Category Archives: Workspace Interiors

The Business of Art: Interview with acrylicize

Posted on May 16, 2014 by Liz

Hard work, positivity, believing in what you do – and a little more hard work on top – can definitely get you far. The proof is in the pudding with acrylicize, a boutique art and design studio headed up by James Burke and Paul Arad. Founded in 2003 as a result of Burke’s final year University show, the company have gone from strength to strength creating bespoke artwork and schemes for a whole host of companies, including big names like Heinz, The Office Group and Deloitte. Injecting personality into offices, stadiums, public spaces and even residential homes, the pair have created an innovative and inspiring business brand, unlike anything we at WIN have seen before.

We speak to James to find out more about acrylicize and its foundations and developments, how they approach new work, favourite projects and clients and business tips for aspiring entrepreneurs…

Paul and James, Founders of acrylicize

Firstly I’d like to say thank you for taking some time out to talk to WIN about acrylicize, it’s a pleasure to feature you on our blog. acrylicize has been described as a mix between design studio and art consultancy, how would you best describe the company to those first hearing about it?

We believe art should be accessible to as many people as possible so we are on a mission to make work that sits predominately outside the gallery space. We develop custom art works, from on-off pieces to entire art schemes. The key difference is that everything is by commission and is developed to respond to the person, company, brand or space we are working with. We call it ‘Customism’. We mix art, design, interior design, architectural features and graphics all together and what comes out is acrylicize. We’re proud that we can’t be pigeonholed – it means that we are doing things differently.

James, you first met Paul at Manchester Metropolitan University some years ago. Were you both studying on the same course? And have you always been friends?

I was at Manchester Metropolitan University studying contemporary arts while Paul was studying textile management. I had started experimenting with art on acrylic as an innovative canvas and decided to pursue this idea for my final year project.  Paul was also on the cusp of graduating; we were both very inspired by the idea of doing something for ourselves, and all that energy we had at university really inspired us to go for it.

Qubic Tax, acrylicize

I can only imagine! So where did the idea of acrylicize first come about? During University, or afterwards?

acrylicize started as my degree project. I was exploring the public’s perception of contemporary and conceptual art. I wanted to develop something that could be appreciated by a wide spectrum of people who weren’t involved in the art establishment so looked at doing something new with the simple ‘picture on the wall’ concept. The idea of acrylicize was to update the traditional canvas and develop a contemporary alternative using modern materials and technology. That’s where the use of acrylic came in and with it the name acrylicize.

How did you initially set up the business? What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome these?

For my final show at university, I displayed my acrylic art pieces with ornamental price tags designed to make a comment on Art as commodity and unintentionally sold every piece. I was always interested in building a brand around the work and just because my course finished I wasn’t ready for the project to end – really it was just the beginning. Paul then jumped on board with his sales skills and we essentially worked our arses off! It was actually one of the most exciting times of the whole last 10 years as everything was so new and exciting; we believed that anything was possible and it’s on those beliefs that we moved forward.

One of the main obstacles when starting any business from scratch is not having any previous work to show for ourselves. Looking back I think it was actually one of our biggest assets as we weren’t in any way conditioned by industry practices and as such just did whatever felt right, using our instinct and intuition to help make decisions. This freedom is one of the main factors in us staying true to ourselves and creating something genuinely unique.

In terms of a challenge, one of the most important things has always been to challenge ourselves to keep creating and evolving. This is how the idea of ‘Customism’ came about, creating completely unique, narrative-driven art concepts and installations for interior spaces, be it offices, hospitals or stadia. These projects took on different forms and utilised a whole host of materials and techniques.

Interiors Group, acrylicize

You began producing unique acrylic art, and now offer bespoke art installations, commissions, architectural features, interior graphics and exhibitions for businesses. What is your process when approaching a new project and seeing it through to completion?

With each project we take on, we put a huge amount of effort into the initial research. We focus on embracing the personality of a space and try to find a story to tell. Once we have this we have the essence of the work and we can then think about execution and how the story can be brought to life. These initial idea phases are done as a group in-house with everyone pitching in ideas, thoughts and suggestions etc. We have internal ‘stretch sessions’ where we challenge each other creatively, with individual and team tasks. This can involve everything from collecting train tickets for an afternoon at Paddington Station, to each going out to the supermarket to buy Heinz beans and experimenting at home.

We operate as artists, looking for the opportunity to try something new with every new commission. From the client’s perspective, they know never to expect the same thing twice.

Do you have specific creative individuals in the industry you go to for design ideas? Or is the work mostly done in-house?

Most of the work is done in-house at our Shoreditch studio. However, one thing we’re big advocates of at acrylicize is collaboration. We have a strong theme of collaboration and love working with other people to realise ideas.

