Design factors such as colour, lighting, acoustics, air quality, furnishings and architectural design can have an impact on the health, performance and engagement to those occupying the space. “Designers are masters of subliminal communication” says Michaela Jones, Director of Chroma Flooring . . . .
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It has recently been difficult to escape the current high profile trend for fashion brands to enter the homewares market. From Dior to Zara, the high street and the luxury boulevards are showcasing textiles, accessories and furniture alongside jackets, shoes and skirts. The integration of the home divisions of these globally recognised marques is tremendously variable in terms of the level of connection to the DNA of the brand. Much like fashion, the addition of a badge or logo to a simple shape or silhouette may be the only distinguishing feature of a brands influence. The best known names in the industry, those with a heritage of over twenty years or so have established a precedent of ready made “trend” or “taste” simply by the addition of the brand to an interior. Fashion is a fast paced, transient and reactive sector whereas furniture has traditionally been firmly rooted in heritage, time and to a certain extent, craft. The speed of change in the fashion marketplace is greater than ever before and the homewares sector has had to raise its’ game to keep up.
Changes in technology, the supply chain and distribution have allowed the interiors market to become more in tune with the cycles of the fashion world and this is where the newest additions to the list are beginning to take advantage. The major barometer of the interiors market comes every April in Milan at the Salone del Mobile. There may be bigger shows in terms of sq ft in the USA but in terms of fashion and trends in the industry, Milan is still the overarching benchmark. The number of high end luxury fashion brands working either directly with or in association with manufacturers is steadily growing. Certain furniture manufacturers have also even taken their leads from the fashion industry and re-branded using the same methodologies as clothing brands
Kings of Chelsea has the great pleasure of working alongside Roberto Cavalli Home Interiors as the sole UK dealership. Launched as recently as 2013 the furniture and furnishings division is inextricably linked to the fashion side of the business. At the head office in Florence Paul Surridge, the incumbent creative director, works alongside a team of specialists who provide technical detail of how to apply print, shape and form to furniture, tableware, linens, tiles and wallpapers. The Roberto Cavalli Home division offers a fully immersive lifestyle experience, directly linked back to the DNA of the brand. Unlike other fashion furniture brands the creative process is fully rooted in the design studios of the Maison itself.
Of course this creates huge pressure on the process, as keeping up with the fashion seasons cycle means being ahead of or at least equal to the collection launches. The solution is to create capsule and classic collections so that the ranges are available to both those who value contemporary trends and those who require something more timeless. Within the ranges are the possibilities to specify finishes, leathers and fabrics until the piece is unique to the individual. When a brand is new to the market this invariably means this will be the very first time each order has even been produced. Just like the very finest fashion, these orders are in effect “couture” furniture. With an increasingly demanding, knowledgeable market, this is an incredibly valuable feature. Bespoke and fully personalised goods and experiences can now be found within most luxury categories (watches, automobiles, holidays, hotels) and it was only a matter of time before interiors stepped up and took their place at the table. Recent additions to the roll call have included Bottega Veneta, Hermes and Gucci so it is clearly a trend that is unlikely to end soon.
Fashion brands carry enormous value to a global HNW (high net worth) community and add both an increase in selling and rental values to real estate. Cavalli is currently working with developers in both Dubai and Saudi Arabia on fully branded projects, and the trend seems to show no sign of slowing down with Versace, Fendi, Bulgari and Bentley amongst a number of brands also involved in current schemes. Predominantly, from Middle Eastern and Asian interests, the arrival of these type of developments in the UK is a growing market and likely to be more and more noticeable in the next few years as the purchasing power of these nations investing in real estate in the UK shows little signs of diminishing. Fashion brands are seemingly craving the way for prosperous future in the realm of interior design as the two worlds are continuing to merge at an unprecedented rate.
Written by Theo Mance, Managing Director at Kings of Chelsea.
