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Project of the Week

This week’s instalment of the #SBIDinspire interior design series features a complete townhouse conversion. Prestige Design, in collaboration with Martini Interiors, were involved in the design and construction of different rooms of the villa, among which the living area and the kitchen stand out. The latter, in white lacquered and with steel details, was arranged in a horseshoe shape and equipped with a large central island, an imposing hood and marble worktops.

The living area, on the other hand, is characterized by marble and lacquered wood furniture in pastel tones and is completed by sofas, armchairs and home accessories that give the room a unique style and a metropolitan vibe, but always in a luxury key.

Company: Prestige Design & Martini Interiors 

Project: Stylish Chicago Townhouse

Location: London, United Kingdom

What was the client’s brief? 

The customer wanted a classy classical design, thanks to which he could share his status with friends and colleagues. The furnishings had to be very welcoming and warm, for a home to live in.

What inspired the interior design of the project? 

The homes length was particularly narrow. This architectural characteristic inspired the entire design: custom-made furnishings to take advantage of every inch of space and symmetries.

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

Undoubtedly the shape of the house, which on the one hand made this project fascinating, challenging and extremely rewarding.

What was your team’s highlight of the project?

The coordination of the different phases, from the first design to the realization of the furnishings, up to the final installation. During each phase we checked the quality, keeping attention to detail in each step.

Questions answered by Serge Belferman, CEO and President of Prestige Designs.

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

If you missed last week’s Project of the Week, featuring a Victorian residential refurbishment, click here to see more.

Project of the Week

This week’s instalment of the #SBIDinspire interior design series features a beautiful stucco-fronted Victorian residence situated in St John’s Wood, a tranquil village in the heart of London that sweeps along the side of Regent’s Park.

Company: Roselind Wilson Design

Project: Carlton Hill

Location: London, United Kingdom

The owners had reached a stage in their lives where their children had left home, and it had been over a decade since they previously renovated and refurbished the property. They felt it was time for a change as their personal style and lifestyle had changed dramatically and they wanted their home to equally reflect this.

Spanning 5 floors and circa 5,000 sq. ft, Roselind Wilson Design was appointed to refurbish, including the interior architecture, interior design, and project management of this five-bedroom, five-bathroom home. The space is arranged with the entertaining areas on the lower ground and ground floors and the bedrooms on the upper floors. A sweeping staircase allows for an elegant and graceful division between the entertainment and sleeping areas, which are all set against a backdrop of exquisitely balanced proportions, harmonious symmetry and classical detailing.

What was the client’s brief? 

The brief comprised the complete refurbishment of the existing property; revising the current layout and making changes that would befit the client’s new lifestyle; which included both now working from home. The interior also needed to consider an entertaining space to accommodate up to 16 people on various occasions and had a requirement for a formal living and informal living space as well as a suitable dining area that could be an open plan as well as accommodate more intimate dining. The kitchen and all bathrooms were to be redesigned together with new services including integrated lighting, audiovisual and security services.

What inspired the interior design of the project? 

The interior design and interior architecture focus on creating harmony and balance within the space. Delicate furnishings and uncluttered décor allow for timeless elegance and graceful grandeur, while the colour palette showcases neutral blues, soft greys, dusky pinks and flat whites. This perfectly marries the interiors of handsome beauty, modern-day luxury and contemporary styling. The carefully considered interior design scheme is balanced – the furniture, fabrics and colour palette all work in harmony with the architectural backdrop within the property. The tiniest of details have been used to inject colour, texture or character to create an opulent interior – from incorporating striking cornicing to adorning the walls with elegant and sophisticated light fixtures.

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

Without doubt, it was trying to get the enormous 3 metre by 1.5 metre porcelain tiles we specified for the master bathroom into the first floor of the property! Working alongside our contractor on various options, we came to the solution of lifting them in through the window of the adjoining dressing room with the help of a cherry picker. A successful solution and fantastic result as the tiles look absolutely stunning on the wall.

What was your team’s highlight of the project?

It’s incredibly rewarding to experience first-hand a client’s reaction to their completed project – this is always a highlight for us. In this instance, the design journey and close collaboration between us and our client allowed them to realise their dream home – one that is elegant and sophisticated as well as warm and inviting.

Questions answered by Roselind Wilson, Owner & Creative Director of Roselind Wilson Design.

