Friday, 16 July 2010

Pimlico Road Summer Party

Many invites came through from several of our suppliers on the Pimlico Road for their annual summer party. With the offer of getting given champagne and canapés whilst getting to wander around all the beautiful shops it was the perfect way to spend my evening after work.

With a few friends who work in the area and the Pimlico Road party being open to everyone, I wasn’t alone.

The atmosphere was electric – a band on the green, restaurants with stalls offering canapés and champagne, Daylesford Organic ( putting on cooking demonstrations and giving away little pots of jams. And the weather couldn’t have been better – it was perfect for a typical British summer party!!! Guests even included designer Roland Mouret, Nicky Haslam, actress and former Bond girl Maryam d’Arbo and author John Rendall!

Daylesford Organic

Maryam d’Arbo

We meandered around, I popped in to say hello to some suppliers I use, we cottoned on to where the best canapés were (FYI Jamb - - they had even rolled out the red carpet!!).

Jamb Showroom

We had a truly wonderful evening. I wish every time I went to Pimlico Road to see my suppliers they handed me a canapé and a glass of champagne! Saying that, maybe I should have turned down that last glass of champagne….

Fleas and Wine

One of the perks of the job is the amount of events you get invited to. It is a great chance to go to showrooms to wander around as often we are too busy to get down there and send our assistant/work experience people. I always try and make an effort to attend all of them but certain invites are more tempting than others.

The Lillie Road “Fleas and Wine” event tickled my fancy – mostly because it was on my cycle route home from work and secondly, I have to admit I had never been in to any of the shops. It happened to coincide with one of my friend’s birthdays so it seemed like the perfect event to ply her with free champagne and nibbles!

The little shops along there look tiny but when you enter, you realise there is a whole other floor below and many have little gardens out the back. Once in particular had a “Secret Garden” out the back with little pond and they had even set up a tiki bar!!!

Although I didn’t see anything that was suitable for any of my projects, it was great to have a look around and see what kind of things they have. The one thing I did see that I really wanted was a vintage easel covered in paint – it appealed to the artist inside me and would love it sitting in the corner of my living room!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Don’t call me Fluff

There is nothing an Interior Designer hates more than being called “fluffy” – people imagine we spend our time fluffing cushions. This is NOT the case for most of us. Most of my time is spent liaising with the architects (hence my title of Interior Architect), designing furniture, CAD plans but – towards to the end of a project – we do have to get involved in the “fluffy” bits.

And strangely, these are the bits I have nightmares over the most. The worst of them all is lampshades. I hate them with a passion.

Fabric? Card? Parchment?

Contrasting trim or plain trim? Fabric or tape?

Flex length? Flex colour? Twisted or not? Silk or plastic?

Finial fitting? Single bulb or double bulb?

The list goes on of all the options to choose from! And to make matters worse there is no right and wrong for the size a shade should be for a lamp! It’s purely personal as to what size to go for.

And it is so difficult to choose the base and top ring diameter when you haven’t got an office full of various sides to try out. I got to the end of my tether and ended up asking a favour of one of our suppliers. I had them cut MDF rings at different diameters so that I can hold them above the lamp and work out what I need. It is still a 2 man job as you need one person holding the rings and another standing back and shouting orders but so far, so good. I have been pleased with my “fluffy” lampshade orders (NB: please note I say “fluffy” but this does not relate to the shade material…not a good look are fluffy lampshades!).

As a helpful hint to anyone doing lampshades, this is the best way I find of taking down all the dimensions and relevant information! Hope you find it useful!

Beautiful Bidding

I have a really interesting residential project I am working on in London. Unlike my other projects, we do not have a budget. If the client likes it, we get it.

It has been so educational as the client wants to buy lots of 20 and 21st century furniture items from auctions and galleries around the world. I have spent hours dealing with Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Phillips de Pury, and Artcurial. It has meant some late nights bidding on items in the USA but it really is a thrill – wish I could be there doing the bidding but over the phone will have to do!

It has also been a mini History of Art lesson, as I have had to find out the history of the pieces, the designer and details such as how many were made, certificates of authentication, where it has come from etc.

I studied History of Art and Architecture but when you are researching key pieces of furniture, you really do find out exciting facts, like Pierre Jeanneret was Le Corbusiers cousin, and that Le Corbusiers (real name Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris) pseudonym was his maternal grandfathers name.

I have done the trip to Paris to look around Villa La Roche, Villa Savoye etc and it is amazing that even now, they are the epitome of modern design – even though it was completed in 1929! The Jeanneret family really was groundbreakers of what is known as the International style!

