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IN THE FACTORY with Knightsbridge Furniture

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
IN THE FACTORY with Knightsbridge Furniture

To stitch together how Knightsbridge makes its contract furniture, editor Hamish Kilburn travels up to Bradford in West Yorkshire to step inside the modern factory that chooses to do things the traditional way…

Priding itself on being 100 per cent British-made is something that has become somewhat of a unique selling point for contract furniture company Knightsbridge.

Giving ‘in-house’ a whole new meaning, every item that has a Knightsbridge logo on it was conceptualised, sketched, prototyped and produced in the hearty West Yorkshire town of Bradford – and has been for 80 years.

In an average week, around 700 items of furniture are made in the Victorian factory – and all pieces start as nothing more than a stacked load of timber or Birch plywood, which is imported from Russia and Europe. While many factories internationally have chosen to use automated machinery to carve their frames, Knightsbridge is among the minority that still, to this day, cuts its materials by the hands of skilled workers. “Many of our employees come through the apprenticeship scheme, which is something we are very proud of,” said Craig Weston, Operations Manager at Knightsbridge. “Because everything at Knightsbridge is handmade and hand-cut, the role in the factory therefore requires a very specific set of skills, which isn’t easy to teach just anyone.”

Stack of timber

Image credit: Knightsbridge Furniture

As we walk from process to process, I notice that an arm of a chair starting to take form. “This is one of the most difficult pieces we make,” says Weston who points to the worker on the cutter who is meticulously carving out detailed incisions. “As a strategy, we ensure that we always have a higher stock of the items that are more complex to produce.” With high demand for Knightsbridge products and limited facilities, this is a resourceful method that reduces the possibility of delays in the manufacturing process.

Contract chair in the process of being upholstered

Image credit: Knightsbridge Furniture

Once each frame is cut, sanded, assembled, tinted, polished and dried, it is then ready for the upholstery process. On average, it takes the team at Knightsbridge approximately one hour to upholster a typical sofa. As the demand in hotel interior design renovations increases, the company also offers a reupholstery service whereby it will reupholster any piece of furniture (even if it’s not a Knightsbridge product). The cluster of seamstresses working is impressive and the decision to keep a cap on fabric stock is reassuring. “To reduce waste and save space, we only stock as much material as we need in this area,” Weston explains. “What’s more, although we have colour and fabric options, we will match any colour the client wants.”

Seamstress working

Image credit: Knightsbridge Furniture

Elsewhere in the factory, away from the main production line, is the design and development team. Led by Director Jason Brown, who lives and breathes by the ethos that you can’t turn down the volume on creativity, the soul of the factory is my home-from-from during my visit. “I have every furniture designers’ dream job, right?” laughs Brown. “It’s such a privilege being able to have all the tools, kit and skills to be able to prototype products in-house.” Brown is a man after my own heart who seems to wear many hats in his role. “The most obvious element to my role is that I sketch and design the future collections,” he explains. “But what most people perhaps don’t know is that my team, which is magic by the way, also have to provide the factory workers with all the technical drawings when we start producing a new product. As you can imagine, there is no margin for error in this department. We are always looking for new ways to be innovative, while being mindful of time, quality and cost for the overall business.” For Brown, like all great designers, thinking creatively and thinking commercially are difficult plates to spin at the same time. “It’s a challenge, but that’s why I love it,” he adds.

Despite Knightsbridge having the ultimate in-house design dream team, led by a visionary who clearly leads within the pack, the company is also proud to work with outside influences when designing future products. The latest collaborations to come out the factory include the likes of John Coleman, Sean Dare, Jim Hamilton and David Fox.

Knightsbridge is a modern company like no other. Proud of its heritage and confident to push boundaries, it seems as if this British-born company has all the materials, workforce and ideas – all stored under one roof – to lead the contract furniture market into another 80 successful years of business.

BRITISH STYLE: Questioning design like Ilse Crawford

730 565 Hamish Kilburn
BRITISH STYLE: Questioning design like Ilse Crawford

To launch the new chapter of Hotel Designs, Hamish Kilburn investigates how one woman, her editorship and her questions over convention helped to change modern international hotel design by challenging the very foundations it sits on…

Every now and then, the world is introduced to a design icon who, through making their visions into reality, helps to shift attitudes by challenging conventional forms.

