Having recently opened the doors to a sleek new studio in Henley’s market square, architect Simon Mack tells us about perfectly flowing spaces, the beauty of small details and how Virtual Reality can help design a home.
Tell us about your background and what you do?
I have an Architectural Studio based on Market Place, in the centre of Henley. We specialise in residential projects, from extensions to new homes and mixed-use development. The studio has achieved Charted practice status from the RIBA and we have been lucky to have worked on some really exciting projects. My family and I have lived in Henley for around eleven years... We love the town and understand how supporting local really does help - we are committed to using locals’ trades, artisans and consultants whenever possible. We have a wealth of talent in Henley, you just need to know where to look.
Prior to Henley, I lived in London working as the senior Architect in an award-winning studio specialising in high-end projects with an emphasis on interior design, something that is a strong theme in all our projects to ensure that the end-product creates beautifully considered spaces. This means we talk about the flow of a space, the view through spaces, the position of furniture and this can be seen in the level of detail provided in the initial sketches.
Alongside our sketches, we are now working with Virtual Reality so can send our clients computer generated models so they can walk, or fly if they wish, through their proposals. The big benefit of this is that clients get a full immersive experience and can make all the design decisions before works start.
What made you decide to take a creative path?
I am lucky to be in a profession that is exciting and I am really passionate about. This stems from a number of factors, during my teens I worked on building sites in the holidays, seeing the various sides of the construction industry from literally the coal (or clay) face, and at school I developed a love of sketching and painting. Architecture is a very immersive profession and the boundaries between work and play are often blurred - I find myself at a weekend happily sitting in a coffee shop sketching a design proposal for a client.
What inspires you and your work?
I have a belief that architecture is a reaction to a situation and / or a person (client), therefore our design process is a collaborative approach... In good design, inspirational does not have to be associated with big or expensive, it can be in the smallest of detail, the material chosen for a new kitchen worktop, the view from a favourite chair or the way a room is filled with natural light.
What has been your biggest highlight to date?
In one of our projects instead of a kitchen splash back between the work surface and wall cabinets, we installed a long window - everybody loves it. “Wow” is used a lot, and it’s possibly the detail most clients request be integrated into the design, it is simple, and creates a fabulous cooking and entertaining environment.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Starting a studio has been a wonderful experience, it pushes you out of your comfort zone and creates loads of different challenges. For me and speaking to other small businesses, there is often a feeling of having to do it all yourself... Out-sourcing items that are not your expertise is important; for me IT was a big challenge, even setting up the studio e-mail. In hindsight, there are areas I should have got an expert to sort out from the start, this would have given me the time to do what I am an expert on.
Nugget of Wisdom for our community of creatives and small business owners?
“Why should I hire / use you?” this is something you have to ask about your business before you start. You should stand out from the crowd. If you are doing the same as everybody else there is always someone who can do it cheaper, and if that is the way you are competing you will end up working on the tightest of margins and selling yourself short, this will only stifle creativity and produce the indifferent and mediocre.
True art and creativity has huge value and the power to change and even save lives, particularly in these times of lockdown having a big impact on people's mental health.