a challenging situation. The team has formed a strong professional bond over the years but also enjoy socialising together. We have continued this with Friday cocktail hour and celebrated a staff birthday in our home-made party hats via Zoom.
Professionally it’s also a great time to complete some CPD training, we have all been sharing and exploring the wealth of webinars and interactive learning experiences available via our existing and potential new suppliers. I have joined a weekly John Cullen lighting webinar and next week we have all been invited to attend a lecture on home cinema and technology. So plenty of distractions and learning opportunities. Personally I’m enjoying the extra time I have in the morning to fit in a run or an hour on the turbo trainer in the garage – this sets me up perfectly for a constructive day at my desk.”
Sarah Holey, marketing manager, Parkside Architectural Tiles: “I’ve got a comfortable work desk set-up near a window – as tempting as the sofa may be, the resulting backache from being hunched over my laptop is not something I want right now. I make sure I have a proper lunchbreak so that I take time away from my desk and I also find the radio is great for company. Radio X and keeping in touch with colleagues on Teams helps to keep my spirits high.”
Averil Blundell, founder, Averil Blundell Interior Design: “We moved to working from home before the government guidelines came in as I had experienced symptoms after returning from a family skiing holiday. We have been communicating as a team through WhatsApp and Zoom (as well as over email and telephone) so that we can still stay in touch and have face to face conversations. As we are only a small team I think it is easier to adjust to working more on our own than it might be for some larger practices.”
Simon Campbell, managing director, Portview: “The closure of our sites was a huge decision for us and an unprecedented one in our 45-year history. However, we felt that we had a moral and social duty to our employees, clients and community and so for us, it was the right decision to make, albeit the most difficult one. Luckily, our clients have been extremely understanding and, in many cases, have applauded our decision to stand by our values and do what’s right for our people. In the meantime, we continue to support and service the requirements of our clients to the best of our ability and are confident that we will return stronger and more determined than ever before. Together we will help to rebuild the industry – one brick at a time.”
Sophie Stevens, founder & creative director, SGS Design: “The unknown timescale of the shut-down period does hinder our ability to plan cash flow and project management. We are basing our current projections on being back in the Studio with reduced/no restrictions from beginning of June but we are reviewing this regularly with Government updates. We have adapted our process quickly to ensure we can progress our projects under these circumstances and have maintained close contact with suppliers, contractors on site and our clients, but the indefinite lock-down period is my main concern. Whilst we can work on the ‘paper’ or technical designs for our client projects, there comes a point where we need to able to attend site meetings and visit suppliers to sign-off specification or the project has to be paused.”
Averil Blundell, founder, Averil Blundell Interior Design: “It is difficult to forward plan and know when things will start to happen on site which has a knock-on effect for both this year and next year with our pipeline of projects. For me personally, an additional challenge has been combining working from home whilst also overseeing learning from home for my daughter Matilda.”
SGS Design / Dell House
Simon Campbell, managing director, Portview: “Our office-based staff are continuing to work on the administrative and operational side of the business, however with our projects suspended, our site teams have been furloughed. To compensate for this and alleviate concerns, we are topping up the 80% grant to ensure that all site employees receive their full pay. We are keeping a close eye on events as they unfold and are updating our team and clients as time goes on. One thing we know though is that we have worked too long and hard to build a fantastic team and are determined to keep it that way so we will be in a strong position to rebound when restrictions are lifted.”
Sophie Stevens, founder & creative director, SGS Design: “I think it’s all about clear and regular communication for employees, contractors, clients and suppliers. Plus flexibility and an openness to try different approaches to our normal practice, we have to adapt. We are keeping our clients informed of the work we can complete remotely and agreeing timescales for deliverables as normal. We have Zoom presentation meetings and regular client calls to provide updates and agree next steps as we go.
We are placing any orders for client purchases with credit card deposits to protect the funds under the Consumer Protection Act 1974 and are in contact with our suppliers for production updates and reassurance. Our procurement manager keeps track on orders and funds daily and where possible has renegotiated our payment terms to make smaller, multiple deposit payments to reduce risk until product is delivered. We have also updated specifications to prioritise UK suppliers where there are issues with imports or significant fluctuations in the foreign exchange rates.”
