“I think anyone can be a designer. Anyone that creates. Someone that finds a solution to a problem.” ~ Aidan Lewis
The studio is working towards creating a strong dialogue with London’s tradesmen; asking how designers are defined, the future of development and their opinions on the fusion of art and development.
Aidan Lewis is a London working furniture craftsman in the infancy of development, and founder of Studio Nuumi. We speak to Aidan about development and creativities importance on London’s cityscape, the ‘recycled’ furniture market and the future of development.
What is your definition of a designer?
Good question, I don’t know really I mean anyone can be a designer, I don’t think it is such a set term that like, just because you create something you’re a designer. Even the most boring jobs, even just office work, you’re still designing something. It may just not be as flamboyant and creative. So, I think anyone can be a designer. Anyone that creates. Someone that finds a solution to a problem.
What inspired you to make the move into the world of property development?
To dumb it down, money. But no, basically where I started doing furniture, it was to use recycled materials, reclaimed materials, everything salvaged and then, I found that I could create furniture, really cheap, keep it cheap and still make a profit and then the customer was getting a nice piece of furniture but also getting it for a good price, and I was rivalling other companies that where doing it at a lot higher rate . Then I moved into fit outs, I was able to do full refurbs, at a fraction of the cost of what other companies were charging like literally did some about £200 whereas a company they would have charged £10,000, so erm, managed to do that then I realised, started looking at like people I knew were buying houses and stuff, they spent all their money getting a deposit, then you know, mortgage payments and when they actually moved in they realised they had to spend about five to ten grand refurnishing it, like furniture for every room, then I started thinking, well, if I can do it n a small scale why can’t I transition that into a larger scale in property. I bought a really run down property, working on doing that up but again using the same story as I have done before, recycle everything. If I knock down walls, I’ll take all the wood out the wall, rebuild it to make furniture for the flat. Try to be intuitive about it.
What do you believe is your role in the contemporary market?
Erm, I don’t really know [laughs] What is the contemporary market? Whereas companies that do quite expensive stuff like buying new, brand new I like to skip dive and find all reclaimed materials. It’s a market that, I suppose it became fashionable about two, two-three years ago where everyone was recycling palettes. So palette furniture boomed and I kind of rode that wave for a bit but now I’m trying to, still keep the reclaimed material but not. Because I suppose with palette wood it’s known as rustic, everyone does like rustic furniture for just a palette with wheels on, so I’m trying to take claimed materials but create nice modern pieces.
So do you go with the approach of being sustainable?
Yeah, I think that’s the main purpose of it. Not only is it cost effective, doing it cheaply, there are mountains and mountains of wood getting burnt and destroyed for no reason, every day there cutting down rainforests to just rebuild shops with brand new wood when you could just go around the corner and there’ll be a palette on the side. As long as you’ve got a bit of time clean it up a little bit, it looks just as good.
What is your take on the fusion of art and development?
I think it’s important because, I mean nothing about this studio, but development generally is just, get it up as quick as possible don’t really care who’s going in, it’s just profit, profit profit. But what I wanna do is make properties that are nice, I don’t really care too much about the money side of it, because I wanna place someone walks into and is like ‘wow, how have you done this on such a small budget?’. But I suppose with developers today it is like block flats go up and they’re all just square so I do think there has to be a massive fusion of art and development just to make it like, attractive
So do you think that’s something that’s not existing at the moment?
There are little areas, there are some developers do try a little bit but there’s still. I just kind of, going back to the 50’s, 60’s when all that like concrete gravel thing, threw them up dirt quick, dirt cheap, super quick just boom, up, done, get as many people in, and then now I suppose. When you look across there, that’s the biggest design flair they could do, just stick a bit of wood cladding on, it’s still a brick structure just stuck a bit of wood on it. So now the other thing art needs to play, if not already but a much bigger role in just making it creative as well, and a place that you walk past it and think ‘wow’ I wanna live there’, or ‘I wanna work there’, ‘i wanna build there’. Just that now it’s a bit boring.
That doesn’t necessarily mean spend masses of money?
You don’t have to spend, I suppose its the, it’s either time or money, like I use palette wood , I could go to the shop buy a piece of wood that’s instant, done, it’s ready to use. Palette wood, I have to spend a lot of time to make it nice so obviously that costs money in the long run but , if developers maybe spent a little bit longer, I know theres budget to stick to but they could spend longer finding different types of materials. Because, I use so many different materials, every piece I make is a bit different, you can buy all this wood [point at table], you know, a very light wood, but because I use twenty different palettes I get dark browns, light browns, oaks, different tones…
I suppose, like on that again it’s all the same wood cladding is brand new wood that they’re put on its aged over time but if you did that with recycled materials, you’d see so many different grains, colours and stuff like thats. You can be creative and artistic and it doesn’t have to be, you know like really vibrant paints here and there…
Textures and materials, and not only is it sustainable, its better for the environment, but you’re adding a bit of flare to building that necessarily, would’ve just been brick, or you know, a bit boring to look at.
What do you believe the future of development looks like?
Hopefully that, I think realistically, populations are growing at an alarming rate so they’re just trying to get as much housing, as much accommodation as possible, so realistically, I think it will probably just carry on the same-ish. There are a lot of developers just throwing up building to store people rather than buildings that are homes, it’s buildings that are literally rooms to live in rather than rooms to make a home. But, especially in London, every bit of green space they’ve got they’re just trying to build up as fast as possible. Maybe, different in parts of the country and the world but it’s really rare, it’s one-offs when it’s a real creative building. You don’t hear that every week. I’d say for every thousand brick, horrible building you get one beautiful one. So, I can’t see, I dunno, I hope it would change, I hope they do create beautiful places to live, but I do think it will try on. I mean at the end of the day, money drives the people towant to make as much money as possible and are you, if you’ve got a budget to keep, finances to pay back and stuff are you going to add on another 6 months or a year to go out and look for materials and stuff or spend a bit longer on the design process, when you could just do the generic, get it up, get a bathroom in, get a bedroom in. Unless you find a designer or an artist that is creative and passionate about creating those types of buildings, the generic people that walk through it to go into property development to make money are gonna carry on just throwing up buildings. But, I mean, anything could happen. Whether I suppose was people could is, I don’t know how they’d enforce it but like, integrate laws where design has to be important, if one area has already a big concrete structure that looks a bit, then you’re not allowed to mirror I, I dunno, like maybe, looking at creativity, you have to be inspired by whoever’s gonna live there, but then again how do you determine that, who’s gonna live there. Something Remi’s doing is for artists, so she’s got quite a view on ‘right we need to make it for the artist’ but, not everyone else is going to have that viewpoint, a family of one family, two families, three families, just get them in. Whether that changes.
With a stronger conscience for our carbon footprint and the welfare of the planet is there a new wave of developers whereby, not only collaborating development with art and creativity but also designing with the reminder of sustainability at the forefront.
With the amount of housing currently needed, how can we remember to develop with sustainability at the heart of design?