Interior Designers and Shopfitters are regularly placed at opposite ends of the spectrum in the construction industry – interior designers’ ideas can often be rooted in the fantastical; driven largely by aesthetic. Colour, shape, space, functionality and materiality often take precedence over what might be considered the more creatively restricting parts of the design process; How furniture, fixtures and equipment are to be built, transported or fitted on site, time-restraints, budgets etc. For example, fitting on site, particularly in older buildings, can pose a challenge for designers who habitually design on auto-pilot for a perfectly square-room with level floors – which unfortunately is an ideal almost never found in the shopfitting world.
The designers main goal is to arrive at an aesthetically-pleasing, well-functioning destination where ambience, lighting, pattern and texture are all carefully selected to create an experience. The fitters have the means of transporting them there. they must collaborate with the design to consider everything from a much more technical stance – to make sure everything is fitted accurately to meet in with the designer’s vision and overall ensure end-user satisfaction. This is where fitters act as problem solvers for the Interior Designer despite their often polar-opposite mindsets and the success of any project has a huge reliance on how well these team members work together. It is the juxtaposition between rigidity and looseness that makes these types work together so well. The interior designer needs the strict rigidity of the fitter to ground them; make them step back and see for themselves that perhaps they are being too ambitious in their form or that their design cannot be created with the materials they had in mind. The fitter needs the guidance of the designer throughout the fit-out to keep on the right track.
Simon Campbell, managing director of fit-out specialist Portview, explains that ‘Collaboration between all the specialists on a fit-out project is essential. No project can succeed unless the professionals work together to realise the client’s investment and bring the designer’s vision for outlet to life on time, on budget and to a quality standard. Collaboration is key.’
At SteamPunk, we’ve set ourselves apart from most of our competitors by employing our own in-house interior designer – so the relationship between designer and fitter within our company is much closer and allows them to interact on a day to day basis – the outcome of this is jobs running much more seamlessly; on-site discrepancies can be solved immediately, and the joinery/manufacture element of the designs develop with both designer and fitters input into materiality and structure. Due to the nature of the shopfitting, our sites require a good problem-solver as part of their team to make sure things this seamless interaction is capable. Small problems that arise on site can often have an impact on the time frame or blow up budgets and that is something that both shopfitter and client hope to avoid.
The wacky Mexican interior of Muchacho in Dundee was unveiled in summer 2018.
In a recent shop-fit for Muchacho, Dundee, a Mexican street food takeaway – much of the groundwork was laid for the design before the fitters were able to get in and complete the strip out. As with most contracts, the strip out uncovered some small problems for the designer and fitters who then worked to reach an appropriate conclusion.
A lot of the solutions were just simple alterations to drawings to allow for old walls that were off the plumb or small errors in measurements, but a lot of these solutions don’t really require much input from the designer either. Wall-mounted chevrons features made from timber and mirror were required to bypass protruding pipework that was uncovered on strip out – thus requiring framing for fixing to rather than putting these straight on the wall as previously thought. Concrete bar tops were also extended more than intended to conceal the angled flooring from the stairs below that had previously been covered by fixed seating.
It’s encountering these issues that lead us to realise just how pro-active a mindset our fitters have as they are easily able to make on-the-spot decisions without causing delays or kicking up a fuss… well, most of the time, anyway!