Sarah Holey, marketing manager, Parkside Architectural Tiles: “We’re obviously doing everything we can to protect our staff and customers and have temporarily closed our showrooms. The team is working from home, so our clients can still get in touch easily and we’re working as well as we can within the limitations placed upon our supply chain. Of course, the situation changes quickly and we must be agile enough to respond, so we are remaining flexible and adaptable.”
Averil Blundell, founder, Averil Blundell Interior Design: “We work closely with Clever Association who put measures in place so that each of the team can access our files and emails remotely from home. We have been liaising with clients and other professionals we are working with on projects by phone and email. We always try to present all our information in a clear way when communicating information to clients and to the rest of the design team involved in a project so this is more important than ever at this time.”
Parkside Architectural Tiles
Simon Campbell, managing director, Portview: “As a team of over 100 employees headquartered in Belfast, we are experienced in working remotely and flexibly throughout the UK and Ireland anyway. The processes and protocols we have refined over the years has helped us to navigate the crisis and minimalize disruption to business operations as much as feasibility possible. With company laptops and phones, Microsoft Teams and cloud-based project management and CAD software; employees can access company email securely and communicate remotely with clients, our supply chain and subbies.”
Sophie Stevens, founder & creative director, SGS Design: “Everything has changed as a result of the current situation and flexibility is key to surviving the shut-down period but also bouncing back when we do return to normal. Technology has become a priority in maintaining the business. We already used Dropbox for all file sharing and in the run-up to the shut-down we ensured all hand-written notes and sketches had been scanned and saved for reference along with photographs of all our live project sample trays. Zoom was a new world for us all but again we trialled it before the shut-down was activated and knew we had all the technology we needed installed and operational before we had to use it. I think this was essential to easing us into this new way of working.”
Sarah Holey, marketing manager, Parkside Architectural Tiles: “We’re collaborating much more online with our clients and have increased the social media activity for sales teams. While many designers are working from home, they are still busy on future projects, so we want to make sure we’re there to be involved, support and inspire them. We have sample boxes that were originally produced for office sample libraries, but we’re happy to send these out to home addresses. They are compact, so won’t take up too much space, and can hold ten 10cm x 10cm tile samples.”
Averil Blundell, founder, Averil Blundell Interior Design: “For now we are continuing to work as closely to our normal routine as possible whilst each working from home as this is the most appropriate course of action for our current projects.”
Simon Campbell, managing director, Portview: “Yes, what really struck us was the critical shortage of PPE equipment facing the frontline services, particularly those caring for the most vulnerable in the community. We were able to help as we had surplus FFP3 dust masks and decided to give 1,800 of them to the Northern Ireland Hospice, whom we had recently donated £43,000 to in memory of a colleague. It was the very least we could do to help and a humbling experience.”
Sophie Stevens, founder & creative director, SGS Design: “A majority of our work is local to us and we have close ties with our local suppliers and trades. Where we are able to maintain these relationships and support local business activity we are continuing to promote these independent suppliers.”
Sarah Holey, marketing manager, Parkside Architectural Tiles: “I’m already involved with one of my local foodbanks, so continue to help where I can. This has been tricky with the panic buying going on and shortages of essentials like pasta and tinned goods. Hopefully, we’ve seen the end of the panic buying and it will be easier to help those that need support at this stressful time.”
Averil Blundell, founder, Averil Blundell Interior Design: “As I have been self-isolating due to having symptoms, our main way of supporting the local community at this time has been by staying at home to reduce the transmission of the virus.”
Portview | SGS Design | Parkside Architectural Tiles | Averil Blundell
In light of the ever-evolving circumstances surrounding coronavirus COVID-19 and how quickly society is changing during these uncertain times, it’s clear that the consequences of the pandemic go far beyond the global spread of the virus and the extreme measures put in place to contain it. The far-reaching economic impacts are also accumulating rapidly, with a devastating effect on business and employment; giving way to an influx of layoffs and bankruptcies.
