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STAYING INSPIRED WITH…ECHLIN’S MARK O’CALLAGHAN

As Lockdown eases, our final chat in this series exploring how industry friends and clients have adapted during the Covid crisis, is with Mark O’Callaghan, Co-founder and Director of visionary architectural design and development studio Echlin

Echlin recently completed the sympathetic restoration and modernisation of this Grade II listed townhouse in South Kensington.

WHERE ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING FROM AND HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO YOUR NORMAL WORKING ENVIRONMENT?

I am working from the top floor of my family house in South West London whereas normally I would work from the Echlin studio in Notting Hill. I’m missing the in person contact with my team but it’s certainly  enjoyable to spend more time at home with my family.

WITH OBVIOUS RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE, HOW DO YOU CONTINUE TO SOURCE YOUR INSPIRATION?

Definitely from the outdoors and from nature. I think we have at least been lucky with the weather so I have been able to spend my exercise time in local parks such as Wimbledon common and Richmond Park. With the reduction of cars and air traffic you can really hear the birds singing and it feels like you are in the middle of the countryside.

I also love the river Wandle which runs from Wandsworth to Surrey. I find the sound of the river really cathartic and calming. It is really clean as its chalk so under normal circumstances I have also been known to swim in it!

HAS THIS SITUATION MEANT YOU ARE USING OR ADOPTING TECHNOLOGIES MORE THAN BEFORE AND DO YOU THINK YOU WILL CARRY ON USING THEM IN THE SAME WAY WHEN ALL RESTRICTIONS ARE OVER?

Yes it’s been amazing to see how quickly we can all adapt. We have mostly been using zoom and we will definitely be using it more in the future and travelling less if we can. I have been amazed to see how quickly my children have adapted to zoom schooling too.

NAME ONE THING YOU HAVE YOU LEARNT YOU CANNOT WORK WITHOUT AND ONE WORK RELATED THING THAT YOU HAVEN’T MISSED IN THE SLIGHTEST.

It’s definitely my phone. I can pretty much run my work and life from it. Since lockdown we are using a new software time management system called Trello which has completely changed the way I organise my day. It’s on my laptop but also on my phone so if I have a spare 15 minutes I can have a look and see if there is something I can squeeze in.

I thought I would miss the human face to face meetings more but although I do miss them it’s certainly not been as bad as I feared!

WHILST IN LOCKDOWN, IS THERE AN OBJECT THAT YOU HAVE RECONNECTED WITH OR HAVE APPRECIATED MORE FOR BEING AROUND YOU?

We inherited this outside wood burner from the previous owners and my children have loved it when we light it up on an evening and can look out over the garden which is very much work in progress!


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Staying INspired with…Stephenson Wright

Continuing our series catching up with industry friends, here Natalie and Juliette of Stephenson Wright interior design let us know how they’ve been managing their business during the Covid crisis, what’s kept them INspired during lockdown and how they are giving back in their local community.

Celebrated design duo Natalie and Juliette established their interior design practice Stephenson Wright in 2013.  Last year saw the opening of their Surrey-based showroom The Post House, the perfect location to collaborate with partner brands, showcase their distinctive style and newly launched luxury eco-conscious furniture collection.

WHERE ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING FROM AND HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO YOUR NORMAL WORKING ENVIRONMENT

Natalie – Our Studio is based in my much loved garden so I have been incredibly lucky to have had little change in that respect. I also have access to our private showroom space five minutes away for inspiration and have been visiting it weekly to go ‘live’ on Instagram.  We have started our FIVE series where we cover anything from ‘our favourite five ways to lay your dining table’ to ‘our five absolute musts when it comes to buying a sofa’.  We have so enjoyed keeping the inspiration flowing, connecting with our followers, clients and designers and getting past being camera shy!

The buzz of the team has been replaced by quietness and plenty of LBC to keep up with all the government announcements.

Juliette – I have always had a desk set up at home as I am often working into the evening (madly thats my creative time!).

I miss the Studio environment so much and not having everything easily to hand but fortunately Natalie is there so we have all bases covered.