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

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

Project of the Week

This week’s instalment of the #SBIDinspire interior design series features a custom furniture design of a villa with a strong Italian vocation. Martini Interiors added essential Italian-inspired details for the luxurious kitchen, bathrooms and custom furniture.

Company: Martini Interiors

Project: Italian Style Villa

Location: Washington, DC

What was the client’s brief? 

In this case the client of the interior design was the builder of the villa. The intent was clear from the beginning: to seek details of Italianisms to be applied to the entire villa. For this reason the famous Lecce stone has been imported for the cladding and the entrance has a reproduction of the vault of the Pantheon in Rome. Nothing can be more exciting than being able to express your being Italian in this context.

What inspired the interior design of the project? 

Italy, in form and substance. We wanted to give this residence all that Italy could offer through a meticulous attention to detail and a targeted insertion of classic Italian decorations.

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

If on the one hand we felt honoured to represent Italy in the capital of the united states in this villa, on the other hand we deeply felt its weight.

What was your team’s highlight of the project?

In our opinion, the bathroom and kitchen are elegant and sober, as well as showing unequivocally the idea of Italianity of the entire villa.

Questions answered by Roberto Guiotto, sales manager of Martini Interiors.

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

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

Project of the Week

This week’s instalment of the #SBIDinspire interior design series features a residential kitchen design by Ledbury Studio. The brief was to design a kitchen for a large new-build property on the edge of the Peak District. The clients had been in their previous home for more than 30 years and retained strong ideas as to how they would require the design to work for them at their new home.

Company: Ledbury Studio

Project: Cheshire kitchen

Location: Cheshire, United Kingdom

What was the client’s brief? 

The fundamental requirement was to create a relaxing and comfortable space that would instantly be the heart of their home. Our clients wanted a kitchen that could just as readily accommodate a relaxed evening for husband and wife, as play host to the regular charity events that form part of their extremely busy social lives. So, the brief was about incorporating multiple ‘cherished items’ into the design, whilst maintaining impeccable functionality and achieving a unique aesthetic.

What inspired the interior design of the project? 

The inspiration was actually quite complex. Firstly, the finish on the cupboard doors was inspired by our client’s extensive collection of antique pewter-ware. Working with 1.5mm-thick pewter, we created an aged finish which directly empathised with the pewter pieces. We also had to incorporate display areas into the design so these treasured items could be placed on show within the kitchen.

Our second major point of inspiration was to create a kitchen with a proper furniture feel. Of course, we needed all the functionality of the best-fitted kitchen, but we also needed to integrate several pieces of antique furniture – including a sizeable Georgian mahogany break-fronted display cupboard. I decided that I could best balance my design by focussing on the freestanding credentials of my furniture.

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

There were two main ones – the island and the breakfast store cupboard. The island was 3.6m long, and so required joins. We had chosen a Bianco Macaubas quartzite and it took two attempts to create the best joint. On the second, we were able to achieve an extremely precise match on the unique and complex veining of the stone. We did this by photographing the slabs digitally and then generating the best match via our software program before actually executing the cut. This was made at a slight diagonal to achieve minimum open joint – it’s less than 1mm finished.

Then on the breakfast store cupboard, the large all-pewter doors opened into pockets. Each of these doors weighs over 80kg, and the fact that we achieved smoothly opening doors in this situation is a testimony to the calibre of our design and our craftsmen. The doors look amazing and work beautifully.

What was your team’s highlight of the project?

This was the first project sold by Ledbury Studio, so it was a massive positive for us to pitch our designs and our product against the most established high-end kitchen brands in the UK, and to win our client’s trust to carry out their project. This high stayed with us throughout the project, right to the point when the client moved in.

Questions answered by Charlie Smallbone, founder of Ledbury Studio.

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 modern kitchen remodel, click here to see 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.

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.

SBID Accredited Partner, Ledbury Studio opened the doors of its bespoke kitchen furniture showroom in 2019, but founder Charlie Smallbone is no newcomer to the industry. The legendary designer has been pushing the boundaries of kitchen design for over 40 years.

What is your kitchen design philosophy?

‘A kitchen is for life’. I said that to the actor George Layton in 1981, when I installed one of my first kitchen designs at his London home and I still believe it to this day. At the time, though, I think George was more concerned with the cost of the kitchen than with my musings!