While we encourage all our members, architects and interior designers to follow official guidelines and read the latest advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), we’ve collated some helpful resources to provide you with some tips and essential advice during this challenging stretch to help you stay in business. We will continue to share any useful or relevant information to support the design community at this time and urge you to stay at home, stay informed and stay connected!
While our main concerns are health-related, financial wellbeing is also a crucial consideration. Whether you are an employee or an employer, a business owner or self-employed, we advise everyone to check the Government website regularly for all official guidance and updates on available opportunities for government assistance and financial support options. Through the Business Support scheme, the Government is helping businesses and their employees through a package of measures during this period of disruption.
Click here for further guidance
Use your online channels of communication to keep clients informed
With the situation developing rapidly, it’s important to keep your customers and clients up to date. Actively share any new or key information about how your business or operations have been effected through email, your website and social media pages to ensure clients are in the know about any measures you’ve implemented which may impact them; whether you need to notify them of premises closures, new procedures for handling customer queries or expected delays in product deliveries and logistics. You can also ‘pin’ important posts to the top of your Facebook page so they appear first whilst you continue communications so this information is not lost in your feed when clients come looking for answers. Staying connected with your customers in real time through Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp for business will also be a valuable tool for keeping your audience informed. Facebook for Business are offering a host specific advice, toolkits and courses to help you navigate your social media platforms and communications throughout this challenging time.
Shift your services online where possible!
With enforcement to restrict movement and new social distancing measures in place, meeting in person is simply not an option. So whether you provide design consultations online, host a virtual showroom tour or live stream to your audience, you need to get creative with the internet for conducting your business services and operations where possible.
For in-progress technical design work and presentations, integrated cloud-based technology workflows allow you to store project data and share visualisations with clients (and colleagues) throughout the design process from start to finish – wherever in the world they are. Vectorworks design software also introduced an immersive panorama feature for viewing interiors. Through a shareable web link with a file size compatible with social media, you can invite the client to experience the rendering with you in an interactive, 360-degree model.
In a time where an unprecedented number of us are confined to our homes and adjusting to a new way of work-from-home life, streamlining your efficiency will be essential. Read our helpful tips for working from home in self-isolation. Whether you need collaborative project management tools such as Trello to keep the whole team in the loop when it comes to tracking project developments, or want to set up meetings whilst remote working with applications like Microsoft Teams which includes a handy ‘record’ feature so those who cannot join can watch later or search the automatically generated transcript for important information; there are plenty of tools to help. Video conferencing tools in particular have become increasingly popular as an essential means for helping us stay connected, so if you haven’t already got to grips with the technology, platforms like Zoom offer online tutorials to help you get going! For further advice on communicating with remote teams during coronavirus, why not tune in for live webinar training or check out LinkedIn Learning for courses on remote working.
A key issue we are sure many designers are facing during this time is the ability to stay inspired. With travel being one of the most quoted means for our Accredited Interior Designers when it comes to getting inspiration, it’s important to find new ways to seek that all important inspo whilst ‘travelling’ consists of walking between rooms, or taking your one-day permitted exercise outside.
Whilst art galleries and museums are closed to the public, many international museums are still in reaching distance – online! Offering their exhibits to be explored virtually with interactive, 360-degree videos and full “walk-around” tours with voiceover descriptions is a great way to access world-class art with a leisurely virtual visit. From the Natual History Museum, London and Rijksmusuem, Amsterdam to the J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Google Arts and Culture are also offering panoramic views of famous sites. Click here to discover more and keep your eye out for leading trade shows and design events which may also be making the shift to digital experiences.
Another way to keep your finger on the industry pulse and stay engaged with design whilst working from home is to listen to podcasts or watch inspiring TED Talks on architecture and design. SBID has also launched it’s new podcast series, SpeakEasy featuring informative and insightful interviews with professionals across the design industry. Click here to discover the first episode with SBID founder, Dr Vanessa Brady OBE!
