Design Date

Architect, designer and creative lead for prestigious brands, Vincent van Duysen’s work encompasses everything from product design to contemporary homes, with a style that is pared back yet warm and human. At Focus/19, he is introducing a new outdoor collection for Sutherland Furniture, Otti, his second for the US company. Here, he explains where he finds sanctuary, and why his work “is about soul”.

How does Otti build on your previous collection for Sutherland Furniture?
There is no direct link. For both projects, the starting point was more based on the materials, which are completely different. With Otti we investigated creating some beautiful classical details on the aluminium structure while the ropes add a graphic, more modern language. This results in a collection based on the contrast of classical and modern attributes.

The table tops in the collection are made from lava stone – what draws you to this material?
We’ve been using it in some projects for quite some time now: it’s a good, resistant material that fits very well to outdoor conditions. We like the warmth and depth it gives, and the glazing creates a slight craquelé which gives it a natural kind of patina.

What do you obsess over in your work?
I always start by focusing on the essence, and then eliminate all the excess. To me, it means undoing the clutter and getting to the core, achieving an authenticity, simplicity, and purity. Through this, I try to achieve a sense of wellbeing which is directly related to the inhabitants’ experience within the space. It’s about soul.

What are you working on at the moment?
Predominately I work on a lot of residential projects but my portfolio became much broader than that. I am currently working on a few private residences in the USA, Belgium and France. I am taking on the design of a boat and I have also large commercial projects in Germany, Italy, Thailand and the USA.

Where is home for you, and what’s your style at home?
My home in Antwerp is where I am most centred. I worked with a very Belgian palette that combines roughly woven textures but also very neutral smooth surfaces such as plaster, wide poplar floorboards, and Belgian Bluestone. I wanted to reference the rich architectural history of the house but also to create a serene space in which modern art and furniture pieces could sit comfortably and feel timeless.

I also have a new-build holiday house in Portugal: the architecture is embedded in the dune landscape, and has a particular interaction with the surrounding nature.

Where do you feel at your most creative?
I consider both my residences, in Antwerp and Portugal, a sanctuary. They are my ultimate escape, and where I am most centred. It’s all about calming down and creating silence, and being in a space that doesn’t overstimulate the senses, which boosts my creativity.

Inspiration also comes from travel, conversations, exhibitions, people, everyday life – but my absolute work essentials are my senses. I’m drawn to places that stimulate my senses and make me reflect on different ways of thinking and living.

Where do you head to first when you have some free time in London?
The Serpentine Gallery because I haven’t see the new edition [of the summer pavilion] yet…

Winch Design is synonymous with superyacht design, and as this specialist and elite design sector has evolved over the decades, the company has evolved with it. Projects on dry land now make up an equal percentage of the firm’s work, and collaborations with the likes of Turnstyle Designs and Summit Furniture are also raising the company’s profile beyond the yachting fraternity. Founder and creative director Andrew Winch is speaking about the power of collaboration as part of a panel of other esteemed experts as part of Conversations in Design at Focus/19.

Conversations in Design:
A Shared Ethos: Collaborative Design, Sunday 15 September, 3pm-4pm
Click to book tickets

How did you get started?
My love of yachts stemmed from an early age, growing up by the coast, and it inspired my studies at St Martin’s School of Art, London and Kingston College of Art, laying the foundations of my career. My studies were followed by a year sailing as a crew member across the Atlantic and in the Caribbean on a private 52-foot sailing yacht. On my return I joined Jon Bannenberg Ltd, as an apprentice designer, having previously been mentored by him as a student. After six years, I started Winch Design in 1986 with my wife, Jane.

You’re speaking about collaborations as part of Focus/19’s Conversations in Design series. How have they enriched your own design process?
Collaborations are an exciting new era for Winch Design. We are always seeking to develop new business ventures to explore new innovations and challenge ideas. When working with other designers it is crucial we both share a vision to produce high quality and unique designs, defined by creativity and style. Of course, it is always inspiring to work with a diversified team, who all possess different skills and experiences.

What are some of the landmark changes you’ve witnessed in the superyacht design industry?
There has been a significant increase in the number of younger clients with families wishing to purchase bespoke superyachts, therefore the design needs to be adaptable, child friendly, able to accommodate teaching staff and have additional relaxation areas. It means that we are now creating full time-residences: our yachts are multifunctional and can cater to any request or whim. They are not just a holiday boat, as they have been in the decades before.

Of course, with the climate crisis ever-present in our minds, we are constantly thinking of ways we can make super yachting sustainable, eco-friendly superyachts will have to be designed and this is something we are already working on with the emerging technology of hydrogen fuel cells.

