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Achieving industry recognition through prestigious honours like awards can be extremely beneficial for business. Not only can it generate awareness, increase brand exposure and of course, boost employee morale in a celebration of their hard work and success, awards are a great way to differentiate your brand, product or service from the competition! Independent acknowledgement of a company’s skills, value or competence within your sector also offers additional reassurances and credibility for potential clients and customers.

Even if you don’t clinch the coveted ‘Winner’ trophy on the night, just being shortlisted for an award can still bring your business substantial benefits. With this in mind, we’re sharing 5 essential ways that awards can enhance your business!

1. Increased Awareness: Take advantage of the promotional opportunities

Put your brand in the spotlight! Association with relevant, industry-specific awards that add value to your brand offering can raise your business profile and provide a host of marketing and PR opportunities, so the chance to publicise, and ultimately capitalise, on your achievements within an award programme (whether a winner or a finalist) should not be overlooked! Utilising the promotion of your involvement before, during and after the ceremony through your marketing channels is a cost-effective way to increase brand awareness, share your company’s success and become a real marketing asset. And that doesn’t even include the additional exposure you would gain from the event organiser!

2. Attracting Clients: Showcase your expertise and enhance company credibility

Awards are designed to endorse a company’s calibre of skill and success in a particular field, making them a key indicator of trust-worthiness. Entering and winning an award therefore demonstrates to your customers that your business is operating at the highest level within your profession, acting as a powerful selling point for potential prospects (or perhaps reinforcing their reasons for doing business with you in the first place!).

As a result, this can develop brand loyalty and improve client retention, as customers are often inclined to stay with businesses who are succeeding at what they do – as well as give them more excuses to tell their friends about you. And we all know how valuable word of mouth is as an effective marketing tool!

Using the awards branding on your website and in your marketing materials is another way you’ll be able to showcase these credentials to your target audience.

3. Boost Employee Morale: Positive impacts on retention and recruitment

Partaking in awards is a public way of acknowledging the hard work and achievements of your employees, giving your team members an additional sense of appreciation, purpose and motivation in their work, as well as a stronger desire and confidence to continue to perform for your company. Attending the awards ceremony also offers a great chance to reward your staff by celebrating together as a team – who doesn’t love a chance to get dressed up for a fancy three-course meal and rub shoulders with top tier professionals in your industry?

Achieving an award also validates your employees work as a direct contributor to wider company success which can also generate company pride, increase work satisfaction and can play a positive role in future recruitment too by enticing new talent who want to work for successful, award-winning companies.

4. Networking: Establish better relationships with your peers and industry professionals

Serving as an excellent platform to wine and dine with the best of the best within your profession, award ceremonies provide the perfect opportunity to network with key players in your industry so you can make new industry connections, bond with potential business partners, reach new customers, and build better relationships with your peers. Winning an award goes one step further in recognising the value and expertise you bring to your sector in front of this captive audience, meaning your peers will look more favourably on your business and you will gain a deeper level of credibility and respect within your industry as a whole.

Most awards judging panels consist of distinguished industry experts, so entering them also presents a unique opportunity to put your business in front of specialist stakeholders, industry-leaders and influential experts in your field.

5. Industry Benchmarking: Differentiate your business against competitors

Whether you are a small or large company, awards offer the ability to stand side-by-side and compete against some of the biggest names in your professional pool, allowing you to take stock of your achievements in comparison to your peers and benchmark your work against the industry – this will help to see how you measure up against your competitors and refine your business goals and aspirations.

And of course, if you’re successful in becoming an award-winning business, it is a surefire way to differentiate your brand and stand out from the competition with that all-important, industry-recognised seal of approval, giving you an esteemed third-party endorsement from an independent body.

The SBID Awards programme is designed to recognise, reward and celebrate the profession of interior design. If you’re an interior designer or product manufacturer, click here to find out more about entering for the current 2020 edition.

The question that immediately arises is: how could our homes change following the emergency from Covid-19? This “change” doesn’t exclusively come from the need of adopting higher hygiene precautions, but also from the search for home wellness and from the will of maximising the functionality of our internal spaces.