As a partnership we are quite ‘joined at the hip’ so we talk all the time; part of being in a successful partnership is the ability to bounce ideas off each other, to sit and challenge the design aspects of our projects.

This is always going to be best done in person but we are managing well and the materials aspect can be done by Natalie as she is still Studio based.

WITH OBVIOUS RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE, HOW DO YOU CONTINUE TO SOURCE YOUR INSPIRATION?

Although we do source far and wide, most of our inspiration comes from talking to one another and using our imaginations to pull on ideas that we know have worked successfully and building upon them to adapt them to the particular brief in hand.

Pinterest and other digital mediums, as well as online webinars (which are excitingly going on left right and centre!) have been hugely inspirational and enjoyable to take time and absorb from the comfort of our desks.

Having the time to finally read the design books on our coffee tables & also the Japanese wisdom books that we gifted at a recent industry dinner party we hosted. Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton & Ikagi by Hector Garcia– both are Japanologists who shares life lessons inspired by Japanese culture.

Beth has also written a book reflecting the current COVID 19 events called ‘We are in this together’ – Finding Hope and Opportunity in the depths of adversity’ which is available to download.

She is so inspiring to read and has really uplifted our spirits.

HAS THIS SITUATION MEANT YOU ARE USING OR ADOPTING TECHNOLOGIES MORE THAN BEFORE AND DO YOU THINK YOU WILL CARRY ON USING THEM IN THE SAME WAY WHEN ALL RESTRICTIONS ARE OVER?

Oh yes, the website has had a thorough overhaul, we have had more time to build our social media accounts and this week we have been working on our online video tutorials for budding interior designers or home owners looking to gain insight into ‘where to start’.

Prior to the lockdown we had just completed a ‘Design Discovery day’ at our Surrey showroom and had received such amazing feedback (an overview video of the day can be found on our website under events). Since then we have been building on the idea of sharing our love of interiors and our knowledge with some behind the scenes secrets.

We will also be giving tours of the showroom with all our tips on how to create a space that really works for you.

We had to adapt quickly – Zoom calls have been working successfully and may be something we are more inclined to do. What we have found though is there is really no substitute to sitting with a client and building a relaxed rapport plus being able to see paint colours and samples first hand.

We have also used Instagram Live to talk to fellow design industry friends and show a little more of our personalities and history which we have really enjoyed doing. This is certainly something we will continue.

NAME ONE THING YOU HAVE YOU LEARNT YOU CANNOT WORK WITHOUT AND ONE WORK RELATED THING THAT YOU HAVEN’T MISSED IN THE SLIGHTEST.

We both have a trusty Smythson A5 leather writing folder which we bought as our first Christmas present to each other on the first year we started our business in 2013.

They are still as smart now as they were when we bought them 7 years ago and we love the fact they are rather matchy matchy, a bit like our partnership!

We obsessively take them everywhere and it has become even more important than ever to be able to keep track of thoughts and ‘to-dos’ since we are away from our usual desk format where we can constantly remind each other of ‘have you done that yet’ across the table.

We have not missed travelling to meetings carrying multiple heavy sample boards with slabs of marble on the London underground!!

WHILST IN LOCKDOWN, IS THERE AN OBJECT THAT YOU HAVE RECONNECTED WITH OR HAVE APPRECIATED MORE FOR BEING AROUND YOU? (PLEASE SUPPLY A PICTURE OF THIS OBJECT IF POSSIBLE)

Juliette – My bike was gathering dust but its now my favourite thing to cycle along the river with my family.

I also have a piece of art exclaiming – ‘do what you love love what you do’ – it’s something I connect with every day and resonates with me.

We have more time to stop and ponder now rather than rushing all the time – the slower pace has been cathartic.

Natalie – My ceramic sculpted vase from Danish brand ‘Ferm Living’ has been rediscovered and is the perfect size for bringing indoors a small branch of Spring blossom from either my daily dog walk or my pretty pear tree.