That said, Ledbury Studio is much more about the future than the past – every day I look forward and try to produce something unique. I still want to deliver contemporary designs using beautiful, mostly well-known materials, but I am looking to treat them in a radical way to produce something that can’t be found anywhere else.

Parquet flooring defines the kitchen area in the open-plan living room.
The glass unit with distinctive dropped-height worktop makes a display of beautiful glassware.

What materials did you choose to work with for your Ledbury Studio designs?

Traditionally, the use of metal in the kitchen has been largely reserved for appliances and handles, with polished stainless steel and brass the prime material choices. But having worked with both solid and liquid metal progressively for a number of years now, the idea of broadening the application of metal in the kitchen and taking it beyond its traditional uses excited me. It was also was one of my primary inspirations in founding Ledbury Studio.

From the outset I realised that this application of metals needs to be carefully executed. For this reason, I decided to take a disciplined approach with our first Ledbury Studio kitchen concept, the Metallics Collection – to use ‘metal with integrity’. So, rather than using liquid metal finishes, I opted to explore the potential of solid metals: initially copper, pewter, zinc, bronze and stainless steel. At the same time, we also considered the practicality of the finish that we were applying; aware of the potentially debilitating impact of extreme heat and water penetration. We then moved on to assess suitability of finishes in different areas of the kitchen.

Design is always about more than simply making something look nice. But I have found that incorporating these metals, and researching the different finish possibilities that each has, really does bring a unique quality to a kitchen.

Can you talk us through the Ledbury Studio design process?

The process starts with a design consultation during which we will review any architectural plans. If clients don’t have them, we will arrange a site visit so that we can measure their proposed space and chat about how best to maximise it. At this point we are able to start putting a conceptual layout together including hand sketches and some initial 3D spatial concept modelling and material selection, based on what we have already talked about. At the same time, we will also provide an initial estimate of cost (furniture, appliances, delivery and installation).

Once we have an agreement on the basic design, budget and quote, we move forward with floor plans, 2D elevations and a formal estimate. At this point we like to create material selection mood boards and also, as required, 3D renders, as this helps us really get to grips with how the design will look and work in the space.

Finally, we drill down to specific fascia finishes, and worktop and splashback materials. By now we want our client to have a real feel for the kitchen and how individual areas of the design are going to work.

How closely do you work with you clients to create the final design?

The best kitchens evolve from a design process that is a rooted in the ideas and interests of our clients, which then combines with the design expertise of the team. This process informs initial ideas on which materials are going to work best for the kitchen design.

A good example of this was on our Cheshire Kitchen. The design was influenced and underpinned by the client’s collection of pewter-ware, which had been collected over many years. Inspired by the material, we decided to incorporate quite a number of pewter doors on the kitchen cabinetry. We ‘hand-textured’ sheets of pewter, and applied a patina using acids to age it, finally sealing the surface with lacquer.

Copper-fronted units house the ovens and integrated fridge-freezer, with cupboards above.

Where are your kitchens made and who do you work with?

Our kitchens are built in our Wiltshire workshop by a small team, who have worked with us for many years, from our Smallbone of Devizes and Mark Wilkinson days.

We also collaborate with a handful of talented artists and artisans: Emma Culshaw Bell, an artist and specialist painter who creates bespoke colours and finishes for our painted furniture, and designs and fabricates the Verre Eglomise incorporated into our kitchens; Quentin Reynolds, the craftsman behind our pewter door fronts; and George Winks who carves wood beautifully. We have worked carefully, on a project-by-project basis, to incorporate these elements into our furniture.

What’s the best part of your job?

It’s the enjoyment that comes from working with talented people, bringing designs to life and creating furniture that inevitably is more complex as a result of that teamwork. For me, an open and collaborative process is always infinitely more satisfying than working solo. Of course, the process needs structure. But it’s important to try to maintain enough freedom to be flexible. That way, if something unexpected and good arises, we can work to incorporate it in the final design. This is really what I love about my job – to watch the evolution of an idea, and then to see the finished result in someone’s home.

Want to become SBID Accredited? Click here for more information.

Leading global kitchen and bathroom supplier GROHE has reported unprecedented demand for hygienic touchless taps in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. At a time when the pandemic has pushed the everyday necessity of hand washing into the spotlight, it would seem finding solutions to optimise hygiene in both the workplace and at home is spurring the demand.

