Furniture Design & Procurement

Furniture Design & Procurement

A Studio in Conversation Part I

It is incredibly difficult to get members of a busy design studio into a single room to sit around a table for a designated period of time. The work comes first.

Ros and Louise are Associate Directors with specialisms in FF&E design and procurement respectively. Marco and Jason are interior architects.

There is no inhibition. They finish each other’s questions, and they occasionally give the exact same response at precisely the same time. Thankfully, they also, occasionally have differing ideas.

Graham Erickson: What is your creative process, and where does it begin and end?

Jason Stewart: The creative process begins at the first dialogue with any potential client. As to where it ends I don’t think it does really.

Marco Ginex: It is like any energy, in that it does not really begin nor does it end. It is always active. I think most designers are like this in that they constantly observe and see unexpected things which inspire them.

Ros Keet: It works in a very instinctive way. You may see something and mentally archive it and not use it for years. Then, at an appropriate point it is remembered and referenced. In this sense, design is a long term, a lifetime, pursuit.

GE: Why do you think a client decides to commission David Collins Studio?

JS: There are projects of ours around the world. This can definitely give a client confidence. This is the tangible proof of the quality of our work.

RK: I think, also, a client appreciates the depth and level of understanding we reach very early on in the process. Before a single line has been drawn we have a thorough emotional and intellectual understanding of the client and their objective. This is definitely critical to the decision to work with us.

GE: As designers you enjoy the privilege that comes with the heritage of David Collins Studio. This, coupled with the prestige of the projects that are synonymous with David and The Studio, means that you have the opportunity to work with some of the finest materials and inspirational craftspeople. This is a quick way of vaporizing budgets. How does the wider team, the commercial management, integrate into the dialogue?

RK: In designing and procuring you are always balancing free creativity with the pragmatic. It is dual thinking. We are very fortunate to work in the sectors that we do. Of course, though, clients, either private individuals or corporate organizations, expect a commercial responsibility. A hallmark of our work is to add value to our clients projects whilst delivering consistently beautiful projects within a budget.

LL: It is not a superficial skill, but it is knowing how to design a space where the budget has been carefully allocated to cover, without compromise, the aesthetic drama and form, but also the necessary and low visibility.

GE: Value is a much maligned and misinterpreted word. You might not expect the notion of value to be of much importance to luxury. How do you define value and how present and critical is it in every aspect of The Studio?

RK: The design industry is an increasingly competitive world. You’re right in saying that value is a distorted word. It definitely does not mean buying something, regardless of quality, for the lowest cost. Value is not to be confused with cheap!

LL: It is not the David Collins Studio ethos. I know what false economy is, and I never approach anything in my work, or my life really, which bears that trait.

Value is gauged, I think, on longevity, quality, performance and cost. Something which contains all of this is rarely, if ever, going to be inexpensive. Similarly, there are very expensive things which are of poor quality. Again, we have an instinct to avoid these.

RK: I think there is possibly a human desire to possess an object which is unique. It is a privilege. I suppose in a world of global commerce and culture where products are produced in such large volume to satisfy consumers, then the possession of something that nobody else has is very special, more rarefied. People will always want that thing which nobody else has.

GE: Design, when accomplished well, is a very complex pursuit. To simply look beautiful is only a tiny consideration. How do you approach the design of an entirely bespoke piece of furniture?

JS: As we said, we define our clients’ objectives very early on. We know what they need and also what their ideas of beauty, of style are, so we put together a concept – how the thing will be used, where it will be used, how often, etc, but also what will delight and inspire a client. It goes on from there.

It sounds quite simple when you say it like that but it is really nuanced and exhaustive. But, it makes for design being fascinating. Any designer can design for their own satisfaction or to impress other designers. That is never the point for us. We get to know a client very well and design to delight them, and to respond to their brief.

GE: Collaboration, especially in the fashion world, is increasingly a game of commercial name dropping. What do you think a manufacturer gets from collaborating with David Collins Studio?

RK: What we do, as designers, is bring a very emotional instinct to the table. I think manufacturers are inspired when they realize what happens when you combine an artistic vision to meticulous craft and precise fabrication. Most of our favourite manufacturers have a respect for design. We do what we do and they do what they are great at. The thing that results is something that could not have happened without collaboration.

GE: How important is it to integrate with whoever manufactures the piece?

LL: My work, before David Collins, was in fashion. A period of this was spent in India where I was working in close proximity with the manufacture of products for a well-known British boutique brand. What I learned has definitely carried forward into how we procure, and produce, or craft, an object.

RK: If it is a single bespoke piece or a production piece there are critical factors. Again, you must trust the manufacturer. This only becomes possible if you have open, respectful relationships with them. Honesty, transparency and dialogue that allows you to challenge and each other. Great manufacturers and suppliers are vital collaborators and should always be considered so.

So much depends on working with very intelligent, perceptive suppliers who understand us as people as well as knowing the quality and service with which we service our clients. So, when you find such people, and companies, you work in a way which fosters a mutual respect and loyalty.

LL: As designers we are always learning. A collaboration is a great, sometimes tough, way of learning. We learn that, despite our wishes, some things are not possible. So, we learn how to make compromise a good thing. The more a designer knows the practical restrictions and possibilities, the better the designer they become, and we carry that knowledge through to our next project.

GE: What is your favourite piece of furniture?

Ros: To ask a designer to answer that is impossible. I have several that I have loved as far back as I can remember. To name a single piece would be incorrect as it shifts depending on my mood. It would also feel disrespectful to the pieces I relegate by naming a favourite! Too many exquisite pieces to choose a single one!

Graham Erickson is a freelance editor and writer living in London.

Kensington Leverne is a fashion and interiors photographer living in London.

Read the second part of this interview here.