We have also been rather inspired and getting quite green fingered at Stephenson Wright and have been creating and delivering 100 ‘Bags of Thanks’ full of vibrant Spring plants to the doors of local nominated NHS workers.

In the process of making this idea a reality we have also raised over £2,000 for the NHS.

The bags are funded and delivered by us with the help of our industry partners Savills alongside assistance from Airsea Packing, Fiona Stephenson Designs and Surrey Life magazine.

The bags also contain a face shield from lighting supplier Cameron Design House and a copy of the May edition of Surrey Life mag for a good read.

We also enclose a card from us and a drawing from Natalie’s daughter of the Spring blooms.

Each bag is incredibly rewarding to create and deliver as we hear all the stories of how each person is giving so much in these uncertain times.

We wanted to show our gratitude to our local community and give something back, no matter how small.


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Staying INspired with…Interior Designer Sarah Ward

We’ve  missed seeing our clients and industry friends so decided to check in and discover how they are managing their working lives and staying #INspired at this extraordinary time. 

First up is Sarah Ward of Interiors by Sarah Ward

Sarah is one of London’s top interior designers and really listens to her clients, taking time to learn how they wish to live, resulting in elegant yet comfortable interiors.

Sarah skilfully introduces vibrant colours and layers textures whilst always mindful of the practicalities necessary for day to day living.

One of our favourite recent projects is Cleopatra where boldly graphic, custom headboards and textured surfaces combine with bespoke cabinetry to create eye-catching results.

WHERE ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING FROM AND HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO YOUR NORMAL WORKING ENVIRONMENT?

I’m in sunny Suffolk.  Miles away in every way from London.  It is super-quiet on the coast and I have wonderful time for creative adventure (in my mind!)

WITH OBVIOUS RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE, HOW DO YOU CONTINUE TO SOURCE YOUR INSPIRATION?

There is still so much at our fingertips – books, magazines, Instagram and the webinar fest is a fantastic source of intel. And I think…a lot.

HAS THIS SITUATION MEANT YOU ARE USING OR ADOPTING TECHNOLOGIES MORE THAN BEFORE AND DO YOU THINK YOU WILL CARRY ON USING THEM IN THE SAME WAY WHEN ALL RESTRICTIONS ARE OVER?

Well yes. I feel that my technical skills have improved massively.  ‘Zoom’ is the new us. Remote everything is accessible and working from home has never been easier.  We will definitely think about this (as far as is practical)

NAME ONE THING YOU HAVE YOU LEARNT YOU CANNOT WORK WITHOUT AND ONE WORK RELATED THING THAT YOU HAVEN’T MISSED IN THE SLIGHTEST.

The showrooms!  Apart from missing the physical inspiration it’s the lack of chat.

I haven’t missed meetings that I really don’t need to be at.

WHILST IN LOCKDOWN, IS THERE AN OBJECT THAT YOU HAVE RECONNECTED WITH OR HAVE APPRECIATED MORE FOR BEING AROUND YOU?

My garden.


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Staying in and being ‘In’Spired

The lockdown is certainly something we are all getting used to and nothing is more important than abiding by the government guidelines to #stayhome and #staysafe. It’s the only way we stand any hope of reducing the spread of Covid 19, especially amongst the old and the vulnerable and to help the NHS cope when dealing with the number of serious infections.

 

But out of the bleakness, one should try not to see isolation as a negative prospect but to encourage oneself to reconnect and rediscover and continue creativity within the confinement of home.

 

As our working routines have changed, it can feel like we are living in perpetual weekend mode, days seem non descriptive or defined and we endlessly wonder from kitchen to desk, to sofa to bed in slumber daze, trying to make sense of it all.

 

But one could also use the time more effectively and create our own personal stimulus that keeps our minds actively creative and to some degree distracted in a more positive way, that will benefit general mental health and wellbeing.

 

Pick up that unopened book that has been sitting on the shelf for far too long, try that recipe you’ve been meaning to cook for ages, clear that wardrobe from unwanted items and block looks for when we can show off again or try re-arranging the furniture to make your space work better for you. You might then be inspired to redecorate, who know’s? There’s absolutely no limit to what we can do with the spare time at home. Only you can set the boundaries.

