Gentrification of Startup Style

It’s the way of the world. First there’s this fresh new band with 80’s fashion and a Liam Gallagher style frontman. They explode onto the scene, win the Mercury Music Prize and before you know it they’re playing the Royal Variety Show and your mum likes them. Not cool anymore. But that’s ok because there’s this newer fresher band that are breaking. The cool kids have already moved on.

Same on the restaurant scene. Gourmet burger joints set on world domination are now wondering how to reposition themselves as Vegan friendly without upsetting their carnivore clientele.

Interior and furniture trends are no different. A new interior style appears across cool start-up offices, or maybe an independent bar in an emerging part of the city. Shared by instagrammers, hash-tagged interior shots gain traction, become a trend and the suits follow suit. Blue-chips need to attract young fresh talent so they need to be at the forefront of design. And so the trend becomes mainstream.


“All offices will look like this”

Regular readers will know I’ve been writing about the rise of start-up style and coworking spaces for a few years. Last week the UK Manager of coworking giants Wework (recently valued at $47 Billion) was interviewed by Place North West and finished by claiming all offices are destined to look like We Work. That statement does not just refer to their interior style, but also property tech, agile working, flexible space and community building. But that comment made me think. The interiors I refer to as ‘tech startup style‘ – eclectic furniture and interiors, odd chairs, wooden crates and mismatched lighting – has been adopted by Coworking brands and Blue Chips. It’s been globalised. It’s also become conceited, overpriced and unsustainable.

“Designers are now caught up in a creative dance off…”

The original aim of start-up interiors was to be thrifty and sustainable. Guys starting out in business would beg, borrow or steal whatever crappy furniture they could get their hands on. So it naturally looked eclectic, edgy and informal. And it was recycled. The problem with eclectic start up style becoming mainstream is that designers are now caught up in a creative dance off, trying to be as inventive as possible, using big corporate budgets and a limitless portfolio of brands for relatively small projects, just to get an ‘accidental cool’ vibe.

how many suppliers are really needed for modern office design?

And I confess, as interior consultant I’ve led projects for major global firms where more than sixty separate suppliers were used for a single project, to satisfy a complex design brief. That’s over sixty separate shipments of furniture and fittings from multiple European countries, without considering each manufacturer’s individual supply chain.

Shift to Circular Economy

I believe this style of interior will attract increased public scrutiny. Ellen MacArthur, British around the world sailor and Circular Economy champion is publicly targeting the design community in a push for more environmentally aware specification “because designers build the world”. Recently interviewed for Dezeen, MacArthur encourages the switch to a circular economy to use and re-use more sustainable materials.

Alongside MacArthur’s efforts I believe we can also raise awareness of transport pollution. And the solution isn’t carbon offsetting, it’s carbon reduction.


Project Mileage declaration

As pressure mounts on multinationals to cut pollution and improve sustainability, an area for improvement would be to measure ‘project mileage’ statistics. During tender stage, manufacturers and contractors would disclose mileage stats per product or shipment, which are added into a master spreadsheet for the entire project with a pre-determined maximum limit. The more manufacturers and miles you rack up as a bidder, the more penalty points you accumulate. The aim is to favour fewer, more local suppliers. This approach could in turn encourage shifts in manufacturing industries, resulting in more local production under licence, downloadable design and 3D printing.

Are you considering the transport pollution impact of your FF&E package?

But let’s come at this from source. Whatever your involvement in design, ask yourself: Can you live with one less supplier for your project? Can you consolidate your FF&E requirements through a smaller supply chain? Are you considering the transport pollution impact of your FF&E package?

Yes, Architects, Interior Designers and Dealers, I’m asking you to compromise – and by doing so I’m challenging your creativity. Bear in mind that each supplier you add to the list, means yet another shipment across land or sea. It’s time for change and we can all have a positive influence. I’ll do my part to consolidate interior packages using fewer brands. What will you do?

I’ll sign off with a link to The Circular Design Guide.

Thanks for reading – Catch you soon.