Leading figures within the design community are also considering how hygiene will come to the fore in the interior spaces of the future. Coen van Oostrom, Founder and CEO of EDGE, a company that specialises in developing a new generation of buildings that focus on the health of people and the planet, predicts that new health measures will play a key role in a new generation of workplaces. “Together with sustainability, health will define the way we build and design homes, offices and places where people meet. Touchless products and speech-driven technology will play a key role in making healthy and safe offices. Consumers will want to minimise contact to surfaces as much as possible”.

Having specified the healthcare, hospitality and commercial sector for many years, where hygiene-optimised products are already far more commonplace, GROHE is braced for the vast changes ready to hit the mass marketplace. “With our wide range of touchless and hands-free products, we at GROHE have the right response to the increased need of hygiene in sensitive areas such as kitchens and bathrooms”, says Jonas Brennwald, CEO LIXIL Water Technology EMENA, Deputy CEO Grohe AG. “Currently, we can say that we are already experiencing a higher demand for our hygiene enhancing products – from both our private and business customers.”

In the UK market, the transition to a more hygiene-focused workplace and business environment has already been in motion since the beginning of the year. Elina Enqvist-Twomey, Category Manager at GROHE UK says: “Feedback from the commercial market in the last three months tells us that hygiene is top of the agenda for specification, with a large proportion of projects specifying more hygiene-focused products such as infra-red taps , infra-red flush plates, and shower toilets. In recent weeks, we have seen an increase in customers purchasing infra-red taps as a result. Likewise, in the kitchen, several of our tap designs which use advanced technologies to minimise physical interaction with the handle of the tap itself such as our SmartControl kitchen mixer and Zedra Touch range have also seen an increased interest. When the industry returns to a sense of normality, we expect the increasing scrutiny of hygiene in the workplace and public buildings to continue. This pandemic has encouraged all of us in some way to rethink our hygiene practises and consider new lengths to protecting ourselves and those around us.”

Why an infra-red touchless tap is more hygienic

In recent years, the property market has seen a shift to include more alternative housing settings such as grandparents living with their children and families, or groups of young professionals co-habiting together. This is when infra-red technology first began to be demanded in the residential sector and its benefits have continued to strengthen demand ever since. Infra-red taps require minimal, if any, human contact with the tap itself unlike standard taps where germs from unclean hands could linger on tap handles, unless continual thorough cleaning was carried out after each use. The GROHE Bau Cosmo E, a strong robust design made using composite polymer, uses motion sensors to detect movement, which then activates the water flow. A mixing valve on the side of the spout can be used to adjust the temperature if required and a temperature limiter can also be installed if desired. Once the user removes their hands from the basin, the sensors will detect this and stop the water flow.

About the Author

SBID Accredited Industry Partner, GROHE is a leading global brand for complete bathroom solutions and kitchen fittings, with every product based on the brand values of quality, technology, design and sustainability.

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

Drinking water no longer has to sacrifice design to fill a purpose. That’s what a variety of top interior designers are discovering after installing the perfect drinking water solutions into their own homes.

Zip Drinking Water Solutions for SBID Interior Design Blog (1)

The kitchen tap industry has seen a boom in growth over the past five years, fuelling competition between brands as they innovate and redesign their best-selling products. Interior designers can now find taps to match seamlessly with all the latest kitchen trends in a range of styles, finishes and functionalities – including the ultimate all-in-one tap.

A clear favourite for a variety of top interior designers, the Zip HydroTap is capable of delivering up to five water options – filtered boiling, chilled and sparkling plus unfiltered hot and cold water – from a single tap and under-counter command centre. With seven tap designs and seven on-trend finishes to choose from, Zip’s premium drinking water systems lead the way in both style and functionality to offer the perfect solution for all environments.

Zip Drinking Water Solutions for SBID Interior Design Blog (2)
Zip Drinking Water Solutions for SBID Interior Design Blog (3)
Zip Drinking Water Solutions for SBID Interior Design Blog (5)

Jason and Jenny Rose MacLean, Studio MacLean

Known for bringing modern interior creativity to hotels and commercial spaces all over the world, Jason and Jenny Rose MacLean of Studio MacLean were thrilled when they found the Zip HydroTap after struggling to find an all-in-one tap that would be striking enough for their own kitchen refurbishment.