As the clock slowly ticks by and your once steaming coffee begins to get cold you can hardly disguise your anticipation, because this morning you are having your new kitchen fitted. Then slowly in the distance you see a lorry turn the corner. Inside this delivery truck is months of thought, planning and anticipation; a quiet voice in the back of your head asks; “I hope it looks okay” but you find reassurance in knowing that the designer you worked with was a professional, inspiring you and offering quiet reassuring confidence in equal measure. So how is it that in the past so many kitchen and bathroom designers have been under appreciated and overlooked by clients, other design professionals and even the very industry in which they work? But is this historical undervaluation of good design now turning the corner?
In many ways it is unbelievable that the designer of any product could be simply seen as a consequence of the actual product their employer is trying to sell. An underappreciated by-product of the bigger picture; kitchen and bathroom sales! In many ways the KBB industry has systematically turned things on their head, bypassing the source of inspiration and focusing solely on selling as quickly and as cheaply as possible, and because of this the kitchen and bathroom industry is riddled with holes. It is ironic that many companies choose to fill these holes with salespeople, in the guise of designers and wearing a name badge.
In a capitalist economy it is only right that manufacturers and retailers search for more efficient ways of delivering cost effective style solutions to the public, allowing the conveyer belt of product to keep trundling forwards.
But at what cost?
You cannot underestimate the power of product anticipation as each client, from whichever price bracket will undergo a personal journey leading up to having a new kitchen or bathroom installed. Clients may have made personal and economic sacrifices in order to afford their new installation which brings with it an overt expression of who they are and what they aspire to be. It is unfortunate therefore that in some instances, both in the multiples and the privately owned retailer, that the basic human connection between client and designer is overlooked, and because of this, things start to go wrong.
Kitchen and bathroom design is about communication, empathy and experience and it is combining these tools with an understanding of function, design and architecture that one can truly be confident of delivering a good, client specific design.
It is important for the industry to understand that design is the source of everything, every kitchen, every worktop, every sink and that without the connection between consumer and designer the industry would have nothing to sell, because there would be no-one to sell to!
The kitchen and bathroom designer works on many levels. Some designers have the knowledge and experience to combine multiple, constantly changing components to create functionally astute and aesthetically pleasing products which will not break the bank. Creating a complex product like a kitchen on a budget is a skill that needs to be appreciated more. Other designers will be presented with the unique opportunity to be flamboyant, to reshape our expectations and deliver fantastic functional art installations that will have magazine editors clambering for a pen in order to get the unique, first hand insight into the vision of the designer. In a situation like this there is a desire to tap into the individual’s inspiration and suddenly the lowly kitchen or bathroom designer is allowed to step from the shadows onto the bigger and greatly more appreciated design stage.
And so cometh a change! The pace of change has been slow and could be likened to water dripping on a stone, but just like the water, kitchen and bathroom designers are beginning to make a hole just big enough to let in some light.
Some large multiple retailers are now advertising the fact that they employ good designers exploiting the personal connection and the reassurances that a good designer can offer. However it could be argued that some of the bigger names in the industry did not value the designer at all, instead they promoted a campaign of destructive discounting which damaged the industry and ultimately consigned their own names to the history books. But just as in any blockbuster movie depicting apocalyptic scenes of self destruction the KBB industry has been offered an opportunity for re-birth, a new avenue to explore, a faint light at the end of the tunnel. A small band of mavericks have broken away from the traditional retail model choosing to offer kitchen design on a “design only” basis. These “design only” companies are offering a new way of buying a kitchen and presenting a new opportunity to manufacturers to source clients from places they had never dreamt of. Design is flexible and not geographically restricted therefore the possibilities offered from these “design only” companies must be explored by manufacturers, retailers and even other design disciplines.
Remember, design is the source of every product, and the kitchen and bathroom designer is fast becoming the gate keeper between client and manufacturer. Independent designers can offer flexibility and clarity to the buying process, acting as industry translators and as an easy source of new clientele for manufacturers. Independent designers also offer the industry a comprehensive range of design solutions on a pay and go basis allowing struggling businesses to stay open and more celebrated enterprises to flourish.
Independent designers should not be feared, they should be celebrated! Kitchen and bathroom design is changing!
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