What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on several aviation, architecture and yacht projects, each are unique and boundary pushing, along with some exciting concepts. Due to our clients’ requests for privacy we won’t reveal too much, but watch this space! There are three of our latest deliveries at Monaco this year, Excellence, Aurora Borealis and Tis, as well as Here Comes The Sun which was delivered in 2016. We are also delivering three spectacular architecture projects – in Cape Town, The Seychelles and Switzerland.

Your clients have sky-high expectations – how do you connect with their needs and make sure they are met?
We put ourselves into the equation in every design process, approaching design from an ergonomic perspective, but always thinking about our clients’ lifestyle. So we ask numerous questions: which side of the bed do they sleep on? Because then that would dictate which side of the room the bathroom would be on. What is their favourite hotel? They might like some of the same design details. All of the questions we ask, ensure the highest level of detail is met.

Do you have a typical day?
In a word, no! Each day is completely different, which keeps it exciting. With a multi-disciplinary studio there is lots going on and each project is completely unique. I am lucky enough to be involved in the creative side of all of the projects, working with a large team who inspire me every day.

Where do you feel at your most creative?
I love to be by the water, and this is where I get most of my inspiration. This is why our offices are based by the River Thames in London – the calm peaceful surroundings are ideal for us as designers to think creatively on a daily basis.

Georgina Cave founded Cave Interiors in 2002. Based in north London, the practice works locally as well as internationally. Georgina’s decorating style is eclectic and full of personality, but always with an eye on creating practical spaces tailored to an individuals’ needs. This is exactly the subject she’ll be discussing at a Conversations in Design session, along with a panel of other experts: how do designers produce work that is not only creative and exciting, but speaks of the client rather than the designer?

Conversations in Design:
Distinctive Interiors: How to Decorate with a Difference, 3pm, Thursday 20th September 

You’re speaking about ‘How to Decorate with a Difference’ – how do you bring out the individuality of the homeowner in each space you design? 
To me, creativity is designing function and form to match the architecture of the building and, crucially, the human realities. When taking the initial brief, the aim is to draw out as much information as possible as to how our client lives and their likes and dislikes, the latter being equally as important as the former. The aim is always to make the creative process fun and relaxing for them, which creates a better end result. Having a relaxed client reveals the real “them” to develop the whole scheme around.

Focus/18’s theme is the power and positivity of colour – do you find that clients are more willing to be bolder with colour now? Or is it you doing all the encouraging?
It is mainly me encouraging and gently pushing where necessary to create more impactful, interesting and warmer schemes. Colours needn’t be bright to be bold, though: it’s the way they are used that will provide the impact. Depending on the architecture, carrying the same colour through from the walls on to all the woodwork, or combining a strong wall colour with a complementary softer tone, will create a visual impact. The use of colour in the furnishings and soft furnishings will also all help add colour.

Where do you head to first at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour? Is there a showroom or product you’ve had your eye on, saving it up for the right project?
Ooh that’s hard, as I have lot of old favourites and most definitely a few new. Abbott & Boyd, Lelievre, Phillip Jeffries and Chase Erwin are among many of my ‘go to’ showrooms, with George Spencer, Lewis & Wood, Porta Romana, Stark Carpet and Artisans of Devizes being among many of the new. I’ve specified a wallpaper from George Spencer on a current project that I’d been hoping to use for some time – all will be revealed when it’s completed later this year.

What are you working on at the moment? 
An Art Deco villa in the South of France, an Arts & Crafts house in Highgate, two further large house projects in Highgate, a Grade II listed house and another large Victorian house (both in Primrose Hill), a renovation project in West Hampstead as well as two smaller projects for returning clients.

What’s your style at home? Is it a testbed for new ideas?
I wouldn’t say that it’s where I test out new ideas but rather that it’s where I like to achieve my own strong and personal look. I love mixing things up from various eras and I’ve deliberately offset contrasting materials against each other, for example industrial with classic, textural plains with patterns, neutrals with colour, antique with modern and so on. Starting with the expected and then adding an element of surprise is definitely something I like to achieve at home as well as on all of our projects.

In all my design work, including my own home, longevity is key. To quote Coco Chanel: “Fashion fades, only style remains the same.” That’s what I aim to achieve!


An interior designer with a specialism in historic buildings, Edward Bulmer has worked across houses, castles and palaces to ensure that yesterday’s buildings are fit for purpose today. He also runs Edward Bulmer Natural Paints (available from Tissus d’Helene), whose products offer not just a palette that is sympathetic to period properties, but a formula that is healthy and chemical free. At Focus/18, he is speaking as part of a panel discussion about how our architectural heritage can be adapted for 21st-century living.