“Staying at home” and “working from home” has given rise to new needs but also favoured the recovery of spaces that seemed to have gone out of fashion. The new total home project therefore starts from the need to exploit even small spaces to bring together various ways of living, starting with the re-evaluation of the entrances. These are the main areas to consider:

1. Entrance
2. Home workspace
3. Kitchen as an extension of the living area
4. Outdoor area
5. Relaxation and wellness area

An example of this shift is evident in the concept for one of my latest projects, showcasing how I was required to update an interior design scheme to suit clients changing requirements due to Covid-19. The first draft was made in January but, after the lockdown, the users needs have changed and consequently, so has the design criteria. Here were the design proposals:



First of all, in this design it was necessary to reconsider the entrance / hallway as a filter room between the outside and the home. In the second proposal made to the client, we designed a dividing wall before entering the living area. This space now offers a place to store everything we bring in from outside (such as shoes, masks, coats, telephone, keys, etc.). The insertion of a table top serves to store hand sanitiser, with the option of a cupboard to install a Samsung AirDresser for antibacterial treatments.

The kitchen returns to offer more functional storage spaces. The 3 fundamental areas, such as the one dedicated to storage (fridge and pantry), cooking and washing/preparation have been zoned, offering each area more operating space. The client also felt the need to separate the kitchen from the rest of the house without oppressing the space.

Sliding glass doors have been inserted to maintain visual contact with the dining room and at the same time contain any kitchen odours but, if necessary, the environment becomes open plan – making it easy to control the use of space for children who may study and play in the living area.

The need to have a private home studio was a must-have request since the very beginning with exclusive access to the studio. An adjoining reception room, where to wait in complete safety, has now been provided. The separation with the rest of the environment is represented by a plasterboard wall with a glass door inserted to let the light filter from the outside, as well as enjoying the views of the garden.

A small intervention was also made in the sleeping area. More and more concerns arise regarding how long the coronavirus can survive on clothes and how to properly sanitise them. Since the clothes we travel into the city in are the same we will return home in, we have also proposed a system for sanitising and cleaning clothes and shoes in this area. By slightly reducing the square meters of the walk-in closet and the private bathroom, a niche has been created in the hallway of the sleeping area, where the Lema wardrobe with Air Cleaning System will be installed.

This post is part of a series exploring the ways that the health emergency of Covid-19 has changed the way we conceive public and private spaces. Click here to read the previous post about public spaces. 

About the Author

Elisabetta de Strobel is an internationally acclaimed Interior Designer and Art Director, originally from Rome. Her studio offers expert consultation services for interior design, product design, branding and strategic market analysis.

If you’d like to become SBID Accredited, click here to find out more. 

Project of the Week

This week’s instalment of the #SBIDinspire interior design series features a residential kitchen design. The client wanted a space that seemed large and really easy to move around in, without feeling too empty, and definitely not too grand. Mark Taylor Design worked on this project for 12 weeks, inserting beams, building a glass wall, moving all plumbing and fitting a kitchen. This included designing, building and fitting a mobile island as well as flooring. The end result transformed the existing, dark kitchen into a light, open-plan area fit for entertaining and relaxing.

2019 SBID Awards Category: KBB Design Sponsored by: Vitra UK

Practice: Mark Taylor Design

Project: Skinny Shaker-style Kitchen

Location: Buckinghamshire

What was the client’s brief? 

The clients wanted a space that seemed large and really easy to move around in, without feeling too empty, and definitely not too grand; a modern look, but not flat, or minimalist. They also wanted an island, but one for many people to stand around, not something small. It should almost create a showpiece for the kitchen. There was some debate about exactly where this should be. They wanted a table that would seat 8 to 10 people max, near the patio garden at the back of the kitchen. It was important to create a sense of light in what was a really dark space, with low ceilings and not a lot of sun. They wanted a pantry, to avoid food in cupboards, and if possible, wanted a french larder fridge, if it would fit. Ultimately, they wanted to use a combination of paint in the kitchen area and wallpaper in the sitting area, to differentiate the spaces.

What inspired the interior design of the project? 

A couple of things; a photograph of a 150-year-old french furniture piece which the client fell in love with, and which formed the basis of the moveable island, and the feeling of space and cleanness that a flat, concrete style floor provides in good industrial working kitchens. Just these 2 elements set us off. We had also recently designed a skinny shaker door and wanted to include this on the base units. Finally, to try and create different spaces that complimented each other. We looked at the romantic nature of a Welsh dresser, dating back 250 years, that was already in place in the old kitchen and created a warm, wallpapered area around that.

What was the toughest hurdle you/your team faced during the project?

Poor light and different, low ceiling heights made lighting a challenge. We put in place 5 different levels of lighting; floor lights to illuminate the walls and reflect off the white ceiling, mid-level lighting on the walls for creating a warm, soft ambience, task lighting placed in the ceiling above the work surface, LED linear lighting recessed into ceiling lighting channels to cast an even light across the ceiling, and; a window wall comprising 2 sets of bifold doors at the back of the kitchen, where the maximum amount of natural light could be brought into the dining space.