SBID is dedicated to supporting the interior design profession and the interior designers in practice, if you need help or advise during this time, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Taking into account that the average employee spends 3,515 full days in the office in their lifetime – not to mention an additional 188 days of overtime – it’s no wonder that top firms are reviewing the ways that their headquarters feel, function and flow. Now Midlands-based aquarium design company and SBID Accredited Industry Partner, ViDERE, has developed a remedy in the form of interacting with fish-tanks and it hopes the discovery will help more employees keep their heads above water.
Poor mental and physical health diminishes an employee’s ability to function and perform well at work and can also negatively impact their wider social community. It is also common knowledge, through both research and anecdotal evidence that humans experience physiological, emotional and cognitive benefits from interacting with nature (Ulrich, 1984; van den Berg et al, 2003). Thus, the correlation between connections with nature and improved wellbeing has led to a cultural shift in the way we design buildings and public spaces.
Nature as a key design element
This cultural shift has been a driving force behind occupational psychologists and designers taking a holistic approach in incorporating different elements of nature into the structure, furnishings and operational activities of businesses and corporations. The approach of ‘Human Centred Design’ encapsulates a multitude of disciplines and expertise, to enable companies to positively shape the working environment of their employees both physically and culturally.
One important component of this approach is the introduction of nature as a key design element to create greater appeal and improve wellbeing. Research has shown that on average, humans instinctively prefer to be surrounded by elements of nature (Ulrich, R. S., 1981). Our perception of what is ‘beautiful’ is greatly skewed towards landscapes, and areas that are rich in biodiversity (Dennis Dutton, 2009). The extensive body of research in this subject area has made the integration of nature as a corner stone in the approach of design that improves the human experience.
At a time when workplace stress is on the rise, with recent research showing that it costs UK employers over £43bn a year, ViDERE dove deeply into researching the effect that interacting with aquariums has upon key stress indicators. This study was carried out during the summer and autumn of 2019 and specifically, looked at the impact of spending time looking into an aquarium and how this affected the stress and anxiety levels of employees working in a web development agency, Lightbox Digital, who are based in Birmingham.
Studying the therapeutic impact of aquariums
Individuals working in the digital marketing sector often experience prolonged periods of workplace anxiety and stress, partly due to heavy workloads and extended periods in front of a screen. Therefore, the focal point of the study was collecting data on each employees’ heart rate and blood pressure before and after each individual looked into their office fish-tank for ten minutes and looking at how this data varied.
Overall, the results across the board show that looking into the office’s planted aquarium for 10 minutes led to an average drop in blood pressure by 15.6% and an average drop in heart rate by 3%, reinforcing ViDERE’s initial theory that fish-tanks have a positive effect on mental wellbeing in the workplace. It’s also notable that all but two participants’ blood pressure fell into the NHS’s recommended blood pressure range for a healthy adult of between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, after the 10-minute therapy.
The correlation between lower stress levels and biophilic design elements highlighted by the study is a factor that more businesses should consider as they expand both their teams and workspaces. From this pilot study, we can draw some preliminary conclusions and inferences about the potential benefits associated with having an aquarium in a business interior for the staff and management teams that work there. The findings from this study also suggest that an aquarium not only has a positive impact on the appeal of a space with its high biophilic value, but can be used as a therapy for stress recovery. Thus, the more businesses invest in their office infrastructure and multi-functional design features, ultimately, the more they will improve their employees’ well-being within their workplace; which in turn, enhances productivity.
What does this mean for employers?
Discussing the results, ViDERE founder and pioneer of the study, Akil Beckford, commented: “The research into biophilia and the impact that the natural world has on our human emotions has risen in recent years and has shown staggering results. While our own study was on a small scale, the universal impact that it had on our individual test subjects is testament to the impact that simple changes can make to the bigger picture for businesses. All companies are made up of teams of people, and if they are feeling better, the business performs better… it’s simple!”