 

But it’s also about encouraging some reconnection to the things that surround us, that we have collected over time and that we quite often forget about. It’s about rediscovering what those personal things mean to us and why they bring us comfort and pleasure and finding meaning in the important things in life, such as family, friends, a sense of familiarity and fun. Yes fun! Please don’t forget about that. It will come back to welcome us sometime soon, we all hope.

 

Here a few items that our team at Deirdre Dyson have personally picked from their homes that inspires them in some way or brings them a sense of comfort. This reconnection to the inanimate world that we surround ourselves has many benefits. It reminds us of who we are, our history, our inspirations and can lead onto further creative pursuits beyond the items themselves.

Let us know what has #INspired you during lockdown by using this hashtag and tagging us on social media.

 

 

Company Manager Edison – Painting of Queen Elizabeth II

 

 

 

This was a charity find at my local Crusaid Boutique shop in Pimlico, where I live.

 

It was painted in 1977 to mark Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee and is a Cubist oil painting by Cal Howard (as I read it).

 

I’ve tried to search the artist to no avail, so any information would be greatly appreciated!

 

I love the subtle colours of creams and beige leading to deeper chocolate tones and Elizabeth changes throughout the day in different light. Some parts pop whilst others fade. The portrait reminds me of my late grandmother in many ways. The familiarity of a mature and dedicated strong minded woman. It is graceful. It is bold. It reminds me of the pleasure of art and creativity and reinforces the message that quality pieces never fade. Good design and art should survive the test of time. It is a large piece in a very tiny flat, breaking all the rules but hey, its all about pushing the boundaries.

 

Design Technician Nichola – The Lady with the Sunflower on her Head

 

This piece of ceramic  – The Lady with the Sunflower on her Head –  was a present from my family, so she is very special to me.

 

I love ceramics and find the process fascinating. I especially love the fact that every piece is unique.
I normally like objects with a lot of vibrant colour but she is more subtle, thus having a very calming effect.
I love the Sunflower’s position on her head and the detail on her face.  She has a very pleasant face.

I get so much pleasure from having her in my home and never tire of her. 

Trade Sales Manager Chris – Labradorite

I was given this beautiful piece of Labradorite rock crystal a few years ago. I am still always mesmerised by the colours it omits when the light hits it at the right angle on both sides.

It also happens to be the perfect size and shape to fit snugly and generously into the palm of my hand.

I have sometimes held it when I do my daily meditation and was intrigued to recently read some further information about this stone. Seems it holds helpful qualities for times like these!

“Labradorite, the best stone for fighting off an existential crisis. A rock star of mystical lore and ancient legends, the Labradorite crystal meaning can be traced back to the native peoples of icy Canada that believed the stone was created from frozen fire, a result of the northern lights. With its pearly hues that shimmer in a range of iridescent blues and greens, the Labradorite crystal reminds us to keep it magical by linking us to the spirit world, a dimension where anything is possible.”  From energy use.com

Social Media and Marketing Manager Sonia – ‘Young Witches and their Cats’

This is an artists proof that my parents gave me for my 21st birthday. It’s called ‘Young Witches and their Cats’ by a well known Limerick artist, John Shinnors.

It’s sentimental for so many reasons – obviously it was a gift from my Mum and Dad, who visited Shinnors at his studio to select it, and I was born and brought up in County Limerick.  It hung in the bedroom I shared with my sister growing up, has been here with me in London since my husband and I bought our first flat and now hangs over our fireplace at home.

Every once and a while my children ask ‘So how many witches and how many cats are there?’ and we can never agree on quite how many and what constitutes a witch or cat!

To say it’s well loved is an understatement, it hangs amidst a mish mash of my husband’s late fathers batiks and prints and bits and pieces of artwork that we’ve picked up (or stuck in a frame) over the years, each in their own way makes me happy but this is definitely the most special.