“We’ve come across all-in-one taps through work before, but the design has never really been eye-catching enough,” Jason said. “That’s until we came across Zip’s All-in-One Arc. We couldn’t believe we’d found a tap that could give us filtered boiling, chilled and sparkling water as well as unfiltered hot and cold. It meant we could keep our kitchen uncluttered with no need for a kettle or any bottled water – which we are very keen to avoid anyway from an environmental perspective.”

Rebecca Wakefield, Studio Fortnum

Owner of interior design company Studio Fortnum, Rebecca Wakefield has been gradually renovating her own home to create a light, airy and calming living space after purchasing it in a dilapidated state in 2016. After spotting that the number one luxury, top of the wish list item in her clients homes is a boiling water tap, Rebecca started to consider how much she’d benefit from one, as long as it could fit in well with her green and brass colour scheme.

“Zip had been on my radar for a while, so I was thrilled to discover they offer taps in brushed gold,” Rebecca said. “But I know from experience that style can often outweigh performance and there’s nothing worse than something that looks great but just doesn’t work. Luckily Zip is a trusted brand so we chose the Zip HydroTap Celsius Arc in brushed gold.”

Much more than just a boiling water tap, Rebecca loves the additional benefit of having unfiltered hot and cold water alongside filtered boiling: “Because it is my regular kitchen tap as well as my boiling water tap, the kitchen has retained a clean, minimal feel. My counter tops aren’t cluttered and we have no use for a slow-to-boil kettle. It really has transformed daily life for us.”

Discover more about how a Zip HydroTap could change the way you design on their website: specify.zipwater.co.uk

About the Author

SBID Accredited Industry Partner, Zip Water is a provider of award-winning technology that transforms water instantly with filtered, chilled, boiling and sparkling drinking water solutions for home and business

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

Meet Stella Gittins

co-founder and group director, Accouter Group of Companies

Stella Gittins is the co-founder of Accouter Group of Companies (AGC), London’s fastest-growing portfolio of award-winning international interior design companies. Creating the benchmark in luxury living, Accouter Group of Companies is home to Accouter Design, A. LONDON and BoxNine7 delivering world-class interior architectural and furnishing services to the private clients and the global property market.

With 15 years of experience mentoring and directing diverse teams within the field, Stella has spent the last seven building AGC into one of the best places to work in the property industry, as voted on multiple occasions.

Taking a lead creative role for the group, Stella is responsible for all aspects of the brand and design. She has published four bespoke books that discuss every corner of luxury life and feature the inspirations behind Accouter Design’s schemes and collaborations with iconic brands such as Rolls Royce and William & Son. The fifth publication is due to be launched in 2020.

Chelsea Waterfront

What are some of your secrets for designing a show home that will entice buyers?

There aren’t necessarily secrets, but there’s definitely a method. Designing schemes for private clients in houses they’ll live in themselves is a very different to creating show homes where the ultimate goal is to maximize the value of properties and make them extremely desirable for quick sales or lets. Our job is to ensure buyers or tenants immediately fall in love as soon as they enter.

We are storytellers providing a look into their futures. The easiest way to do that is to develop a design that projects a new lifestyle, spaces that let them imagine how they would live there and utilise each area. We analyse the best characteristics of the location and the kind of lifestyle buyers would expect given these features and the property value. For example, someone buying a property in Chelsea would have different expectations than someone living in trendy Shoreditch: where do they work, where do they shop, what do they read, what do they wear, what do they eat, where do they eat, and what is their social life like? The trick is to imagine who that character is. We brainstorm quite a bit to figure out who the person is that’s going to be walking in the door, and then develop a floor plan accordingly.

Chelsea Waterfront
Chelsea Waterfront

It’s a myth that you need less furniture in small spaces. The best solution is to create zones that each have their own purpose. People walking into a large home might think, “Oh, we don’t need furniture because the house is so big and amazing.” But actually, people get scared thinking about what they’re going to do in every single room. We have to provide ideas for what they’ll be doing so they can imagine how their lives would play out in the property.

We like to bring local elements into the rooms to create suggestions that potential owners or renters might get to know the barista in the independent coffee shop or support the neighbourhood bakery.