We were also tasked with positioning the french larder fridge in an under-stairs recess which was slightly too shallow. Our builders cleverly removed a small portion of the stair winder to accommodate this and it looks made-to-measure as a result. Another challenge was getting light into and through the walk-in pantry, so that it would feel separate from, but connected to the main kitchen was achieved by using two porthole windows in the swing doors.

What was your highlight of the project?

Completing the project, including building work to insert beams and build a glass wall, moving all plumbing to create a new utility room and larder, building a snug, designing, building and fitting a kitchen, including a mobile island and flooring – all in 12 weeks, ready for Christmas!

Did you enter the project into the SBID International Design Awards? If so, why?

Yes. Our Skinny Shaker-style kitchen is the newest addition to our MeThD custom kitchen collection and it features a beautifully modern take on a Shaker-style door. Opting for base units along one wall without any wall units created a stylish kitchen with clean lines and a more modern look. To add to the look, we designed and created a bespoke movable island unit. The end result transformed the existing, dark kitchen into a light, open-plan area where entertaining and relaxing would be key.

Questions answered by Mark Taylor, Director at Mark Taylor Design.

We hope you feel inspired by this week’s residential design! Let us know what inspired you #SBIDinspire

If you missed last week’s Project of the Week, featuring a Parisian-inspired hotel public space, click here to see more.

Lockdown measures are slowly easing across all aspects of work and social life as the hospitality industry is given the green light to begin re-opening to the public this July. For many of us, the concept of travelling seems like a distant memory; dreaming of the day you can book that weekend away or arrange for a long, relaxing week abroad. As society braces itself to resume holiday planning and commence those halted travel plans in a Covid-19 world – we’re sharing some of the inspiring hotel bedroom designs from last year’s SBID Awards finalists that we’d love to be paying a visit this Summer!

Hotel Bedrooms & Suites

CaberlonCaroppi Architetti – Hilton Molino Stucky

Once an efficient flourmill, Hilton Molino Stucky is today one of the most important international hotels in Venice. Curated by CaberlonCaroppi, the renewal of the common areas and the first 90 rooms reflects the soul of the industrial building and the one of Venice and its wonders. The design narrative starts from decorative and graphic details with special attention paid to figurative elements, introducing the theme of gears and grain, main elements that characterize rooms. Along the corridors, the soft colours of the walls, the elegant lamps and the geometrically textured carpet blend perfectly with the cast iron pillars that characterise the architectural structure. A particular attention has been paid to all the lightening elements, designed or modified specifically for the setting of the Molino, so as to obtain a product that is not only functional but also in line with the entire mood.

Concorde BGW Group – The Bedford

A pub that helped launch the careers of Ed Sheeran and Michael McIntyre has reopened after Concorde BGW carried out its multi-million-pound refurbishment. The extensive renovations to the 22,000 square foot pub, grass-roots music venue and London’s longest running comedy club were carried out across its five bars, restaurant, four private rooms, ballroom and 250-capacity live music club. The Grade II Listed building is utterly unique in terms of character and strategies were developed to ensure much of its age-old charm was maintained. Once planning permission was obtained, 15 new, individually designed ensuite bedrooms were built on the second and third floors. The bedrooms add another layer of luxury to a truly unique building. Designed with the history of the building in mind, the rooms allow you to drift back to bygone ages.

Celia Chu Design & Associates – Luxury Is Personal

Located in the central heart of Taipei, the twin towers building was designed by Richard Rogers and has reached a new level of high-end residential living. CCDA was inspired by the lifestyle of the modern British gentlemen, believing true luxury not only manifests itself in the physical space but is also reflected in interests, habits, collections and art. Bespoke crystal light fixtures from the Czech Republic, commissioned silver glass panel art by the fireplace, a wine display room, spa-like bathroom and other details were designed to shape a vision of personalised luxury.

LW – Zabeel House

Zabeel House is a new lifestyle hotel by Jumeirah, catering for families, travellers and businessmen alike, with all the familiarities of the Jumeirah brand, in an afforded luxury way. This combination of Arabic culture and urban finishes comes together in the health club and spa. Reclaimed timber slats, concrete flooring and exposed ceilings are complimented and softened by Arabic rugs from the local souq and quirky artwork that continue down the corridor, into the changing rooms and treatment experience. Personal interaction is a key feature that runs through this hotel, seen through the recessed pops of seating down the health club corridor that allow for guests to pause a moment, relax and interact.