On a recent project for long-term collaborators The Office Group, we teamed up with graphic designer Alex Fowkes. We had been admiring his work for Sony Music so dropped him a line and asked him to join us for The Office Group project at 7 Stratford Place, a Georgian townhouse that had a lot of cool history that we wanted to convey through our art. Alex was up for the project so we worked together on what is one of our favourite pieces to date.

The Office Group, 7 Stratford Place, acrylicize

How do you feel your work affects office spaces? Are there better levels of productivity for example?

Art has often been confined to the gallery space and we’re really interested in the opportunity to engage with artwork in any walk of life. The workspace is one of the places you spend the longest at, so why shouldn’t you have the ability to engage with art there? We live in such a visual society and we believe art can help to stimulate people. People also appreciate the idea that who they work for has invested in the space, creating an environment that makes you happy, a bit more vibrant and a bit more energetic. That goes a long way.

Research by Dr Craig Knight, from the psychology department at the University of Exeter, has shown that staff work 15 per cent more efficiently in an office decorated with art and plants. When staff decorated their own office space, productivity increased by 30 per cent.

You also work on residential, public and healthcare projects. Is the process very similar? And which do you prefer working on?

Sometimes more professional research is required, especially when working within healthcare. It’s always really rewarding working in this sphere as you know that work is doing something to help people who are in need of feeling better.

Heinz R&D HQ, Wall 57, acrylicize

You’ve worked with a variety of brands, including some huge names – Hilton, Emirates, Harrods, BBC to name just a few. Which has been the most enjoyable for you so far?

All have been great projects. Heinz was particular awesome it was a glorious story to bring to life and a huge project for us as a company. We got to travel to the Netherlands to create a feature wall that stands in the reception of their European Innovation Centre, where all the R&D happens. It was an honour to be a part of Heinz history.

And the most challenging?

When Newcastle-based accountants Qubic Tax came to us wanting to inspire their staff, we had a challenge on our hands. Lets face it Tax can be quite a dry subject and no one particularly loves the fact that they have to pay tax. Our solution was to create a canvas of over 1,200 LEGO figures, each one representing a tax-paying vocation. We were trying to make something that is genuinely quite hard and dislikeable into something that will put a smile on your face. We looked at tax and we really wanted to humanise it as much as we could. The use of Lego was used to soften that experience and tap into the child in you.

Heathrow T3, acrylicize

What are the most valuable lessons you have learnt from setting up your own business? Any advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs?

We put endless effort into making contacts, picking up the Yellow Pages and calling everybody, absolutely anybody, who may have been remotely interested in what we were doing. It’s all about action and the very act of doing something as simple as speaking to people has a knock-on effect.

For young entrepreneurs who are finding their feet, starting their own businesses, two principal themes have been very successful to us personally. The first one is a positive step. Take a step somewhere even if you are not sure which direction you’re going in. Don’t worry about that. The important thing is to be proactive, get off the couch and just take the first step to start you on your path and journey.

The second theme is belief. Have belief in yourself. Have belief in what you are offering and have belief in the people you are working with. Positive energy and belief are the two key drivers that we embrace and push forward every day.

Wembley Stadium , acrylicize

You seem to be constantly evolving and developing, so what is next for acrylicize?

We are really interested in the idea of community and collaboration and bridging the gap between great creative talent and opportunities to make a living doing what you love. We have some big plans in the department. On top of this we are developing some great projects as part of acrylicize and are about to release two short films about our recent installations that have just been completed.

And when you’re not busy installing monsters into the Headquarters of Mind Candy or injecting some fun into a tax office with Lego pieces, what else do you enjoy doing? Where would we find you on a typical weekend?

Paul and I both have young children so we are spending a lot of time with all the amazing things that come with that. I am also a keen drummer and graffiti artist and like to indulge in both these areas regularly. It’s all about balance and doing lots of what you enjoy.

Final question – what is your own office space like – just curious!

We’ve got a great space in Shoreditch, just off Redchurch Street. It’s got relics of all our projects and is a really bright, open space with huge floor to ceiling windows. We moved east two years ago, from our original studio in Harrow. The team had grown and we were keen to soak up the creativity of the melting pot that is east London at the current time. The energy is great, it’s a vibrant part of town filled with artists, designers and people doing their thing, creating a constantly evolving landscape on an almost daily basis. It suits what we do very well and we wanted to leave our mark.

The Office Group, 7 Stratford Place, acrylicize

Celebrating at Saatchi

Posted on December 10, 2013 by Megan

Ten days on from the inaugural World Interiors News Annual Awards ceremony and dinner the winning designers are still basking in the glory of their successes. London’s Saatchi Gallery played host to the most distinguished figures in architecture and interior design, treating the attendees to an opportunity to view the latest exhibition entitled “Body Language” which explores the physicalities of human beings through photography, sculpture and painting.

