In the interior design industry, there are residential studios and commercial studios; the former handles private homes, the latter, public spaces like hotels, restaurants and retail stores. There are also hybrid studios, those that can put their hand to both—a private chalet and a hot new club. These aren’t a rarity; many studios work in both realms. What is rare is a studio which operates in both realms with two entirely unique aesthetic personalities.
Such is the impressive dichotomy of London design studio BradyWilliams—the London-based design studio known for creating toned down, almost minimalist homes with one hand and exhilaratingly atmospheric eateries with the other. A portfolio as diverse as the one showcased by the studio can only be successfully achieved with a solid foundation, one which it has built into its very core since day one: two founders with differing approaches but perfectly aligned vision and ”a strong DNA”.
Chief Creative Officer Jon Sharpe catches up with co-founders Shayne Brady and Emily Williams on the rise of this first time LuxDeco 100 studio.
Tell us a little about the beginnings of BradyWilliams. What are your design backgrounds? When and why did you establish the studio?
Emily: I trained at Kensington & Chelsea and had a passion for design from an early age. My design career began in hotel design and this is where I met Shayne. I was then at Louise Bradley for a number of years, working my way up to Associate Director. However, Shayne and I stayed in touch throughout.
Shayne: I trained in Interior Architecture at DIT in Dublin. After graduating, I worked for an architecture design company in Dublin before moving to London and meeting Emily when we both worked and were mentored by Jan Wilson of RPW design. I was new to London with practically no friends so I basically forced Emily to be my friend. She was newly married, and I think she and her husband were slightly perplexed to begin with!
Following my love for hospitality design, I went onto become a Senior Designer at David Collins Studio. After some years of honing our trades, Emily and I decided to follow the dream and in 2013 set up BradyWilliams.
Emily: That dream was always to create a design studio with our vision and flair which marries the two disciplines of hospitality and residential design.
Shayne: We always had ambitions to own our own business as we have strong creative visions and believed passionately that we could succeed together. We also wanted a partnership, so we had the support of each other.
BradyWilliams has two founders and two main departments. Who does what and how does that work?
Emily: My skills and experience lie in residential design and I tend to lead on private residential and residential development design.
Shayne: And as my background is in hospitality design, our bar, restaurant and retail projects are led by myself. I always wanted to be a set designer for stage—something I still would like to pursue—and so hospitality design was where my passions lay. When we undertake a hotel design project, we both come together and always work collaboratively, combing our skill sets as was very much the case for Hotel Alex which we completed last year.
To what extent does residential design inspire your hospitality design and vice versa?
Emily: We are one holistic studio and our core values transfer across both hospitality and residential. A dedication to client service, and attention to detail are a common thread across all our work while, of course, the creative vision and briefs are very different for hospitality and residential.
How would you describe the BradyWilliams aesthetic?
Shayne: Our hospitality projects tend to be immersive, dramatic, playful in their use of colour and theatrical in approach. I am hugely inspired by set design and there are elements of this throughout our work. We create the sets for people’s everyday lives and so to elevate and enhance that through evocative design which can create an excitement and a connection is what we try to achieve in all our work.
Emily: Within our residential projects we look to create calm and functional spaces focussing on layered finishes and textures, combined with a curation of furniture. Key to every design is looking at the lifestyle of the individual client and designing a home that is specific to their needs.
Your style is so varied. What is the common thread you use throughout all of your projects?
Shayne: Our studio DNA is all about creative vision, clear attention to detail and a holistic approach to design, from start to finish. While our projects have a strong DNA, we strive to make each project different.
Emily: I would also add that we bring passionate creativity across all projects, no matter how big or small. We find that the combination and use of various textures and materials has become rather a signature of ours.
We always hear studios say that they don't follow trends. What really inspires your design aesthetic then?
Emily: Trends do of course give a level of influence across the wider industry and moving with the times is different to following trends. Our key inspirations come from the architectural bones of the building we are working within and the client brief. We often look to nature and historical references for inspiration.
Shayne: Within hospitality the brief is the ultimate starting point, what is key to us is not creating a trend based interior as trends fade, longevity is something we strive for, to create timeless restaurants and bars that stand the test of time through innovative vision and material choices.
