A first warning: There's not much to see here. Really, the showroom is always in a state of flux and, as they say, it's a "working showroom". At any given time, a couple of projects are going on, and there's no saying what you'll be looking at, because the selection of stuff changes almost daily. Everything in the store is for sale, though, of course.
That said, it's not really important that there's not a huge stock of things to buy. Because these people are Idea Merchants. And I've rarely met designers as confident as this bunch.
There are four people in this little shop. Two designers make their workhome here, along with Alana Fletcher, a keener who seems to love talking to people. Robin Lewis himself is a basket of charm, and talks about their work with serious verve. When I was there, he settled in to examining a few drawings while we chatted. He's about as relaxed as you can get in the design world. His partner is designer Patrizia Rosati.
They've been written up no end of times. House and Home has them on speed dial; they'll be in the October 2008 issue, and they've been in the magazine before, as well as in Wish. Patrizia Rosati has apparently been on "Style Department" on T.V. a number of times, too.
And you're going to hear this word a lot: Love. Because this little design shop is all about the Love.
"Love is at the core of our brand", says Robin.
Robin Lewis, the cheerful designer, tells me to "Word Up". He says their style is "Home-Grown Organic", and it appears genuine. They like to make spaces that people like, in that they will actually like living in them. It's less a statement of art than a statement of living style.
Their space seems pretty organic, especially as it changes so much, and they seem like pretty organic people. By and large, nothing seems particularly jarring or obtrusive about their aesthetic. Some of the subtleties are lost on me, but that says more about me.
They like to do home staging. They've never had a client who was stuck with a house, but the house staging comes in at about 1-3 percent of the total sale value. You can guess it's probably closer to 3 percent. But if it increases the sale price, who's complaining? As Robin says, "It takes some nuts for the clients to step up, but it's absolutely worth every penny."
They're so organic and energetic and cheerful, in fact, that I expect a party to erupt at any moment. When these people get down, I'll bet it's a fun time. They really like their customers.
"It's about the vibe. Having a good time," says Robin.
They really like their People. Recently, they took everyone to a football game. It didn't matter how small the clients were-- they just love working with people. "Small or big, it's all good".
They're purists. They do Modernist. Not Futurist, not Classical, not Italianesque.
They do Modernist.
"There's no smoke and mirrors, no wank," says Robin. The style and form they use is pretty strict, and they never stray far from it. They say it's more honest than most other styles.
They do all kinds of work. They'll do a little decor, they'll arrange some space usage, and then they'll gut a house and replace it with something more tasteful, more useful, and much cooler. And they do it with panache and love (there's that word again). It's as if they're planning on living in the spaces they design.
Their style is sharp and clean. They like the spaces they design to feel natural, the way they feel people were naturally meant to live. There's a lot of wood, but it's balanced by neutral fabrics and subtle colour tones. I'd almost say it was earthy, but it's too sharp for that. It's more clean than anything else, clearly delineated. That said, there's a soft touch in their portfolio work that must have been more than an afterthought, because it's very essential to what they do.
They work like dogs, though. In their world, working around the clock is pretty normal. They're always working on something, having meetings, working on layouts or creating samples. When I arrived, they were in a meeting; after a couple of phone calls, when I left, it resumed without interruption. They had four projects going on simultaneously the day I was there.
They don't do much actual construction themselves, but I saw one example of the work they do on the floor. It was a pretty gormless mid-century metal tabletop, nothing much to speak of except maybe in a mildly retro way. They were in the process of seriously funkifying it. They acquired a metal frame which they were going to powdercoat in red, and then they were going to refinish the top. It sounds like it'll be pretty interesting when it's done, a nice little conversion project.
They like to use local artists and they know more than a few. The Darts on the Wall art-like thing was done by a local artist, and I have to say it's pretty eye-catching. They've been asked to reproduce it a number of times.
They don't make anything, but they have connections. They can design it, and they know people who can get it done. I'm guessing this comes at a certain price. It usually does.
I'm not sure how much my own wallet could ever open for this sort of service, or if their style is exactly what I'd be after, but if you like modernist, these people might be able to ring your bell. Be nice and you'll get a party invitation or two, too.