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Interviews

Is a circle of trust the key to creativity? We turn to Nick Jordan from Wish for the answer.

In a world where the lines between commercial, residential and hospitality spaces are so blurred, people expect to interact with each the same way, their way. Everything must appeal to who they are and the image they want to reflect. So being a design studio who can flex between the disciplines serves you well.

One such example is Wish, we sat down with Nick Jordan, a partner at the studio, to discuss a commercial scheme, undertaken with eporta, that pulled on a wealth of design experience.

Nick Jordan, Partner at the interior architecture and design studio WISH, whose work varies between commercial and hospitality projects, property developments and high-end residential schemes.
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Nick Jordan, Partner at the interior architecture and design studio WISH, whose work varies between commercial and hospitality projects, property developments and high-end residential schemes.

"Wish has just celebrated its 10th birthday, and over the last decade, our client profiles have changed greatly. We started during the recession, so our early work was predominantly residential properties in London, a market doing surprisingly well given the circumstances. However, mine and my business partner, Caroline Smith's backgrounds are in 5-7 star hospitality design."

Nick continued, "we were keen to introduce this into the Wish repertoire which we've successfully achieved undertaking the redesign of hotels, restaurants and private members clubs in the last few years. In parallel, I've been pushing into the commercial sector too with projects like Bishops Gate."

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Bishops Gate was the first foray into the London property development market for Meyer Homes. A little snapshot of serenity in London, the project is situated a stone's throw away from the Thames in Fulham, with a unique footprint that excited the Wish team.

"The brief was to design all 49 apartments and 10 townhouses as well as the communal spaces and marketing suite. The site itself was intriguing, set behind two Victorian gatehouses and enveloping a courtyard, it's hard to believe you are still in London."

We always say, if you're a good designer, you should be able to design anything, and that's our philosophy towards projects.

But Nick continues- "our ethos is to form strong working relationships with everyone involved in delivering a project. So we select the projects we work on, less on the opportunity and more on the client. In this case, it was a natural and very trusting relationship from the start."

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Stage one was looking at all the internal configurations, seeing how space could be maximised throughout, undertaking thorough research on the target market helped with decision making.

"You do your research- based on area, demographics, competition and demand, and you end up with a target audience. However, as with most developments in London, buyers could come from anywhere, from foreign investors to first time buyers. And, given the location, we knew that private investors and affluent down-sizers might be our core audience."

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One thing was sure, their expectations would be high. Given the borough of London and other developments going up in the area, the spec needed to be high-end and luxurious.

"I guess we start by asking - what does the individual that's going to live here perceive as luxury? The perception of which has changed enormously. Often high-end residential developments almost feel formulaic in approach. In contrast, we wanted to make potential buyers feel like they'd entered a home, not a show-home, but a domestic environment where there's a feeling of character, craft and curation at play. There's a mutuality to this approach too that very few can object to, so it appeals to a broad audience."

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As the site is nestled behind two Victorian gatehouses, the team decided to play on the sense of heritage this awarded as Nick explains. "Straight away, there was a narrative to talk about- a sense of history. We wanted to consider how we could bring Victorian detailing into these modern apartments without it being overtly obvious or odd."

Commercial projects, in particular, used to be regarded as very clinical and formal, but nearly all the ones we've undertaken in the last three to five years, have been design-led in terms of a hospitality-esque look and feel rather than the clinical space.

And there are subtle nods to the roots of this development throughout, but in particular, the gatehouse offered Wish room to play up the history more overtly.

"We utilised one gatehouse for the concierge amenity. We decided to take a modern spin on heritage by panelling the perimeter of the room. The same with the floor, Victorian tiles are renowned for their very decorative nature, we just reimagined their designs in a contemporary way. "

For the apartments and townhouses Wish adopted a clean gallery-like space. As Nick said, "we wanted to draw attention to the interior details whilst showcasing a mix of vintage and new furniture, the backdrop needed to let the pieces breathe". In juxtaposition to the light freshness of the walls, dark, sumptuous kitchens and joinery were installed, adding depth, proportion and character to the rooms.

Wish didn't shy away from colour. The light walls shone a spotlight on the pieces of considered craftsmanship in the development, from joinery to furniture, but colour was injected throughout with yellow, green and blue hues too. However, if you are looking for bold, then your attention has to go to the marketing suite.

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250sqm of space was dedicated to the marketing suite for Bishops Gate. In reality, it was to have multiple functions as an events venue, UK HQ for Meyer Homes and a sales area. By this point in the project, however, budgets got tighter as they often do, so Meyer Homes asked Wish to design the space with furniture only.

"Normally, when you do a marketing suite, you work closely with the contractors on how to house certain behaviours and experiences with walls. In our case, though we could only have one stud wall built. It meant we got creative, finding ways that furniture could break up such a big space, still creating pockets for certain activities to occur."

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Often marketing suites can look very functional and in truth, quite dull, but that's a far cry from Wish's creation which is bold, colourful and brazen. "We painted the wall this dark green colour, and I remember everyone at the time, without any furniture in the space, saying this wall colour is awful. I knew it would work though, everyone just had to wait until everything was in situ to get it."

If we can spend more time being creative rather than doing paperwork, I'm happy, and that's what eporta gives me.

Nick attributes the teams' confidence to do something daring and different down to several things, one being a need to stand out from other developments in the area, the second to catch the eye of passers-by, as the suite was on street level. However, the fundamental driver for Nick was his relationship with the client.

"By this point, we'd been working with Meyer Homes for nearly 18 months, and we'd formed a strong relationship. They trusted us, believing in our expertise made us feel braver for sure. We went away and looked at colour, and particularly as we were only using furniture to break up the space, we knew colour was a great way to create zones in the place of walls."

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The furniture selection was critical too, as Nick explains, "Novocastrian did all the freestanding steel units within the marketing suite, which doubled-up as walls. Without them, the design just wouldn't have worked."

These beautifully crafted Novocastrian pieces were bespoke and ordered to be handmade through eporta. In fact, much of the scheme was sourced through the platform. "It was the first time we'd used eporta, and now the Wish team use you quite a bit. The real benefit I've found is you've made projects so much quicker. It's like having a one-stop shop, of design lead products, at varying budgets all in one place," which is necessary when you have an 18-month turnaround on a project of this scale.

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One of Nicks highlights from the project occurred on the last day of the install. "We were there on site for the days before the launch, styling and finishing. We got it all done in time for the launch, at which point we were able to sit back and enjoy eavesdropping on peoples first impressions of the space. I'm happy to say the feedback was positive, you rarely get to hear these first-hand reactions, so it's quite special hearing people affirming what you'd set out to achieve."

In answer to our opening question, it is clear that the strong client/designer relationship in this project enabled amazing work to occur. So maybe a trusting relationship really is the key to delivering a design that embraces creativity and stands out.

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