Roth Architecture – Aqua Villa

Located in the most private area of Azulik Tulum, the Aqua Villa was designed in harmony with the environment, respecting nature and making it part of the project. Water is the main design composition element inside the villa, fusing with the blue Caribbean Sea view. The contrast in colours, textures and use of the local materials allows the villa to become part of the landscape thanks to the natural materials. Exterior massage decks, Jacuzzi and netting allows guests to enjoy the space and the view in this unique environment which flows naturally into its surroundings. The interior design fosters a quiet and relaxing atmosphere, using reflection as an element; the mirrors and water in the floor give guests the sensation of space and serenity so they can enjoy the sounds of the sea and the wildlife that interact within the space constantly.

Dexter Moren Associates – Clayton Hotel, London

Clayton Hotel City of London redefines the concept of a destination hotel. The 212-key, four-star hotel is located in the vibrant Aldgate area of London, on the edge of the City of London, near to the Whitechapel Art Gallery and historic markets of Spitalfields, Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane. The hotel’s bespoke interiors reflect the history and charm of the area through the mix of materials, ceramics and furniture. The choice of lighting, colour palette and artwork visually reference elements from the culture of the area, including the Freedom Press, the Bell Foundry, warehouse metal and fabric trades and the diverse market culture. The designers at Dexter Moren Associates describe the concept as a ‘new order’: combining the old order and traditions of the East End with the future outlook of the City.

The Wall Design Corporation – The Shades of Clouds; the Valley of Hearts

This B&B is located in a mountainous region in the southern Zhejian Province. Given the unique geological environment, the south-facing location is wreathed in clouds. The area is known for its amazing natural scenery with clouds constantly passing by. The building was protected which posed a challenge however the remodelled building preserves 80% of the original architectural features. The interior is based on the Balinese lifestyle, in which the white colour symbolises the clouds. Windows have been replaced by the new larger versions, through which guests can truly appreciate the great views. In addition to the vintage decor, the preserved original yellow soil walls and doors further emphasise the spirit of simplicity.

Virserius Studio – Guest Rooms & Suites, W Atlanta Midtown

Arthur is a fictional character, conceived as a native Atlantan who was born and raised in Ainsley Park, located right behind W Atlanta Midtown. Virserius Studio’s concept for the hotel is the recreation of Arthur’s estate and secret garden, decorated with his awe-inspiring collection of art and other items obtained during his extensive world travels. He takes great pride in these collections and wants to share the stories behind these possessions. He also hopes they will make great conversational pieces, inspiring special moments among friends during their visit.

Goddard Littlefair – The Lowry Presidential Suite

The Lowry Hotel’s five-star, luxury Presidential Suite, is the largest in Greater Manchester, having undergone a complete revamp including a reconfiguration of the space and a newly enlarged dressing room. Beautiful, fitted joinery screens create a series of distinct but linked spaces, including a living area, dining area, bedroom, bathroom, dressing room, pantry and powder room. Drawing inspiration from Manchester’s rich industrial history, the suite makes reference to the city’s industrial forms, geometry and heritage, as well as the hotel’s namesake, L.S Lowry. Accompanied by a colour palette inspired by Lowry’s five colours, the new design has a luxurious residential feel, with light and bright tonal colours used for the walls, curtains and carpets, offset by darker joinery, with painterly or geometric-patterned fabrics.

The 2020 edition of the SBID International Design Awards is open for entries.

Entries close on Friday 14 August. Visit to enter now!

Project of the Week

This week’s instalment of the #SBIDinspire interior design series features a hotel public space redesign. Virserius Studio completed the second phase of the redesign of the Renaissance Paris La Défense in Summer 2018. This involved a partial renovation of the lobby, removing the existing executive lounge, and creating a destination restaurant. Virserius Studio took into consideration the owner’s concerns by blending of older existing elements like the classical towers while incorporating more contemporary design elements. The aim was for the hotel to not just be for guests but for it to be a place the public in this busy section of Paris can incorporate into their busy day, whether it’s grabbing a coffee from the brasserie kiosk or a glass of wine on the way home or meeting on important matters during the day.

SBID Awards Category: Hotel Public Space Sponsored by Viva Lagoon

Practice: Virserius Studio

Project: Renaissance Paris La Defense Hotel

Location: Paris, France

What was the client’s brief? 

The brief for the project was to reflect the La Défense neighborhood and its surroundings through carefully curated art and lighting.  This involved a partial renovation of the lobby, removing the existing executive lounge, and creating a destination restaurant. We wanted the hotel to not just be for guests but for it to be a place the public in this busy section of Paris can incorporate into their busy day, whether it’s grabbing a coffee from the brasserie kiosk or a glass of wine on the way home, or meeting on important matters during the day.