Escaping the cold November night outside, over 300 guests from across the globe retreated into the gallery’s warmth for a cocktail reception, a 3-course meal and some all-important networking opportunities. Amongst the many well-known faces was judge and interior design guru Sir Terence Conran, who has been a keen supporter of the awards programme.

As petit-fours and coffee were served, the awards ceremony began with a speech from Annalisa Hammond, Editor of World Interiors News, welcoming the guests and introducing Art historian and BBC Culture Show host Andrew Graham-Dixon who proceeded to present the awards for the winning designs.

Whilst the shortlisted entries from each category were announced and the winners collected their trophies on stage, guests from all areas of architecture and interior design were reminded of the designs which have helped shape the material and cultural landscape over the past year.

When the ceremony came to a close, the elated winners and shortlisted designers were photographed with their trophies and certificates, and the champagne flowed as celebrations began.

After overwhelmingly positive feedback about the event, Annalisa Hammond reflects that “the intimacy and originality of the venue appealed to our sponsors and guests, many of whom have already enquired about next year’s event!”

With the 2014 Awards due to open in early January, it promises to be another exciting year ahead for World Interiors News.

Westin Palace

Posted on November 19, 2013 by Megan

Rockwell Group Europe have recently completed the interior design for the new event spaces at the historic Palace Hotel, Madrid. Originally designed by Catalan architect Ferrés i Puig, the internal event space within the 20th century building have been given a touch of modern elegance in a bid to revive the hotel’s longstanding role as a hub for Madrid civic life.

A total area of 1,185 sq m was transformed by Creative Director Diego Gronda and his team. Worthy of note within these designs are several custom lighting features, including an LED lighting system which allows users of the “Circulo Palace” to choose between more than 250 colours, to set the mood of the room at the touch of an I-pad.

The new venue, Espacio Palace, complements the hotel’s existing meeting rooms, providing a distinctive spatial and aesthetic alternative. “We developed a design language that is at once respectful of the 100-year history of this magnificent building, yet offers a contemporary interpretation and accommodates the technological needs of guests and customers of the 21st century,” says Gronda. “This project has been especially important to us because the hotel plays such a prominent role in the life of Madrid, and it’s our first commission in our home city.”

Rockwell Group Europe invented a sophisticated, multi-purpose space that is adaptable to amaximum of private functions, such as business presentations, cocktail parties, wedding celebrations, dinners, and ballroom dances. The design is intended to capture the essence of the glamorous “Palace Brasserie” that occupied this location in the early 20th century while imbuing the space with a modern sensibility and firmly anchoring it in our time. Inspired by the landmark Neptune Fountain in front of The Westin Palace, Rockwell Group Europe integrated subtle design references to water throughout the new venue, connecting the hotel’s interior to its urban context and adding a sense of movement to custom furniture, lighting, and carpeting. Neutral and metallic tones lend the spaces a fresh and contemporary feel.  

The project nearly doubles the hotel’s banqueting capacity, making The Westin Palace the largest luxury hotel supplier for special events in Madrid. It is the culmination of Rockwell Group Europe’s interior redesign of the hotel’s most significant public spaces, which began in 2012 with the renovation of the dramatic rotunda lobby and lounge, long known for its spectacular stained glass dome, as well as four of the hotel’s meeting rooms.

WAN Workspace Awards closing Sunday

Posted on September 27, 2012 by Megan

With only a few days left to enter the WAN Workspace Interiors Award this is the last chance to enter your project into this high calibre competition!

We spend half of our lives at work and so it’s no surprise that workspace interior design is big business in the corporate world and beyond. As designers strive to make workspaces more engaging and ergonomically sound, the office environment is changing. It could even be said that a revolution is occurring in the way we think and behave whilst at work. For a greater insight into this subject, take a look at our Workspace Special report on how attitudes are changing.

Back to the WAN Workspace Interiors Awards and the latest entry, submitted by Hassell for their George Patterson Y & R project, Melbourne, Australia. The brief called for a ‘studio’ office environment that would reflect the creative team at George Patterson Y&R (and its sub-brands) while still being a practical modern office.

George Patterson Y & R

Various working areas were required, from presentation spaces and informal lounges to collaboration areas and formal workstations. Stripping this building back to its early 1900s glory – when it was viewed by Melburnians as an iconic boutique department store – was at the core of Hassell’s approach to this project.

Retail and commercial spaces are located on the first two levels with the office space above. The building itself is characterised by large open spaces and heritage architectural features such as Victorian columns, a glazed atrium on level three and ceiling heights ranging from three to six metres.

