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Interviews

Simon Rawlings, from David Collins Studio, on the future of design and his story so far.

We sat down with Simon Rawlings, Creative Director of David Collins Studio, to discuss his design story to date, and ask him why design matters.

design story x eporta

Read Time 7 minutes

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How did you get into design?

My dad built pubs when I was growing up in Wales, so I went to a lot of job sites with him, meaning I saw lots of mood and sample boards and just knew, by the age of 15, that I wanted to go into interior design. After completing a BA and Masters in Interior Design, I decided to make a short and targeted list of design companies whose work inspired me and whose schemes I enjoyed. I appreciated that David Collins Studio were creating authentic, original and timeless environments. In the studio today, we have around 65 designers completing projects all over the world, spanning retail, hospitality, residential and maritime design. In fact, 75% of these projects are outside the UK. Every project is unique, bringing its own set of challenges and rewards, and that keeps this job truly interesting for me.

The Carriage House designed by David Collins Studio. Photography by Kensington Leverne.
The Carriage House designed by David Collins Studio. Photography by Kensington Leverne.

What makes David Collins Studio unique, other than being one of the most famous design houses in the world?

We select our partners carefully, working with the very best in their field, together creating uniquely global spaces, which have a purpose, and a sense of timelessness. We enjoy the work that goes into nurturing and building these long-standing relationships, which help set us apart.

Harrods Fresh Market Hall designed by David Collins Studio. Photography by Kensington Leverne.
Harrods Fresh Market Hall designed by David Collins Studio. Photography by Kensington Leverne.

What's the best part of your job?

The relationships with the clients.

What's the hardest part of your job?

Always being dissatisfied. Like many designers, I am a perfectionist, so my high level of expectation can be hard to meet, and my eyes can be drawn to even the minutest of imperfections.

The Delaire Graff Estate, South Africa, designed by David Collins Studio.
The Delaire Graff Estate, South Africa, designed by David Collins Studio.

While every design is bespoke to that particular client, is there a Simon Rawling signature design trait that identifies you and David Collins Studio no matter what?

I would say that I strive to create a feeling, more than a style – a space that functions, is comfortable and fits seamlessly into its surroundings. I know what I like and in turn what my client will too. Quality is critical to me, and I respect how much work goes into creating something of that level, leaving space for that to be possible is essential to my design process. I am also often inspired by the people around me, both personally and professionally.

Kerridge's Bar & Grill designed by David Collins Studio. Photography by Kensington Leverne.
Kerridge's Bar & Grill designed by David Collins Studio. Photography by Kensington Leverne.

What have been your biggest learnings about successfully designing for hospitality spaces?

Rooms need to be self-intuitive – it needs to be easy to find a plug or turn on a light or simply have enough storage space to place belongings. I'm not keen on too much hi-tech either, keeping things as simple as possible minimises the risk that something will go wrong. What's more, investing in software as opposed to tangible hardware means that a scheme is less likely to date.

It was once said that David Collins Studio would never use a colour not found in nature, is this still the case? If so, what is your favourite colour to use?

I believe every colour exists in nature – so I am open to colour – I don't have a favourite, I just don't love browns.

George's Bar at The Gilbert Scott, designed by David Collins Studio. Photography by Ben Carpenter.
George's Bar at The Gilbert Scott, designed by David Collins Studio. Photography by Ben Carpenter.

What do you think the future of hospitality and retail design looks like?

Individuality, it's all about the character of the person that stays within the walls of the space and the experience you want to provide them with. As such, there will be a greater focus on creating personal experiences for guests. There is also a growing desire to build and create spaces that will last for a long time, both in style and substance.

What is the power of great design and why does design matter?

We are surrounded by design at every point of the day, good design should be seamless and often goes unnoticed, but bad design can ruin the experience.

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What's your proudest design moment to date?

The collaboration with Chef Thomas Keller and Related Group in New York. TAK Room has to be the ultimate restaurant, perfect in every way. It's the pinnacle of food lover's design journey.

What would be your one piece of advice for a designer just starting out?

I work really hard with the graduates and the newer designers within our studio to help them understand the process of conceptualising a space, as that is the key to progressing in design.

Harrods Men's Superbrands Room, designed by Davis Collins Studio. Photography by Adrien Dirand.
Harrods Men's Superbrands Room, designed by Davis Collins Studio. Photography by Adrien Dirand.

Quick Fire Round...

Where is your happy place?

Anywhere with my family

If you weren't an interior designer, what would you be doing?

A chef

What would be your dream project?

A complete London hotel

Can you name five of your favourite places in the world and why?

  1. Brawn Columbia Road – favourite restaurant in London
  2. TAK room NYC – the ultimate achievement
  3. Pump Street Bakery, Orford – where I met my wife
  4. Canadian Lakes – family time
  5. Farm Lane – surrounded by my creative, inspiring colleagues
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