For Ilse Crawford, the founding Editor-In-Chief of British Elle Decoration, the design world was somewhat lacking reference of everyday movement when she decided to step into the shoes of her designer readers.

In 1997, a decade on from founding British Elle Decoration, Crawford asked the world to “liberate your senses and change your life” when she published her first book, Sensual Home, which mapped out how the living environment can engage us sensually as well as visually from the perspective of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. And was, for Crawford, the start of a new journey.  “Writing the book was the ‘ah-hah’ moment, because it wasn’t the current understanding of design,” she explained in the Netflix documentary, Abstract: The Art of Design. “The days of being a two-dimensional person were over.”

The defiant leap from narrator to creator came one year later after she signed off as Editor-In-Chief. Having completed her mission to launch a contemporary magazine for a wide audience, Crawford worked for Donna Karan and getting her hands dirty, she became a maker. Crawford’s first hotel interior design brief was presented to her immediately after she left Elle Decoration when she was asked to convert a stately home for Nick Jones of Soho House into what we now know of as Babington House. “Nick originally wanted this place to look and feel like a stately home, but I was very clear that that’s the last thing it should be,” Crawford explained in Abstract: The Art of Design. “My proposal was that it should be a very informal place where you could just treat as if it was your own, like a family house of a friend where the parents had gone away and left the key the drinks cabinet.” Breaking the rules of the time, Crawford’s design stole the headlines and her journey as an interior design began.

“The project saw the transformation of a former industrial building in the Meatpacking district into a 27-key design hotel.”

From the rural British countryside to the bustling scene of Manhattan, Crawford’s skillful and sensitive approach was called upon to create the first outpost of Soho House outside the UK. The project saw the transformation of a former industrial building in the Meatpacking district into a 27-key design hotel, including bars, a restaurant, cinema and rooftop pool. Soho House New York opened to become the definitive third space for the transatlantic media crowd.

Her aim as an interior designer is to put human needs and desires at the centre of all that she does. Working in commercial and residential design, and blurring the lines between both, Crawford has changed many environments for the better of those who use them. Ett Hem Hotel was a conversion project of a former arts and crafts building. The 12-key guesthouse is described by Crawford as “a place to stay for the modern traveller, a home-from-home, where flexibility of space and function is central to the hotel’s operation,” she says. “There is no division between front and back of house – anything can happen anywhere at any time.”

Residential style in the hotel

Image caption/credit: Ett Hem Hotel. Interiors by Ilse Crawford

As someone who truly lives and breathes the industry in which she used to curate on the pages of Elle Decoration, Crawford wears many hats as a modern designer. In her own admission to Interior Design magazine, she confessed that “the line between my work and life is thin to non-existent.”  Working from her London studio, which is directly below her home, Crawford’s knowledge in interiors has allowed her to extend her portfolio to include product design. The Sinnerlig Collection for IKEA includes 30 pieces of of furniture, lighting and tabletop collection. “They explore natural materials and are simple,” Crawford explains on her website. “They are helpful, background pieces, not showstoppers.” Tactile materials such as cork, ceramic, glass, seagrass and bamboo appealed in the design concept because they felt as good as they looked.

“Maison&Objet awarded Crawford the prestigious title of Designer of the Year 2016.”

The Together Table was another design that challenged existing products on the market. Confronting the design of conventional four-cornered tables, Crawford simply rounded the edges of the table, which as a result naturally invited people to move around it more freely.  The Ilse Sofa was the result of a collaboration with British furniture brand George Smith. The height and depth of the product’s arms and back were calculated and tested to ensure that the sofa supports as many sedentary habits of modern life. “We like to think of it as a room within a room,” Crawford explains when describing the tactile experience.

Beige modern, long, thin table

Image caption/credit: The Together Table by Ilse Crawford

Two years after she was awarded an MBE in recognition for her work in design, Maison&Objet awarded Crawford the prestigious title of Designer of the Year 2016. Since then, the modest designer has continued to evolve the hospitality landscape with completing projects such as The Lounge Plaza 66, Cathy Pacific’s iconic airport lounge in Hong Kong and the warm and inviting home-from-home that is Bukowskis.