So far, I have been a successful bidder and not lost many lots - fingers crossed! I would hate to think of the house insurance the client will have to take out for all these items – one sofa alone was £25,000!!!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

B&B Italia

B&B Italia showroom in South Kensington held a party the other week in which they had 5 photgraphers taking the portrait of guests on key furniture pieces by B&B - I just love this photo of my father and I (and it was taken just in time for Fathers Day!!)

I love the furniture by B&B and specify it often in projects I work on.

I have just been helping my parents move into their new riverside apartment in south west London - a development my Dad (architect) designed.

I took them along to B&B and they really did use it as a "one stop shop" and managed to get bed, sofas, dining table and chairs from there!

The bed is in black felt but with the cushions done in black and white herringbone- it looks really chic and suits my parents who are partial (due to my dad) to black and white - a typical architect!!

The sofas are the fatfat sofas in a dark grey velvet and look beautiful and have been teamed with turquoise cushions to inject a bit of colour to match the glass in the kitchen

They are loving their new pad and the views are lovely looking out at the river. it suits them ideally as they travel to our house in Italy a lot and this way they can lock it up and not worry, use the pool when they are back and they are close enough to me for me to raid the fridge- what more could a daughter want than happy parents and a full fridge???

Designer doubt

Life as a designer was never going to be easy – everyone in the world has their own views of what s “good design” and unlike other profession where there is a clear right and wrong, that isn’t the case in design! People either like it or they don’t.

The trick is to not take things to heart- that obviously is easier said than done. Your have to follow your instinct, think of the client, think of your design ethos and go for it. Don’t get disheartened if someone tells you they don’t like it, turn it into a positive by asking how they think it could be improved – you may not agree with them but as I said, everyone has different views!

Most design offices are open plan for a reason – communication.

Learn from the people around you – if you have a question on an area of design that isn’t your speciality, speak to someone in your team, as the likelihood is someone will have the answer. Do not feel this is a sign of weakness – it’s the opposite!

Even as a junior designer, I often get asked my opinions on a design, on advise of suppliers to contact, technical questions. Tit for tat – you help where you can, they will help where they can.

This doesn’t mean I am one of those people who never get disheartened – I am the worst at taking criticism and feeling like I have let someone – or myself – down. But I am slowly learning to take things on the chin, learn from them. There are designers in my office who have been here for nearly 10 years and they STILL make mistakes, misjudge what are boss is wanting. It’s just part of the cycle of design.

But its also an incentive for me to venture eventually into my own practice so its me making the design decisions and me who tells others how I would like things to look.

Custom Items and the choice of manufacturers

I think I am quite savvy in judging people. And this is important in choosing the suppliers and manufacturers you use. The project I am currently working on, the chairs alone, I had 6 people in the running to get the order. It all boiled down to cost, which I trusted to meet the deadline and quality assurance. The companies that didn’t get the gig mostly took it gracefully (we must remember they invest time and money in producing prototypes etc) but one company we very abusive even though I had made sure I had told them all along they were not the only ones bidding for it. They really have shot themselves in the foot though as it has now put me off using them for anything in the future.

The final crunch boiled down to two people – one an upholsterer my company use for every project. The other a company I knew but had not used who have a showroom down on Lots Road, Chelsea. The head designer on the project left the decision in my hands and, instead of taking the easy choice, I decided to take a gamble and choose the company I had not used previously. The reasons I chose them was:

- I trusted the gentleman I was dealing with

- whatever changes to the design I threw at them, they still stuck to the original budget

- they offered to “Project Manage” all the components on behalf of myself (ordering fabric, leather, sabots etc) which meant I didn’t have to worry about making sure everything would arrive on time etc which meant more time to work on other items

- if I had chosen the other company (the one we always use) because it was such a large order, it would have meant I would have been taking all their time up and we would be limited with our other projects how much work we could send their way. Also, I have found out the other company was only “overlooking” the manufacture. I wanted a manufacturer who was hands on- who was there the whole step of the way watching and keeping me updated.

The other week I got to go to the factory and see all my chairs (and a few other items I also sent their way). Factory visits are important as otherwise you never get to see the people who have been working on your items, the process of manufacture and it’s the time you get to “snag” any details that need a little more work.

My chairs are now packed and ready to be sent to site. One last check today (you check a small percentage of items at random to do a quality control check) and then they will be ready to be shipped- exciting times!!!

So, as a summary- the risk I took WAS worth taking - I got a better deal, to work with a great manufacturer and the head designer has a new respect for me for going against the easy option and the one they suggested. I strongly suggest getting in touch with the manufacturer, Rebecca Scott, as they are very obliging to take on custom projects and are a pleasure to deal with.