Conversations in Design:
Past, Present, Future: Reimagination and Renewal, 11.30am, Tuesday 18 September 

Are you still surprised by the colours used by the homeowners/decorators of the past?
If I am surprised by anything, it is that there are various ‘rules’ that have been observed for so long. The one I encounter most often is the use of the traditional colour wheel to ensure that contrasting colours are used in a balanced way. It is so simple and it is why sometimes strong juxtapositions – red/green, yellow/blue – seem to work effortlessly. Robert Adam was pretty obsessed with using colour in this way and one is never surprised to be using a wide palette in the restoration of his schemes.

Should colour be historically accurate in a historic building? Or can it bridge the gap between old and new?
I believe that materials should be historically accurate in the sense of how they perform and when visible, how they appear. Paints have historically been made with a limited palette of pigments derived from minerals, and cloth has been dyed with a mixture of plant and animal dyes. Adopt these raw materials and you will have a colour spectrum that will be more harmonious; in my opinion this is the best way to bridge ‘gaps’ between old and new work.

As a maker of natural paint, are you heartened by the increase in interest in ‘the healthy home’?
Of course! People affected by paints with petro-chemical ingredients are not a tiny minority anymore – multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is now the fastest growing health concern for the NHS after obesity. Using natural paint not only keeps toxic emissions out of the air, it also helps to regulate moisture, one of the primary causes of damp. If you can control damp, then the building as well as its occupants will benefit.

What do you obsess over in your work?
Doing the right job – the right job, being the best job I can! Sometimes something can look right but it is badly made – it can only look right to me if it has been well and honestly made.

What’s been your most challenging project?
Setting up a paint business. It is a big and mature market and so the largest companies and the industry’s trade body have enormous influence. We never had the option of a fat marketing budget so we have built up sales by showing people examples of real homes transformed in look and feel by our paints. We have been able to capture attention through editorial and social media, so our message is getting out there despite our tiny size!

Where do you feel at your most creative?
When I create I am quarrying a vast visual memory bank fed by visiting so many historic buildings and by a sizeable reference library in my design studio. So it is true to say that home is where I am most creative, as my studio is in a converted farm building next to my house. This house was built around 1700 and is redolent with history – so if I need to clear my head I am blessed to be able to take a walk around its restored Georgian fish ponds.

Martin Hulbert Design, founded in 2010, has created some of the most memorable hotels of recent years, from The Grove Hotel to Coworth Park, alongside an enviable portfolio of homes for private clients. With the influences and ideas that inform residential and hospitality design becoming more fluid, Martin (above left) and the studio’s co-founder Jay Grierson (above right) are perfectly placed to talk about how designers shift gear between the two, and how to create spaces that have soul. Martin explains more about this topical subject below.

Conversations in Design:
Looking Both Ways: Designing Beautiful Homes and Hotels that Have Soul, 3pm, Tuesday 6 March 

Are hotels striving to create a more soulful ‘home from home’ in terms of their aesthetics?
Some hotels are trying to be soulful, but more are trying to be individual. I think customers or clients in the future will be looking for more of an escape, with something that is comforting and not too visually demanding. They are looking for an effortless experience.

Are there challenges in creating hotels that have a more individual, expressive aesthetic?
The challenge is to be constantly re-inspired when we are creating a hotel and to deliver interiors that are not over-designed and that will easily become outdated.

What about design influences going the other way? Are private clients often inspired by their travels when it comes to briefing you on their homes?
Hotel bathrooms definitely influence our residential clients. They want a completely finished look. Interestingly, more recently we have been working to make hotel bathrooms feel like part of the room rather than a separate clinical entity. Our clients are definitely inspired by their travels – as are we. A recent brief from one particular residential client was Japanese cherry blossom, just opening.

How do you think this cross-fertilisation of ideas will evolve?
We have always approached our projects individually so we have always believed in cross-fertilisation. We think everyday growing demands and stress levels are behind this need for escapism that some hotels are beginning to evolve. In the future we will want to bring this effortlessness into our homes, too.

What are you working on at the moment?
Private homes in the UK and Moscow and holiday homes in Corfu, Tuscany and the Caribbean. We are also working on a number of unique hotels.

Where do you feel at your most creative?
We work in a lovely studio with a great team. We tend to inspire each other and we have a lot of fun in the process.

How do you like to recharge, away from work?
Reading, gardening, travelling, eating and drinking.

Do you have a design mantra?
Our interiors are about creating atmosphere as well as aesthetics. They have to be beautiful; even more so when you live in them. They have to be a perfect fit for the people they are designed for.

Led by creative director Sophie Ashby, Studio Ashby has a highly individual approach to residential and commercial projects. Her work on show apartments for luxury developments such as South Bank Tower and The Colyer in Covent Garden demonstrate how developers are now seeking a much more personalised kind of design, mixing art, vintage pieces and the unexpected – something that stands out from the crowd. Her broad experience and lively style will be fruitful fodder for her Conversations in Design talk, on the subject of the rise of individualism and creative expression.