It’s also important to make a show home memorable. We don’t like to follow interior trends, not only because they might not be right for the area or the specific property, but also because they might not allow the show home to stand out. When someone spends only a little time in a place and then walks out, there must be something that causes them to remember it. For example, we incorporated many amazing antiques into an historic Chelsea Waterfront property by Lots Road in London, plus there was tailor-made furniture we designed ourselves. In one corner was an organically shaped loveseat that would inspire someone to think it was an amazing space. Or it could be an incredible headboard fabric that catches the eye because it’s just a little bit different.

Hexagon

How is design evolving in response to lifestyle changes?

Without a doubt the biggest influence is sustainability. In fact, we publish a book every year and this time it’s entirely centred around this subject. Everyone is becoming more environmentally conscious, including in their interiors. It’s not just a trend, it’s something for life that people are really becoming quite aware of in their homes’ designs. We use a lot of antiques where we can, and people are getting more into upcycling. Our companies are working towards ISO 14001 accreditation, so we’re looking how furniture is packaged in the warehouse, how can we offset our carbon footprint, our paper usage in the office, all those types of things.

Our book also explores how the luxury market is evolving with Bentley, Lotus and Tesla producing electric cars, not just lower-end manufacturers. Sustainability is also affecting where people go on holiday, whether the 1 Hotel in Brooklyn or the world’s first “energy positive” hotel being built in Norway.

Hexagon Living Room
Hexagon

Interiors and fashion tend to change side by side, with people investing a bit more in higher quality pieces that last over time. Rather than following trends, our designs for private clients are more timeless with items people will keep for generations. Across all our brands, we try to incorporate old forms of craft as well as things made in the UK, for example art by Nat Bowen who layers resin on recycled acrylic. At our Chelsea Waterfront project, she hand painted gold leaf directly onto the walls. It’s an amazing skill to have because she only gets one chance to do it. But again, it’s not mass manufacturing. It’s just her. We also work with Jennifer Manners who designs amazing rugs made from recycled plastic. Our goal is to think about our projects’ environmental impact and how we can make them sustainable, because it’s important to everybody. And if a developer sees this as a selling point, we can also make it part of the marketing brief for a show home. I think we’re going to see this more and more, and it’s something we push them towards.

Other factors include the growth in healthier lifestyles and the need for convenience. I recently designed a five-bedroom property with timber floors so that a room could be changed into a gym in the future. Its ensuite bathroom was designed like a spa, and its landscape contained a Zen garden.

Our market is very international, and our clients may only stay in their London homes from one week to a couple months per year. So we need to think about full turnkey packages for them, including what bed they’ll sleep in, their sheets, their towels. We make sure they have all the elements needed to live in their homes.

Gasholders

How do you feel about young Instagram design stars who have large followings but don’t know how to write a spec?

Ultimately, everyone has to start somewhere, and I have no concerns about people promoting their passions especially if it helps the design industry. I follow some people myself – but there are different tiers to design.

A lot of these Instagram stars are more into styling, which is one of the hardest things to be trained in because it’s subjective. You don’t necessarily need a qualification to be a stylist because some people just have a natural eye. Some of the best designers aren’t always the best stylists.

It is possible to be an Instagram design star who is good at dressing an interior. However, if they want to evolve that passion into a profession, it’s important they have the correct skillset and training behind them. Being an interior designer and interior architect is very technical. I wouldn’t mobilise a team to work with our clients that didn’t have the correct skills or support.

Gasholders Kitchen
Gasholders

When working with developers, you don’t have carte blanche to design whatever you want. What are some examples of when you didn’t get your way, and how did you reach a compromise?

Designers can be very passionate about their designs, and developers can be very passionate about what they want. That’s why the briefing stage is so important. The way we overcome it is to always show clients what they want, because they want to know we can deliver what they asked us to do. But if we are passionate about another direction, we need to share our suggestions and try to inspire them in some way. Then the debate starts. It’s about saying, yes, we can do what you want, but actually, this is what we recommend. We constantly try to encourage clients out of their comfort zones. For example, in a recent show home, the developer was extremely keen to have artwork that reflected the view, while as designers we wanted something that would contrast. The compromise was an abstract piece that hinted at the form of the buildings around the area. Some of the larger developers have a bigger track record and their own “look” because they have a clear idea of their target market. So this is when we go back to basics, have a bit of a debate, and meet somewhere in the middle.

Stella 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 entry deadline has been extended! 

To find out more about entering, visit www.sbidproductdesignawards.com

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