What inspired the interior design of the project? 

First, we wanted to pay homage to the art and fashion of Paris. However, we wanted to add elements reflecting the landscape of the beautiful French countryside, located not too far away.

What was the toughest hurdle your team overcame during the project?

Renaissance Paris La Défense belongs to 3 political districts, which presented a logistical and construction challenge. We had to file permits in each district; some were liberal, and some were more lenient. There were many stakeholders, complicating the process.

What was your highlight of the project?

Light sculpture that spans 3 floors, focal point 50 ft, visible from everywhere, custom designed by V/S to connect all three floors to penetrate all three level. It’s handblown glass representing algae, but more like snowflake or flower.

Why did you enter the SBID Awards?

A design excellence award distinction from SBID is one of the most prestigious a firm can receive in this industry. With each completed project, we want to present our work to a jury of peers, and recognition is always appreciated.

Questions answered by Therese Virserius, Founder and Lead Designer at Virserius Studio.

We hope you feel inspired by this week’s hotel design! Let us know what inspired you #SBIDinspire

If you missed last week’s Project of the Week, featuring a residential design making use of its surrounding nature, click here to see more.

Founder of HomeSmiths and member of the SBID Healthcare Council, Jacqui Smith shares her expertise in the art of care home design as an experienced healthcare designer with a deep understanding of dementia-friendly design.


Relevant and engaging art makes an enormous difference to communal areas in care homes. Whilst colour contrast, good lighting and furniture layout are key to supportive design for older people, well considered art will elevate a scheme from one that works to one that truly enriches the lives of residents.  To me, art has a key role to play in making an environment homely and relatable.  Whether you are designing a care home or a retirement living scheme, carefully chosen art will help to provide the building with its personality and often enable it to stand out from the competition. For new builds I think that this is especially important since art will help to root the building in the local community by establishing links with what was there before or what residents will know the area for, and therefore be familiar with.  I would also say that in some cases, engaging the wider community within the content of the art can be an advantage, not only by reinforcing those community connections but by engaging with a group of people who otherwise might not have necessarily welcomed the upheaval of construction on their door step!

Getting Creative

Whilst budget of course plays a role with art, there is so much material to be found on eBay and in charity shops. Art provides a fantastic opportunity to re-use and recycle. At Henley Manor Care Home we commissioned Soozi Jenner from Stitch Creative to create some tactile art panels for the sensory lounge in the dementia community. Using remnants of Sunbury Design, Panaz and Agua fabrics, kindly donated by Steve Nixon at Edison & Day, Soozi created two stunning pieces of art including features such as removable clouds and boats.

Sensory Art

One of our clients, a recently opened home in Middlesex, asked us in to transform one of their residential areas into a dementia friendly wing.  Pinner Fair has a history dating back to 1336, so we adopted this as a theme for the main lounge.  We again engaged the services of Soozi for this project, asking her to create some colourful bunting using remnants from the upholstery fabrics.  Hanging the bunting on two levels so that both mobile residents and those in wheelchairs could interact with it, the bunting leads you from the corridor into the lounge.  Keen to make this as sensory as possible, we used tactile fabrics and of course the anti-microbial properties of the material will help the bunting to withstand regular touching.

Plenty of famous people hail from Pinner so we were rather spoilt for choice when it came to notable people.  Framed Elton John and Tony Hatch albums feature in one of the corridor areas as well as black and white vintage photographs of Ronnie Barker and The Shadows.

At Great Horkesley Manor in Colchester, we embraced a cricket theme for their newly refurbished front of house communal areas.  Comprising two adjoining rooms we designed one area with a bar/pub feel and the other as a tea room.  Scouring the internet for Essex County Cricket Club memorabilia which we could put to good use, rewarded us with some fantastic old team photographs, a signed cricket bat as well as a vintage cricket sweater, all framed to suit the pub style of the scheme.

Clever Sourcing

Framing vintage catalogues, magazine spreads, books or knitting patterns can provide another sustainable and cost effective way of producing engaging art.  An Extra Care scheme we designed in Reading for Home Group, included some 1970s seed catalogues which we found on eBay.  Sutton Seeds started life in Reading so one of the corridor wings took on this theme with old black and white images of the original headquarters, an historical time line detailing key points in the company’s past, botanical art and spreads from flower and vegetable pages.  It actually took me right back to my childhood where I would sit in my father’s greenhouse, soaking up the warm and the comforting scent of tomato plants, flicking through the Sutton Seeds catalogue, helping him make his selections for the next season.