The key challenges were spreading a modest budget over a large floor area and designing within a space that was not originally intended as a workplace. One of the challenges of the project were the high ceilings – beautiful from a design perspective but problematic for consistent heating, cooling and lighting. Overcoming these issues meant removing decades of additions that we felt impeded the building’s appeal and inserting elements that stood free of the building fabric or architecture. This approach minimised expensive building works while at the same time allowing the heritage character of the interior to stand proud on its own.

George Patterson Y & R

The ‘elements’ were delivered in the form of a furniture-based series of responses to the client’s needs. One such response was using bookcases and defined floor finishes instead of walls to define spaces.

The result is a functional yet creative design that allows daylight to permeate the space without being inhibited by walls or other divisions and the removable furniture systems allow long-term flexibility within the space, ensuring minimal lifecycle costs. In addition, the GPY&R team were able to use the space while the work was in progress.

The Workspace Interiors Awards will be judged by an impressive panel of industry experts including Alice Fung, co-founder of 00:/ (zero zero) and Neil Usher, Group Property at Rio Tinto.

The deadline for entries is 30 September 2012 so be sure to enter your project online now. For further details please follow this link or contact Sarah by the end of the week.
Best of luck!

Design Festival coming to London

Posted on September 13, 2012 by Megan

The London Design Festival (LDF) kicks off next week and we are gearing up for a jam packed week full of inspirational interior design events, seminars and parties!

World Interiors News will cover the event from our base at Design Junction, where we will host a booth showcasing products from the shortlisted designers of the WAN Interiors Furniture and Accessories Award 2012. We are thrilled to have products including Karim Rashid’s Sancal Float Sofa, Eric Parry Architect’s Vigilia Bench, Vitamin’s Knot Lamp and the winner Naomi Paul’s OMI pendants range, including her XL GLÜCK pendant which is being shown for the first time.

During the LDF we will also traverse the capital to bring you a roundup of the best exhibitions and products that the week has to offer, out in our next edition of INSIDE.

West London’s 100% Design show takes place at Earl’s Court from 19 – 22 September, highlights of which include the International Pavilions, which will feature over 200 designers from around the world.

The capital’s East End will be abuzz with open studios, pop-up exhibitions and shows all radiating out from the central hub of Brick Lane where, from 20 – 23 September, Tent London takes over The Old Truman Brewery. Tent will promote many young British designers, such as recent graduate Hugh Leader-Williams and his award winning Spun furniture range, and the latest contemporary interior products in ceramics, textiles, materials, lighting, furniture and accessories.

Central London will host Design Junction from 19 – 23 September at the former Royal Mail sorting office on New Oxford Street. The event will showcase over 100 lighting and furniture designers including Artek, Benchmark, Pinch and Thonet.

With so much to see and do this year at LDF it’s worth pencilling in the whole weekend to explore the festival, and make sure that you come along and meet us at booth F60 at the Design Junction, The Sorting Office, 21-31 New Oxford Street, London, WC1A 1BA.

The London Design Festival runs from 14 – 23 September at various venues across the city. See www.londondesignfestival.com for full listings and events.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The future of the Workspace

Posted on September 7, 2012 by Megan

We have had a busy week preparing for the forthcoming edition of INSIDE, our monthly round-up of interior design news.

This month we focus on workspace interiors to coincide with the WAN Workspace Interiors Award. We uncover the secret behind the collaborative workspace ethos in a discussion with innovative architect and entrepreneur, Alice Fung. We have also visited “The Developing City” exhibition at the Walbrook Club in London, an exciting vision of the capital in 2050, to join the debate on the future of the office. To make sure you don’t miss out on these and many other stories, simply follow this link and subscribe to the INSIDE newsletter.

The WAN Workspace Interiors Awards are now open and we have already received many interesting entries. They range from corporate headquarters to shared workspaces that encourage a sense of community. The Microsoft offices in Santa Fe, Mexico covers an area of 7500m2 and combines vibrant colours with a variety of textures and materials to create an engaging office environment. The penthouse seventh floor of the building contains the general reception, dining area, meeting rooms, auditorium and waiting area in a warm open plan space. The use of colour is at the heart of the interior design and has been used to evoke emotions, express personalities and stimulate the association of architecture with the brand.

The WAN Workspace Interior Awards will be judged by a panel of major industry players including Neil Usher of Rio Tinto, Alice Fung from  00:/ (zero zero) and Hub Westminster and many others. If you have a project that you would like to enter you can do so on our website and also check out the competition on our Commercial projects page.

INSIDE that will land in your inbox next week, and shortly thereafter you will receive our report on “The Developing City.” Let us know what you think!