Crawford’s philosophical visions to challenge the norm leaves a clear path for young designers who aspire, like her, to make a difference through design. As the founder of the department of Man and Wellbeing at the Design Academy Eindhoven, Crawford’s mission as a visionary is explained on her website as “nurturing a new generation of students to always question why and how their work improves the reality of life.” Her philosophy to improve the future through considered design is what makes her the leader she undoubtably is today. Her work – and her working style – is a simple, effortless reflection of the questions she asks of the designs of today and the possibilities that are garnered by second guessing what the future should look and feel like.

Crawford, an ever-evolving icon of British and international design, has metaphorically cut the ribbon to launch Hotel Designs’ new website by being the subject of the first editorial feature of the title’s new era. The newly launched slogan “defining the point of international design” is a pledge from the editorial team to its readers to cut through the noise to publish conversation starters that will filter into many debates on the hotel design scene that we all know and love. That conversation starts here, with a question that Crawford asks herself when confronted with a new project: “How can design strategically make things better?”

Main image credit: Ilse Crawford/StudioIlse

Brit List 2018 long list announced

1024 566 Hamish Kilburn
This year’s Brit List has officially announced the 2018 long list as it heads towards the final straight to finding Britain’s top interior designers, hoteliers and architects…

Hotel Designs has announced the long-listed interior designers, hoteliers and architects that are all in with a chance of making it into The Brit List 2018.

The long-listed finalists will be invited to BEAT London on November 22 when The Brit List 2018 will be unveiled to highlight the top 25 interior designers, top 25 hoteliers and the top 25 architects in Britain today.

The nationwide search began months ago when Hotel Designs opened up nominations to readers of the publication in order to enter whom they believed deserved to be recognised as British leaders and influencers in international hotel design.

There are limited spaces available to attend this year’s highly anticipated event. In order to purchase your tickets and to secure your place, click here.

Below are the long-listed candidates for this year’s Brit List.

Contantina Tsoutsikou HBA London
Andrew Linwood Areen Hospitality
Ariane Steinbeck RPW Design
Bee Osborn Osborn Interiors
Emma King InterContinental Group
Dexter Moren Associates Dexter Moren Associates
Tim Murray Helen Green Design
Alex Kravetz Alex Kravetz Design
Fiona Thompson Richmond International
Martin Brudnizki MBDS
Rachel Johnson Wimberly Interiors
Terry McGinnity GA Design London
Jo Littlefair Goddard Littlefair
Kelly Hoppen Kelly Hoppen Design Interiors Ltd
Maria Vafiadis MKV Design
Christopher Ash Project Orange
Katherine Neathercoat Scott Brownrigg
Tara Bernerd Tara Bernerd & Partners
Robert Angell Robert Angell Design International
Helen Fewster Suna Interior Design
Rebecca Hunt Suna Interior Design
Frances Blackham Trevillion Interiors
Harry Harris SUSD
Stephanie Dennett Brakspear
Nicholas Stoupas Twenty2Degrees
Joesph Stella Twenty2Degrees
Tom Bartlett Waldo Works
Harry Gregory Ara Design
Rock Galpin Rock Galpin Ltd
Kathleen Hockney Cole & Son
Nicholas Sunderland NSI Design Ltd
Kim Partridge Kim Partridge Interiors
Rami Fustok The Mandrake
Conor O’Leary Gleneagles, Scotland
Jenny Oh King Street Townhouse
Johnson Joseph LALIT, London
Brian Benson The Gainsborough
Mario Ovsenjak Hotel Gotham
Jasdeep Sodhi Hotel Indigo, 1 Leicester Square
Robin Sheppard Bespoke Hotels
Jennifer McCabe Charlotte Street Hotel
Fiona Moores The Pig at Combe
Faye Stone The Pig in the Wall
Sarah Holden The Pig near Bath
Peter Kienast The Principle, Manchester
Michael Achenbaum The Curtain, London
Gareth Banner The Ned, London
Thomas Kochs The Corinthia, London
Michael Bonsor The Rosewood, London
David Morgan-Hewitt The Goring, London
Kevin Brooke Cliveden House
Nick Hanson Idle Rocks Hotel, St Mawes
Will Ashworth Watergate Hotel
Marco Novella The Lanesborough
Nathan White Seaham Hall
Paul Walsh Hotel Football
Mark Sainsbury Zetter Hotels
Michael Helling The Grove, Hertfordshire
Barney Cunliffe The Gilpin
Sergio Leandro Mondrian London
Chris Weaver High Road House
Debrah Dhugga Dukes Hotel
James Twomey Reardon Smith
Gordon Ferrier 3D Reid Architecture
Richard Morton Richard Morton Architects
James Dilley Jestico + Whiles
Julian Dickens Jestico + Whiles
Liz Pickard Consarc Architects
Martin Pease WATG
David Richard Mellor David Richard Mellor
John Simpson John Simpson Architects
Maha Kutay Zaha Hadid Architects
Woody Yao Zaha Hadid Architects
Tommy Lee PLP Architecture
Phil Jaffa Scape Design Associates
Georgia Stevenson SHH Architects and Interior Designers
Tom Lindblom Gensler
Richard Hywel Evans Studio RHE
Caroline Smith Wish London
Yasmin Mahmoudieh Yasmine Mahmoudieh
Jonathan Manser The Manser Practice
Nathalie Rozencwajg Rare Architecture
Mark Bruce EPR Architects
Geoff Hull EPR Architects
David Archer Archer Humphreys Architects
Howard Jones Archer Humphreys Architects
Abinitio Architects & Planners Abinitio Architects & Planners