At Henley Manor, as part of the craft themed lounge and corridor end in one wing of the dementia community, we framed old Patons and Sirdar knitting patterns as well as copies of 1960s and 1970s women’s magazines.  Sifting through my eBay haul of crochet and knitting patterns from Women’s Weekly, I came across one of those perfectly posed “catalogue man” shots, sporting a blue cable knit sweater which my mother knitted for my father many moons ago.  I also remember us popping into the local newsagents each Thursday after school to collect my mother’s reserved copy of said magazine.  Engaging art will prompt memories and start conversations so much more than a generic hotel style watercolour.

Engaging Questions

Working with Hallmark Care Homes, throughout the dementia community we added framed questions in simple and easy to read, black on white text.  These questions encourage engagement with the art by asking questions of the residents. For example, in the Farmhouse Kitchen at Henley Manor, we framed vintage Family Circle magazine covers with classic 1970s dinner party recipes, next to which the question of “Magazines like these were full of recipes, what did you enjoy cooking most?” So the art prompts memories and the question encourages engagement.

New Commissions

Not all projects will have the budget for bespoke and locally themed art, nor the talent within their client team which we had at Henley Manor Care Home, but having an element of it within a design scheme, makes an enormous impact to both residents, care team and people visiting the home.  Hollie Allen, Assistant Designer at Savista Design and Build, is hugely creative so it made complete sense to engage her talents for this project.  This 80 bed care home, with accommodation over three floors offering residential, nursing and dementia care, presented many opportunities for bespoke art.  Hollie’s work included watercolours of iconic Henley shops, vintage tea pots and cake stands for the Riverside Café, to suit the soft green and blush pink of the scheme and soft botanical drawings for the hair salon to echo the fig design of the curtain fabric.  Hollie’s work also extended to the Farmhouse Kitchen in the dementia community, with art featuring bread baskets, old fashioned weighing scales and traditional mixing bowls.

Always Learning

Arguably, in the pursuit of interesting angles and approaches to the art, I do spend a great deal of time researching themes, delving into the history of the local area, but the feedback from care teams, residents and relatives does really make it worthwhile.  Who knew that Edward III, frustrated that all the Romney Marsh wool was being exported to Europe to be woven into cloth, invited the weavers and dyers from Flanders over to Tenterden in Kent, to teach the local men their art, heralding the start of a decade-long prosperous weaving industry?  Or that George Orwell was from Henley-on-Thames?  I certainly did not until I started researching themes for an assisted living scheme and care home.  Never thought that my role as an interior designer would boost my pub quiz knowledge but there you go!

About the Author

Jacqui Smith, founder of HomeSmiths, is an SBID Accredited interior designer who permanently lost vision in one eye in 2012. Jacqui specialises in healthcare design and uses her experiential knowledge of visual impairment in her designs for care home projects.

If you’d like to become SBID Accredited, click here to find out more. 

Episode Four

SpeakEasy with Oli Stephenson

In this episode of the SpeakEasy podcast, our host Grant Pierrus catches up with Oli Stephenson, founder and director of Life Kitchens. Oli shares his experiences of running a kitchen showroom business in the wake of the coronavirus, and how the implications of the pandemic will continue to affect the future of the sector.

Life Kitchens utilise some of the best kitchen craftsmen in the business, with decades of expertise in the design and manufacture of contemporary kitchens. Launching the unique and interactive kitchen showroom in London Waterloo, and only in the third year of business, Oli reveals how he has approached the challenges of running a relatively new business during the pandemic. Discussing how the coronavirus outbreak has not only impacted operations, but also what that means for the future of the industry as a whole.

As retail outlets and showrooms begin to re-open, Oli shares his unique perspective on diversification and adaptation – from exploring new ways to engage with customers to shifting their approach to sales and marketing in the digital realm. 

Oli continues to comment on the importance of rising to the challenge with a positive attitude as he gives advice on how to be flexible and remain relevant to embrace the fundamental lifestyle changes and societal trends that are yet to come as ‘normal’ life develops post Covid-19.

Tune in to the whole conversation to discover more.

Oli Stephenson

Oli Stephenson is the founder of Life kitchens. He is the 5th generation of a family business established in 1909 supplying the UK home and interiors trade. Having spent 6 years in kitchen design and sales, Oli launched Life kitchens, as a fresh approach to kitchen retail in London. Now in its third year, Life works directly with clients as well as with interior designers, architects and developers.

Stay up to date with the latest episodes and click here to find out more.

The COVID-19 health emergency has accelerated the design process exponentially, pushing companies to respond to new, emerging needs with intelligent and functional strategies, whilst adopting innovative ways to reconnect with the world and make a difference. Moreover, the goal and great merit of the designers lies in the ability to grasp the trends and changes of the eras they live in, and convert them into objects and ideas.