What’s your end goal when designing?
Shayne: The goal is, of course, to have a satisfied client, but also to ensure that we have pushed them to consider designs they would never have conceived before; to walk into a finished space and see the public embrace what we have created is always very satisfying.
Emily: For residential clients, the key points are always to create a sense of balance and comfort and make the most of the natural attributes of the room and/or use our creative vision to resolve challenges within the space.
Shayne: In terms of goals within our hospitality projects, we want to create a sense of excitement and energy that everyone feels welcome in. Someone once referred to our restaurants as giving them a warm hug as they come in through the door and we loved that as one of our ethoses when designing spaces!
You've worked on some great projects. What have been some of your personal highlights?
Emily: I thoroughly enjoyed working on a heritage building in Regent’s Park that had a really lovely architectural envelope to start with, which we developed and brought into the present day. We also worked on another project where it was a very contemporary conversion of a Georgian façade. Here we created an exciting winter garden within the courtyard space which the client was very happy with.
Shayne: Fischer’s and the The Fenwick Shoe Rooms were our first hospitality projects and they propelled us within the industry, so we have a lot of fond memories of them. However, all our projects have their own unique highlights within the design journey. We feel incredibly proud of what we achieved at Bob Bob Cité but you can never pick a favourite child!
If we were to take a peek at your current project list, what would we find?
Emily: A lovely Regency property in Clifton Villas Bristol; it is my favourite period of architecture and both us and the client are in unison over the vision for the end result of the home.
Shayne: We are really excited for Manzi’s of Soho to open as it is a more relaxed restaurant for the Corbin & King estate with a real sense of fun. Jeremy and I have embraced a real playfulness in the design which I think is testament to our long-standing collaborations. It has been wonderful to work on this project and we have a few more projects together in the pipeline.
For you, why is interior design so important?
Shayne: Restaurant and retail designs are about creating an experience. We strive to create a new world. We always say it’s immersive as we transport guests to another place. It’s not just how great the food is but also the environment the guests sit in, the uniforms staff wear, how guests are greeted that all combine to create a moment. I think as we emerge from Covid-19 this will be even more relevant as people will want to embrace the experiences that lockdown has denied them, but, also, I think it will mean people will be more appreciative of these experiences. Our designs create the backdrop to all aspects of social life.
Emily: Interior design is not just about how things look but about the whole experience within the space. Interior design should make your life easier and add comfort, as well as be aesthetically pleasing. Interior design is a wonderful way to show your own personality with spaces filled with your own love of art, textures and palettes.
How do you create a successful interior?
Shayne: The key to any great [commercial] design is a plan that works very well. It is a dance between staff and guests moving through the space and if the plan doesn’t function well, it doesn’t matter what the aesthetic is as the space won’t work. Great lighting is also key, we must ensure that every guest feels beautiful bathed in flattering light.
Emily: When it comes to a home, it’s key to create flow within a room, visual points of interest, comfort and balance.
When it comes to interiors, what do you wish you saw more of?
Shayne: I think what is wonderful is we live in a world with such a broad spectrum of design styles and tastes that, actually, you only need to look at LuxDeco Top 100 designers to see what diversity of design we get to experience. I don’t think there is any one thing I would like to see more of but what I love seeing is confident designers pushing the boundaries and creating innovative projects time and again.
Emily: We love to use fabric on walls in residential projects and would love to see more of this.
In what way does your at-work design styles differ from your at-home design styles?
Emily: My current home is a ‘work in progress’, but I think it will be very similar to our residential projects. It may be slightly more relaxed and eclectic, and I expect I will never feel it is fully finished as there is always some new inspiration or piece that I would like to incorporate.
Shayne: I still like to bring a sense of colour and playfulness home while my design is less dramatic and more calming to live in. There is always an emphasis on dining with a custom-designed banquette to allow more friends squeeze around the table.
What is the most important thing to remember when designing an interior?
Emily: Scale of furniture and natural light are really important. When starting with an interior, consider the function of the space first. Once you have the flow fully resolved, the design will follow.
Shayne: As mentioned, lighting is essential to create atmosphere and energy, I think it’s important to also relax and have fun with design. Being confident in your vision goes a long way.