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Q&A with Alex Isaac of Morpheus London

Q&A with Alex Isaac of Morpheus London

The designer of Monte Carlo’s only private members’ club discusses the project and his style

Jon Sharpe
By Jon Sharpe, Chief Creative Officer

The son of two successful interior designers and having spent the last 15 years plus at renowned yacht design studio Bannenburg and Linley, the talent and creativity of Alex Isaac – Head of Design at Morpheus London – might be viewed as both nature and nurture. And what a combination that seems to be.

Discover what the creative’s design mantra is, his personal style and what he considers to be “some of the world’s most beautiful furniture”.

Q: Your parents are both interior designers – was it always on the cards for you to follow in their footsteps?

Not in the slightest. Having grown up in an ever evolving home and dragged around their client’s projects, I initially reacted against the more creative industries, seeking something more practical in the form of civil engineering. However post my studies I did indeed crave a career with a more aesthetic angle, balancing the practical skills learnt from engineering with my natural inclination for design; I was fortunate enough to find a first role with yacht designers Bannenberg, with whom I remained for 7 years, getting to really learn Interior Design at the highest end of the trade.

Q: What did you learn from your parents about interior design?

Restraint and versatility. My parents worked in a number of design vernaculars, but essentially, I learnt from them the necessity to not over-design, remove superfluous embellishment and remain adaptable to your client’s wishes and desires. The reason my parent’s business was successful for over forty years was as a result of their understanding of clients, creating a home and not just a showcase for their talents.

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Q: Do you have any design mantras?

“Design is a profession, not a hobby.” The term “interior design” has the tendency to be a cover all for all disciplines from decoration to interior architecture. As such it can dilute or confuse people’s perceptions of what we do. A studio at the top end of the market should be regarded as highly as any professional discipline; this is something instilled in every member of the Morpheus team. We have the opportunity to materially affect our client’s lifestyles for the better and as such our level of service must stand up to comparable industries.

Q: You joined Morpheus as Head of Design in 2014 – what attracted you to the studio?

There is a great deal of parity between my design ethos and Morpheus; there is a service-led approach, professional attitude and a desire to interpret our client’s dream rather than “brand” our clients Morpheus and impose a house style on their projects. As such we are able to work on a variety of designs, from residential to hospitality all at the top end of the market. This diversity keeps our work very bespoke, challenging yet interesting and entertaining. No two projects are the same and this means we have a broad reach in our portfolio of completed schemes. It is a conscious decision to remain this way – a Morpheus DNA and thread that informs all our projects but no prescriptive look and feel. This is highly appealing for me and our design team, hence, why we attract a strong and like-minded group of designers.

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Q: What do you consider Morpheus’ key aesthetics?

Rather than a key aesthetic, there are certain rules we follow to commence a design and to ensure it is appropriate for our clients and indeed the architecture and location of the project. Morpheus being the God of Dreams, we start with our own invention called “dream translation.” Following an exhaustive briefing process and analysis of the scheme’s goals we create an abstract and high level mood that is relevant to the ideals of the project; this mood is then made more tangible step by step developing into the architectural details, layout and decorative specification. At each stage we seek the client’s input and explain the reasoning and relevance of our selections. This process allows us to define a design that stems from our client’s original motivations for undertaking a project in the first place.

Q: Does your love of Art Deco remain? Do you use it as a major reference in Morpheus’ designs?

I do believe that the Art Deco movement was an exceptional period for good design, influencing both the luxury and mass market. I hold designers of the time in very high esteem and truly think that some of the world’s most beautiful furniture was created in the 20s, 30s and 40s. Certainly the principals of Art Deco do inform the way in which Morpheus work, for instance the blend of craft with latest technology. That said, we would only produce something that is definitively inspired and reflective of an Art Deco style if it was appropriate for our client and their project. There would be no point in trying to squeeze in an Art Deco interior into an ultra-contemporary piece of modern architecture.

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Q: You once said that, as a designer, you’re “a great believer that it doesn’t matter what [your] own personal taste is” but, come on, you can tell us! How would you describe your at-home style?

I still stand by this. However, as a bit of insight, I share a modern riverside apartment with my wife, Rose. It is a very clean-lined building architecturally speaking and therefore the interior relates to this, there is a lot of symmetry and geometry in both the layout of my home and it furnishings. Whilst that may sound cold, I do like my creature comforts and therefore it is not minimal or stark. There are some very colourful accent pieces to counter the neutral back drop. Coming from a yacht design background I do have a tendency to look for built-in solutions first and therefore a majority of furniture is fitted cabinetry, an efficient solution to small footprint city living.

Q: Morpheus is currently designing THIRTY NINE, Monte Carlo – the country’s only luxury private members’ health, wellness and lifestyle club. How did that come about?

We met with the client for this project and his build team in late 2014. There was an instant synergy between Morpheus, our client and his aspirations for the project. Our client is an ex-rugby international and as such has very high standards and expectations. His enthusiasm for creating something that is the very best is infectious and, as such, it is an inspirational project to be involved with. It really came about as a result of very apparent shared values between us as a company and his dreams for a new lifestyle destination in Monaco, where we have a number of other projects on the drawing board.

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Q: What else is the studio working on this year?

We continue to work on Six Senses Residences, Courchevel, for which we have designed an exclusive furniture collection for their purchasers. So far we have completed two private client apartments and two show apartments, one of which is a penthouse. We hope to complete more units there this year in readiness for the next winter season. In London, we have several projects at various stages in Marylebone, Chelsea, Belgravia & St James’s – these are all quite different, from a two bedroom bachelor pad to a 9,000 square foot family residence and a small six apartment boutique residence for a renowned developer.

Aside from our day to day work, we have a “special projects” initiative, which all the designers get to input on. This could be something completely unrelated to interiors, but the initiative is to push our team beyond their comfort zone and to think more creatively. Last year for instance we designed a breakfast for events hosted at our studio. This year we will expand on the theme of sensory interaction.