The reopening of public places is the driving force behind the latest challenge designers face – to completely rethink common places in order to recreate new spaces, where all the design elements are in harmony with each other and in which the emotional component reflects the same sense of security and “feeling at home” sensation. All of this is done by involving the consumer in a very conscious way. Enough with the banal and unaesthetic plexiglass plates, we must uncover more client-friendly alternatives!

Whilst COVID-19 is bringing increasing attention towards health and wellness related issues which affect all sectors from food, retail and furnishings to travel and beauty, social attitudes towards sustainability and environmental factors is also still gaining momentum. New products and environments will be strongly influenced by the principles of the Circular Economy, based on concepts such as sharing, reusing, repairing and recycling existing materials and products, abandoning the bad habit of disposable use.


In public places consumers want to feel protected and “safe”, for this reason working environments will have to be organised according to some guidelines.

After months of lockdown, it’s important to return to the workplace feeling at ease and be encouraged to act responsibly. A six feet office has fixed workstations, semi-isolated or limited by graphics that visually delimit the space, making the safety distances perceived. The periods of ongoing isolation at home have questioned societies habits, encouraging them to seek more and more balance between private life and work life – and will be increasingly eager to work in an environment that reflects the home environment, in colours, furnishings and perfumes.

Restaurants & Bars

They must have a partially insulated entrance that acts as a filter with respect to the rest of the room where you can carefully sanitise your hands, deposit your clothes and wear disposable shoe covers. In this regard, Samsung has created AirDresser, a sanitising cabinet that eliminates bacteria, mites and viruses through steam jets.

The menu will be contactless and digital: with the Sooneat app, every customer from their smartphone can avoid the queue at the entrance, sit at the reserved table, consult the menu, photos of the dish, order and pay with a simple click.

Speaking of tables and chairs … how will they be organised? Large-sized restaurants will have the opportunity to rearrange the tables according to the safety distances provided, but what about small restaurants? To one of my clients I proposed a shaped table top to be screwed simply to the existing table structure, optimising the space compared to combining two square modules.

It will also be very important to reorganise the outdoor spaces. It will be one of the most important missions of restaurants and bars to guarantee an experience up to the past again.

Hairdressers and Beauticians

The visit to the hairdresser and beautician will be much more psychological than one might expect, it will be a 360° wellness and beauty experience with customisable treatments and mainly green products, all bookable through an app. New restyling for waiting rooms where possible, with modular furnishing solutions that are able to maintain a minimum contact between customers but respecting the safety distance. The image represents a typical Martex furniture solution before and after Covid-19. The furnishings can be adapted according to needs and are covered with 100% antibacterial fabric.

This post is part of a series exploring the ways that the health emergency of Covid-19 has changed the way we conceive public and private spaces. Click here to read the previous post about private spaces. 

About the Author

Elisabetta de Strobel is an internationally acclaimed Interior Designer and Art Director, originally from Rome. Her studio offers expert consultation services for interior design, product design, branding and strategic market analysis.

If you’d like to become SBID Accredited, click here to find out more. 

Project of the Week

This week’s instalment of the #SBIDinspire interior design series features a lakeside residence designed for an active couple approaching retirement. The client sought to create a home that celebrated the environmentally protected nature surrounding them, where they could enjoy aging in place while granting space for another generation to visit and entertain around lake life. Nature is brought indoors through the extensive glass and is emphasised by the mixed material palette including reclaimed wood, granite, and earth-toned walls. The home’s incorporation of sustainable and accessible design elements ensures that Arcadia House will be the heart of the family for generations to come.

SBID Awards Category: Residential Design Over £1 Million Sponsored by THG Paris

Practice: Visnick & Caulfield

Project: Arcadia House

Location: Massachusetts, United States

What was the client’s brief? 

The client wanted a home that would act as a gathering place for family and close friends. They felt the home should celebrate its natural surroundings and experience nature indoors. Most importantly, the clients, an active couple, are nearing retirement and wanted their space to accommodate aging in place.

What inspired the interior design of the project? 

The space is inspired by its immediate surroundings, by being immersed in nature, and by the site’s relationship to the water.

What was the toughest hurdle your team overcame during the project?

Working within the constraints of the environment proved challenging. The design and construction of the home contended with multiple setbacks surrounding the water, undeveloped land, and sloping topography throughout its uniquely shaped lot. The team overcame the environmental protections in place by using them as interest-driving constraints to derive the form and placement of the house.