This year, as well as celebrating The Brit List 2018, the awards will launch six coveted awards. These include:

  • Inspiration in Design – Innovative use of Technology
  • Inspiration in Design – Boutique Hotelier
  • Inspiration in Design – Interior Designer of the Year
  • Inspiration in Design – Architect of the Year
  • The Eco Award
  • Outstanding Contribution to the Hotel Industry

Shortlist finalists: Inspiration in Design – Innovative use of Technology

  • Meystyle – Product: LED wallpaper and fabric
  • Moritz Waldemeyer – Product: LDF18 Lighting installation
  • Aquavision
  • Criton
  • ACT STUDIOS
  • Hotel Room Chooser

Shortlist finalists: The Eco Award

  • Tate Harmer – Project: Eden Hotel
  • Deadgood – Project: Hug Chair
  • Interface  – Product: All products
  •  Ecolight
  • Zetter Hotels

Event timings: 6.30 p.m. – 10.30 p.m.

6.30 p.m. Welcome drinks are served
7.00 p.m. Welcome speech from Hotel Designs Editor, Hamish Kilburn, to include unveiling of The Brit List 2018 winners
7.15 p.m. Canapés are served
7.15 p.m. Headline speaker addresses The Brit List 2018
7.30 p.m. Awards presentation commences
8.00 p.m. Headline speaker addresses The Brit List 2018
8.15 p.m. Celebrations and networking

In order to secure you place, click here to purchase tickets. 

To discuss the various sponsorship packages available, please contact Katy Phillips on +44(0)1992 374050

BRIT LIST 2018 Industry partner: British Institute of Interior Design

SPOTLIGHT ON: Handmade British furniture range launches to add statement

Hamish Kilburn

AS HOTEL DESIGNS CONTINUES TO FOCUS ITS LENS ON FURNITURE THIS MONTH, ONE COMPANY’S HANDMADE BRITISH PRODUCTS ARE MAKING A STATEMENT IN THE PUBLIC AREAS, GUESTROOMS AND HOTEL CORRIDORS…

Following the recent feature on how to add statement to your boutique hotel, furniture brand Sofas & Stuff has recently launched a new handmade British range of furniture called Occasional Chairs.

Known as the Thistle and Port Isaac Chairs, each have been handmade in Britain and are available in any fabric to complement existing seating, or to create an occasional statement piece in any room.

The classic design of the Port Isaac features elegant button back detailing with a wide plump base, meanwhile the Thistle is more contemporary in its design, making it ideal for accenting an interior scheme.

Both the Thistle and Port Isaac are available in any fabric, and can be fully tailored to any requirements with a choice of sizes, cushion fillings and legs.

The chairs are available to purchase in 12 nationwide and London stores, with a designated team of design experts all on hand to help.