Conversations in Design:
Rooms of Our Own, 11.30am, Tuesday 6 March

You’re speaking on a panel about ‘individualism’ – has the idea of individual creative expression moved higher up the pecking order in interior design?
I think individualism in interior design is always high up the list. Every interior is a reflection of a client’s own quirks and passions and nobody wants their home, bar, hotel or restaurant to be like another’s. We play with the juxtaposition of opposing elements: the raw with the refined, natural with manmade, neutrals with colours, antique with contemporary, the minimal with the rich, the expected and the surprising. We believe there is a poetry in the tension of these combinations, the careful layering of which brings character, atmosphere and feeling to interiors. We are driven by beauty, discovery and the potential for telling stories with interior design.

Where would you head to first on a visit to Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour?
Pierre Frey, Dedar and Lewis & Wood are some of my favourites.

Is there a product or showroom at the Design Centre you’ve had your eye on for a while, saving it up for the right project?
I’ve got my eye on some particularly beautiful fabrics at Colony I would like to use.

What are the ingredients of the perfect interior?
It is my belief that an art collection is the soul of a home. Much of the magic of an interior comes from the authentic and the surprising; and playing with art is the simplest way to evoke those feelings. The power of a photograph, a painting or a sculpture is awesome; awesome in the old-fashioned sense of the word, awesome because it has the ability to reach out and talk to you. As far as I have worked out, it is absolutely the magic ingredient in creating a strong sense of home.

Is craftsmanship an important part of your work?
Studio Ashby’s relationship with artisans and craftsmen plays an integral role in developing each project. I am learning that creative excitement is born from new conversations with the inspired people I meet: the makers, craftsmen, artists and artisans who pass through our studio and show us their wares, skills, products and passions.

Where do you feel at your most creative?
When I am relaxed, on holiday, strolling around an exhibition or on a country walk, with time to think and dream, plot and plan.

What are you currently working on?
Some very exciting private residential projects in London and further afield.

Do you collect anything?
Art. At the moment I am focusing on contemporary African art but I am also scouring eBay for German ceramics, Murano glass and Oriental lacquered keepsake boxes!

Afroditi Krassa describes her work as the creation of “category-defining hospitality”. From Heston Blumental’s ultimate airport restaurant at Heathrow to Tel-Aviv-inspired London restaurant Bala Baya, her design schemes make customers want to stay a while – and come again. She’s speaking as part of a Conversations in Design talk about how hospitality interiors increasingly need to be multi-functional, experiential spaces – and elaborates on that subject here.

Conversations in Design:
Common Spaces: Creating Experiential Environments, 3pm, Sunday 4 March

Why do hospitality spaces now need to be more multi-functional?
Audiences are in need of constant stimulation – it is the digital-era generation. The customer is much more engaged long term when spaces fulfil different needs at different times; it builds a longer-term connection.

Is there a hospitality project of yours that stands out for being multi-functional?
We are currently working on a couple of projects that require multi-use thinking, most notably Dreamland in Margate, where we are reinventing a 70,000 square foot internal area to accommodate F&B, entertainment, culture and retail all in one.

What other hospitality trends are you seeing?
I think multi F&B spaces [food markets] are also a massive trend – a modern-day Disneyland for foodies, if you like.

What are some of the design ingredients of the best hospitality interiors?
Perfect lighting and sound. We tend to forget that the visual aspect is only a very small part of the creation of overall ambience; our senses go beyond that. In an oversaturated visual world, our bodies crave uber-atmospheric lighting and great sound.

Has the rise of Instagram has affected your work?
Yes, 100%. Spaces that are not photogenic are disregarded, which is a shame, as sometimes it is the least loud of environments that capture your heart. But it is very early days for social media and I think it will change soon. It’s a bit like first-generation websites that used to be all singing and all dancing: now it is all about content.

What’s been your most challenging project?
Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant at Heathrow. Trying to translate Heston’s thinking and ambition, as well as Michelin-starred dining, to an airport environment with many restrictions required quite a lot of patience – which is not my virtue.

What are you currently working on?
As well as Dreamland, but we are also launching a new high-end boutique Indian restaurant concept in central London, creating a future blueprint for Byron Burgers across the UK, and we’ve just started on a disruptive new indie restaurant concept for Frankfurt.

What do you obsess over in your work?
The customer. As boring as it is, in hospitality, the customer is king. I obsess over understanding what makes us all tick, the small things that makes us all fall in love with a restaurant or a bar. I always think it’s the small things…