“The world seems to be constantly pushing high-tech boundaries and striving for smarter homes, offices, and community areas; but we are in danger of losing touch with nature, with potentially catastrophic results on our own health and wellbeing. Of course, we aren’t saying that technology is bad – quite the opposite in fact! – but it does serve as a warning that if we don’t start thinking about the way that the two can co-exist symbiotically, and designing our spaces to reflect that, then our wellbeing may well suffer.”
Akil and his team at ViDERE intend to continue educating people in the business community about how they can better facilitate wellbeing at work. Having already worked with the likes of Interface, Poggenpohl, and Clements and Church, seeing first-hand the impact that aquariums have had, Akil is confident that he can continue to lead the way as an advocate for biophilia in the Midlands.
Click here to read the full report.
About the Author
Akil Beckford is an aquarist and designer who is passionate about connecting people to nature. For over 15 years, Akil has been designing and installing aquariums into peoples homes and business’s, creating globally recognised designs and displays.
This article was written by Akil Gordon-Beckford, Founder & Director of ViDERE Aquariums
If you’d like to become SBID Accredited, click here to find out more.
A new reality dawns as working from home becomes the widespread norm! For many, working from home is no new concept as companies around the world were already increasingly implementing flexible work-from-home policies and the continued rise of freelance workers means more and more of us have the liberty of generating most of our income from the comfort of our own homes. In fact, in 2019 the Office for National Statistics recorded over 5 million self-employed people in the UK alone. For the rest of the working population however, working remotely amid the coronavirus outbreak can be daunting and unfamiliar territory. So, how do you maintain efficiency and keep the momentum going?
With thousands across the nation likely to be working from home under government instruction to self-isolate in a collective effort to control the spread of COVID-19, we’re sharing some useful tips and strategies to help you settle into this new reality and stay positive, sane – and of course, productive!
1. Routine is everything! Be strict with your schedule.
Try to follow your usual daily routine as you would on a normal working day. If this involves heading to the gym first thing before work – roll out your yoga mat on the kitchen floor and get to it! The main thing is to stick to your usual working hours and routine as you would when arriving into the office on a normal working day. Wake up, shower, and yes, get dressed if you have to (or at least get out of your pyjamas!). This will help you get into the right mindset for the day ahead – and also inject a much needed sense of normality into your new home-based routine.
2. Resist the temptation to stay in bed!
As glorious as it sounds to spend the day bed-bound on your laptop and treat it as a luxury staycation – this habit will get tiresome (literally)! Try to set up a separate space you can dedicate strictly to working – if you’re lucky enough to already have a home study, that’s great! But if you don’t, create your own makeshift ‘work station’ – or use your dining room table and chair instead. The NHS advise is to provide support for your back and position your desk/chair correctly, so sitting slumped on your bed will not bode well in the long-term for your posture or your productivity!
3. Have a REAL conversation…
Remember, there’s nothing stopping you from picking up the phone and having a real conversation outside of your email threads and instant messaging! If you’re working home alone, don’t forget to exercise your vocal chords too. Not interacting or speaking to anyone all day, everyday can feel lonely and deplete your morale – not to mention your mental health. So, try to make time to arrange a video conference with your team or colleagues and schedule in some actual face time. There is a lot of technology available for this – so whether it’s Skype, FaceTime or Microsoft Teams, maintaining social connection will be crucial during this uncertain time!
4. Don’t forget to take a break!
It’s easy to get sucked into your screen when working from home, but being glued to your computer and sitting down all day (even if you were still in the office) doesn’t promote a healthy lifestyle, so it’s important to take regular breaks. Get up, move about or go for a short walk – even if it’s only around your house! Stepping away from screen time allows you to recoup, stretch your legs and come back with a fresh perspective – whether on your designated lunch hour or just to re-fuel with a quick cup of coffee, regular screen breaks are essential to maintaining efficiency! Also, if you’ve manged to gain an extra hour or so from not commuting to the office, this presents a great opportunity to factor in time for exercise, so use it wisely by doing something active! Self-isolation means a walk outside may not be the best option here, but instead open your windows to let the fresh air in or step out into your garden and breathe!