What was your highlight of the project?

Seeing the client fully immersed in their home is immensely rewarding. The highlight of the project is seeing it become a setting that we as designers envisioned – one which brings together family and friends.

Why did you enter the SBID Awards?

We were inspired by the variety and quality of work at the SBID Awards, and hope to take part in the field with such international talent.

Questions answered by Cora Visnick, Architect at Visnick & Caulfield.

We hope you feel inspired by this week’s residential design! Let us know what inspired you #SBIDinspire

If you missed last week’s Project of the Week, featuring a 1960’s inspired hotel, click here to see more.

Meet Karim Rashid

designer and president of Karim Rashid Inc.

Visionary and prolific, Karim is one of the most unique voices in design today. With more than 4000 designs in production, over 300 awards to his name, and client work in over 40 countries, Karim’s ability to transcend typology continues to make him a force among designers of his generation. His award-winning designs include democratic objects such as the ubiquitous Garbo waste can and Oh! Chair for Umbra, interiors for Morimoto restaurant, Philadelphia and Semiramis hotel, Athens, and exhibitions for Corian and Pepsi. Karim has collaborated with clients to create democratic design for Method and Dirt Devil, furniture for Artemide and Magis, brand identity for Citibank and Hyundai, high-tech products for LaCie and Samsung, and luxury goods for Veuve Clicquot and Swarovski, to name a few. Karim’s work is featured in 20 permanent collections and he exhibits art in galleries worldwide. Karim is a perennial winner of the Red Dot award, Chicago Athenaeum Good Design award, Interior Design Best of Year Award, and IDSA Industrial Design Excellence Award. Karim is a frequent guest lecturer at universities and conferences, globally disseminating the importance of design in everyday life.

Karim Rashid | NIENKAMPER, Heartbeat

What excites you the most about the use of artificial intelligence in product design?

I welcome the crossing of artificial and human intelligence. I love evolution, I’m looking forward to the day when we’re 50% synthetic and artificial, there’s something obsessive, and passionate about us becoming technological beings. I believe that technology is nature since we created it and we are nature and it is a masterplan that we will become seamlessly robotic. Right now, we have robotic technologies that can customize and differentiate production objects (creating one-off using robotic production methods), granting us personalization for anyone and everyone with great accessibility and low cost. Our high-tech objects are outside the body but in a short time they will be inside too. But seriously I will get an implant soon in my hand so that I can open up all my locks and doors in my life without keys.

Karim Rashid | RELAX DESIGN, Pebble Collection

Karim Rashid | RELAX DESIGN, Duo Collection

Karim Rashid | RELAX DESIGN, Meta-Collection

How does democratized design enhance people’s wellness? 

Ever since I was a child, I wondered why there couldn’t be a more democratic design that everyone could enjoy. Manufacturers can make good business from design. I have had several agendas for 20 years. Firstly is to create democratic objects and to democratize design. Secondly is to disseminate design culture to a larger audience. Thirdly is to make design more human. My aesthetic is very human, and I think it translates well to anything from furniture to a building. Design does change our everyday lives, our commodity, and our behaviours.

Karim Rashid | TONELLI, Tropikal Mirror

How do you stay on top of the latest technologies, material inventions and innovative processes to know what is possible and how far your imagination can fly when you create innovative products?

My design practice is based on my accumulative experiences, years of projects, all the books I have read, all my travels, all the diverse factories I have visited, etc. Working with so many clients gives me insight into so many technologies, manufacturing capabilities, and materials. In this way I can cross pollinate ideas, materials, behaviours, aesthetics, and language from one typology to the other.

Karim Rashid | Boconcept, Chelsea Collection

What would be your dream project if you had complete freedom with budget, location, and time?

I would create hotels in every city I travel. I would like to design a chain of organic restaurants and coffee shops, low-income housing, art galleries, a museum and more humanitarian projects that can help save the earth. And I would build myself an organic home with no straight lines. I love Pierre Cardin’s Bubble House (Palais Bulles). I was inspired by his fashion and product design from very early on.  The space is so soft, curved, organic and conceptual. Our surroundings should engage technology, visuals, textures, lots of colour, as well as meet all the needs that are intrinsic to living a simpler less cluttered but more sensual envelopment.

Karim is one of the prestigious experts invited to join the extraordinary jury for the SBID Product Design Awards, alongside other renowned professionals across industrial and interior design, brand development, architecture, educational research and forward-thinking enterprise.

Click here to view the full judging panel.

The SBID Product Design Awards 2020 is open for entries. Entries close Friday 14 August!

To find out more about entering, visit


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