Decorative design

by Darren
Decorative Design

The bottom line for successful business today is to reinvent, reimagine and redesign. See what three prominent creative minds have to say.

“Disruption” is one of the latest buzzwords when it comes to design, business and innovation. Designers today are pushing boundaries with technology and are designing bespoke pieces and exciting spaces to answer specific requirements, inspire certain reactions or facilitate particular behaviours.

Trend forecaster/business consultant Dave Nemeth, points out that the bottom line for successful designers & businesses today is to reinvent, reimagine and redesign. “I think there are more opportunities now for those who are forward-thinking than there ever was before,” he predicts.

Commenting on the question “What makes good design?”, Aidan Hart, creative director at Inhouse Brand Architects, says that over the years he realised that good design is about more than just the designer and the design. “There are sometimes hundreds of individuals involved in production and if everything comes together properly, you end up with great collaborative, creative designs,” he reflects.

The maker movement
This type of creativity opens up vast opportunities for locally. “People make things for themselves here instead of buying mass-produced products from catalogues,” Hart says.

Refined hand-craft
Jason Wiggin, president of the South African Institute of Interior Design Professions, notes that this hand-craft movement hit an interesting crest recently and is becoming more refined. “Over the last three to four years, the raw and exposed look, especially in timber, was very popular, but now it is becoming sleeker,” he points out.

Supporting the local industry
In support of the hand-craft trend, Wiggin indicates that supporting local workmanship and suppliers is vital, especially in the interior design world where detail is very fine, because it is eye level. As designers see more value in supporting local produce, they become more in tune with local suppliers.

“We know that we import most things from China, but I think we are realising that we have to support our industry locally in order for it to grow. As competition increases, prices come down and make locally sourced products economically sustainable too,” he adds.

Refined industrial
Similar to hand-crafted décor becoming more sophisticated, the industrial look is still on trend, but in a more refined way. “This is not purely based on aesthetics, but people want to touch and feel their environment,” says Nemeth. “Going for an industrial look is also a sustainable way of revamping a building in the sense that you don’t have to strip everything out and replace everything.”

Another growing feature in design, highlighted by Nemeth, is the importance of branding, which sees typography increasingly being used in architecture and decorative elements.

Project focus: Tavern interiors
Designing the interiors for 18 taverns in the Mamelodi area on behalf of Brandhouse, Inhouse Brand Architects collaborated with various local artists and craftsmen in the development of the many bespoke décor elements. Being a brand company, it was vital for the client to establish their brands in the design.

Working with industrial designer, Jared Odell, they developed a chair consisting of a Windhoek branded crate with a bottle opener on the back of the chair, while furniture designer-maker, James Mudge, helped to design the common tables for the bars.

The grill that separates the seller from the clients was also thoughtfully designed with bottle openers at the bottom and Windhoek branding.

A massive light, spanning 1,6m in diameter, was hung over the central, gathering table in the tavern. Laser-cut silhouettes of cheerful figures formed part of the light fitting.

In addition, a safety light with a back-up solar system was developed, inspired by the concept of a mining light with a steel cage around it. Windhoek branding was put on the enclosing cage. 

Social spaces
In both commercial and residential design, interior designers are putting more emphasis on the social aspect of spaces. “Gearing towards strengthening networking and relationships is a huge trend in interiors,” states Wiggin.

“In an open office environment, spaces where one can relax or have a more informal discussion take priority, with peripheral offices or workstations planned around those. In residential spaces, the kitchen may be the heart of the home, but in creating an open-plan area linked to the dining room, more interaction is allowed,” Wiggin explains.

These different spaces are distinguished by specific finishes to define zones and give a certain feel.

Bulkheads are often designed to help identify a zone or, in retail layouts, lead clients to a display. They are also dropped over dining areas to create a sense of privacy. However, Wiggin says interior designers are also starting to use lighting more often to create zones.

Pendent lighting is still very popular and will remain so, according to Wiggin, but is becoming a lot more bespoke with designers making use of craftsmen to design custom lights to achieve individuality and make a room stand out from the rest.

Moreover, a lot more consideration goes into the type and amount of lighting to ensure environmental sustainability.

“We design spaces to make the most of natural daylight and only install artificial lighting where necessary. Less is more in this instance, but while we are using less lighting, it is designed to have a greater spatial impact,” Wiggin explains.

Project focus: Creative office design
When advertising agency, Ninety9cents, wanted to improve their work space, Inhouse Brand Architects’ aim was to inspire creativity, encourage collaboration and facilitate communication.

Following interviews with some 80 staff members and mapping their days, it was found that more than half of the time, they weren’t working from their desks.

“We developed their office as a microcosm of a city within the office, with little ‘plazas’ making it fun to be there,” says Hart. Various lounges and small meeting spaces, as well as a café, were designed and the feedback from the client indicated that collaboration and communication within the company have improved tenfold.

Advancement in technology adds another dimension to design. Hart points out that 3D printing is taking the world by storm and that it is a phenomenal tool in design. “Not only that, it is becoming something that is used in the production of buildings. In China they are currently printing houses with 3D printers,” he states.

Looking at the role of technology in the production of decorative wallpaper, for example, printing is becoming simpler, finer and more economical, making it easier to personalise designs and interchange it.

Concept focus: Creative office design
As part of a proposed redevelopment of a playground and community garden in Gugulethu, Cape Town, Inhouse Brand Architects again collaborated with local artists to design unique items and create a safe environment for residents.

One example is mosaic benches that would provide shaded seating areas for parents watching their children play, but which can also be used as market stalls for people wanting to sell their trades. According to Hart, the idea is to enable financial gain from visiting tourists, who often just drive through townships with no benefit to the community.

Also noticing that there are no trees, the architects and artists combined technology and artistry and designed solar panel trees made from woven, recycled material with LED light panels below. During the day these technology trees will provide shade and charge the panels so that the area can be lit up at night, creating a safer environment. The idea is to plant real trees underneath the solar panel trees and once they have grown bigger, to remove and reuse the technology elsewhere.

Design elements are changing and are no longer just following fashion trends. Architecture, fashion and art are all interlinked and drawing inspiration from each other, according to Nemeth. They are also drawing inspiration from other sources such as the economy, the political landscape and overall consumer attitudes dictate direction.

Just so, the role of the architect is evolving and Nemeth believes that within the next five years, architects and designers will increasingly be employed in corporate positions, seemingly unrelated to design to fulfil roles such as creative direction, engagement mangers and experience management. “With consumer attitudes being one of the greatest factors driving trends, designers need to understand what consumers want now, as well as what they will want in two, three or four years’ time,” he states. This is the backbone of “design thinking” where the focus is on an empathy for the customer and not the product or service.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to the IID, Inhouse Brand Architects and Trend-Forward for the information given to write this article.

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