5. Avoid those pesky distractions…
Fight the urge to get up and do the pile laundry sitting in your bedroom or start deep cleaning the kitchen – the household chores will be there later, and you definitely wouldn’t be scrubbing the toilet if you were at the office. It’s important to treat this time as if you’re not at home so you don’t get distracted by your daily house keeping. That being said, avoiding unnecessary disturbances is much easier said than done if those distractions are in fact your children! Working from home with children is obviously no mean feat, so our advice would be to get help if you can by isolating with a family member who can watch them while you work, adapt your working hours around nap times or at night, or encourage them to engage in time-consuming activities to keep them busy – and out of your hair!
This March is all about employee appreciation! As work environments are one of the biggest factors companies are addressing to make sure their workplaces are designed with wellbeing in mind to help keep staff happy and healthy at work, we’re sharing a selection of our favourite projects from the SBID Awards 2019 with inspirational office designs!
The design concept for the project focuses on combining industrial-chic style elements with a cosy ‘Soho House’ residential vibe and contemporary workspace, with an added tech-y feel. 5mm Design introduced the concept of zoning to the space, and each zone was named after a continent and assigned a colour. The design theme is translated into the space through furniture upholstery fabric, pop culture and illustration wall art that reflect the continent; the use of different plant species in each zone; and the naming of meeting rooms after artists from that particular continent. The zoning concept, combined with the introduction of breakout areas, and the collaborative shared work island act as the firm’s engine room. This is a fresh workspace that improves productivity through design and encourages different teams to interact and socialise together.
An art déco decorative style combines with the cultural customs of old Shanghai and contemporary features to create a modern and stylish urban space. With blue and orange colours merging into the geometry of the flooring tiles, the space is charged with a stately, luxurious feel. The organic, fan-shaped and radiating elements of art déco are combined with walnut, black and gold marble, monochrome wood and other materials in the furniture to compliment the aesthetic. This creates a look that perfectly suits the preferences and taste of the urban elite.
Rockwell Group’s design concept for Warner Music Group’s new headquarters celebrates the record company’s history, its vast catalogue of work, music making, and performance. Bright, contemporary, and concise workspaces span across the five-storey main building and an adjoining two-storey annexe. The contrast of old and new, hard and soft, and warm and cool materials creates a dynamic, future-forward home base for WMG’s 800 employees.
Squire & Partners designed this first social workspace and private members’ club by Ministry of Sound as the antithesis to a nightclub environment. Housed in a former Victorian printworks in London, light-filled flexible workspaces for 850 people are as suited to morning coffee and lunch meetings as evening networking and social events. A concept of ‘premium raw’ was established, with stripped-back raw elements of the existing building contrasted with a layer of premium finish including refined furniture, artwork and lighting. The bold aesthetic delivers a distinctive and desirable offer for different sized organisations and pushes the boundaries of current workplace culture. Combining the creative and social aspects of a members’ club with dynamic workspace for those in music, film, arts, fashion and technology sectors, the aim was not just to offer a place to do business, but to provide an environment for a convivial and creative way of life.
Uncommon is a flexible workspace provider, whose spaces are carefully designed to make its members work smarter, not harder. Using innovative design inspired by activity-based working (ABW), carefully curated ergonomic furniture, biophilia and sensory elements, Uncommon aims to deliver a holistic and mindful experience. With four unique spaces across London, Uncommon draws inspiration from Italian and Scandinavian design, with rich textures and tonal colours handpicked to help stimulate productivity, promote wellness and evoke creativity in its members. Located within an exclusive gated development, Uncommon Fulham offers 26,000 square foot of flexible workspace arranged over four floors; perfect for entrepreneurs and freelancers, start-ups and long-established businesses. Uncommon Fulham is adorned with a warm and muted colour palette, enhanced with hand-selected ergonomic furniture from Italy and over 500 living plants including a striking 3.3-metre Ficus nitida tree.
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