in praise of the refurbished…

We are very lucky at the studio to be located along a very long road in Hove that can only be described as ‘eclectic’. With Portslade Station at one end, and well into the reaches of Hove in another, Portland Road is about a mile or so of houses, schools, a park and a variety of retail spaces (plus our little studio, based in the old public toilet). But theses are not any old retail spaces – they are all mostly small, independent shops and cafes – all very different. But what struck us recently whilst walking to the Post Office (6 minutes from studio) was how many great examples of repair, refurbished, service based industry and reclaimed goods shops there were on Portland Road.

dyson city

There are two launderettes. A sewing and alteration workshop, two computer repair shops, a cobbler, an refurbished oven place. A scattering of secondhand stores, a hardware store and the Bargain Vacuum Centre, to name but a few. And it was in the last store – the Bargain Vacuum Centre that we found the latest addition to our studio – an almost new, refurbished Dyson City vacuum cleaner.

Complete with all the bits and bobs – and a 9 month guarantee, this little vacuum only set us back £50. ‘Any problems and whizz it back’, we were told. ‘Sure, we replied – we are just along the road’. And this is what is great about this type of ‘High Street’ – the mix of people, skills and services – all independent and backlit acrylic sign free – offering the personable experience that is not found elsewhere. This is what we love and this is why we are very proud to be part of Portland Road.

We need to save these types of road, because there is very little that we are not able to access within a 7 minute walk of the studio – and we are very aware that this is a precious rarity. Chains have their places, but these are the roads that can offer us repair, reuse or leasing – on our doorsteps…

Here’s to the refurbished.

Growing food on waste coffee – the Espresso Mushroom company…

We are big supporters of creating new things from waste, especially as most waste – with a bit of thought – can be redirected into creating new products. This can come in many forms, from buildings that  can be created from waste materials (like the Waste House in Brighton) through to new consumer products (such as truck tarpaulin bags from Freitag). And we predict that this pattern will escalate over the coming years as we start to realise that raw materials are either too scarce or expensive to use. It is a huge opportunity for designers to think in the circular rather than linear. But it is not just products that can be created – what about our food? This is exactly what the Espresso Mushroom Company are doing…

Hot Pink Oyster Mushroom Kitchen Garden Espresso Mushroom Company

Founded in Brighton, the Espresso Mushroom Company grow, and create kits allowing you to grow mushrooms from a substrate based on reclaimed coffee grounds which are gathered by bike from local cafes.

But one of the staggering elements of this project is the sheer scale of the waste coffee grounds that are produced daily – and usually get directed straight into landfill. For instance, the Espresso Mushroom Company puts it into perpective:

‘Less than 1% of the coffee cherry harvested from the coffee tree is in an espresso coffee and over 70 million cups of coffee are drunk every day in the UK.’  That’s a lot of coffee – the grounds of which are currently wasted.

And the kits are simple – open, water, grow, harvest. (and we are planning on getting one for our new studio…)

So – fresh food created from waste. What’s not to love? Check out the main Espresso Mushroom Company website for full details of the kits available…

(images via the Espresso Mushroom Company website)

what we are up to: FIELD Brighton…

We are delighted that we have been up to loads of interesting and exciting things already this year, and we can now announce the first… Back in January we were part of the first call for Brighton based makers for the forthcoming redevelopment of a long term derelict site in the city…FIELD brighton main page

So what exactly is FIELD? Well in the words of the developing team themselves (Cathedral Group – who are marvellous, and also working on the Circus Street redevelopment in Brighton)

‘We want to work with you; Brighton’s makers, creatives and innovators, to transform a corner of Brighton into something more than just a field. The possibilities are endless. A field of inquiry, of knowledge, of expertise, of endeavour. A playing field. A field of innovation.

Over the coming months we will be inviting you to hold events, exhibitions and providing opportunities for you to shape what FIELD should be.

You all have something in common: you make. We are inviting you to make FIELD your home for now and the future. Your activities will define what will in time become an exciting new community. The ideas generated by FIELD will inform, shape and deliver the future of the maker community at the gateway of the city of Brighton.’

This is exciting stuff. Many moons ago I gazed upon this long abandoned piece of land whilst doing my Interior Architecture degree on the top floor of the University of Brighton building opposite. It is huge – and has incredible scope…FIELD brighton profile page

And so we are delighted to be part of the start of this really exciting project with a load of other great makers – we will keep you posted of the developments and we are full of ideas… (NB – I don’t usually look this stern – we went for a ‘power gaze…’)

Check out the main FIELD Brighton website to see what the project is all about and get on the mailing list to be the first to hear about what is going on…

(thank you also to the great Dean Chalkley for my great photo and also to Studio Makgill for their art direction on the shoot!)

2014 recap – October – first Eco Open House weekend…

2014 was a big year for us in many ways – including completing the building of our new studio in Brighton, which we have converted from an old public toilet into an industrially styled, eclectic space. And in October, we opened our studio to the first visitors on the Eco Open Houses tour weekend, whilst we were still finishing it up…

first published 21st October 2014…

We have been a little bit quiet over here on the ecospot over the last week or so. There are many reasons for this – for one, we were having a bit of a major design overhaul (and we hope you like the new look!) and as well as having a digital redesign we were working in the physical too – trying to complete our new studio in time for the first Brighton and Hove Eco Open Houses tour weekend on 18th / 19th October. Long days, long nights and lots of goings on. But, we are nearly there on both respects, and it was with delight that we opened our doors to the public for the very first time on Sunday morning…

studio loo front

We are not completely there, but very nearly and there was loads of stuff that we could say about the project to explain to people where we had started from, where we were and where we will be when we open again on Saturday 25th.

studio spider chandelier small

It was fantastic. We had put notes on a lot of the key areas of the rebuild and conversion from old public toilet to design studio and it was not long before our pen had nearly run out. From our Celotex insulation to locally sourced plants, recycled paint from REBORN paints to upcycled cabinets from local charity Emmaus, we spoke about a different side to the eco buildings in the city.

studio plants small

We do not have our solar panels on our roof yet, but our electricity is supplied by Ecotricity and we have used A+ appliances throughout and energy saving bulbs. Plants also feature heavily in the studio to not only create a nice environment but to act as air cleaners – removing the toxins which will be given out by our printer, computers and even as we breathe.

labels on the wall

And despite not being completely finished, we were delighted at the comments that people gave us when they visited. Some people had travelled specifically to see our studio, others were doing as many of the Eco Open Houses as possible and others were just walking along the road and happened upon us. All in all, we had just over 60 visitors, which we were most chuffed about.

reborn paints small

But, as soon as the last visitors had gone, the building materials were back in and we were back at the works, with the flooring, front door and tiling set to be finished off this week. I have the job of putting in the hanging planters that I was speaking to people about as well…

neon green flex. grey and copper

So – if you are about, pop by and say hello this weekend – we are at 201 Portland Road in Hove and will be open on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th between 10-1 and 2-5. And we can highly recommend the cafe along the road, Pelican on Portland for all things tasty, lovely and delicious.

(all photos by claire potter)

2014 recap – July – the Ditchling Museum of Arts and Crafts…

We were delighted to visit the beautiful Ditchling Museum of Arts and Crafts in July – both for the type and the architecture…

first published 1st July 2014…

Last week we trotted up to the rather beautiful village of Ditchling, which sits on the northern side of the South Downs just above Brighton to attend a lecture by Simon Garfield about type. As well as looking forward to the lecture, we were also itching to see the buildings of the Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft.

ditchling museum of art and craft We were certainly not disappointed. The architecture was absolutely beautiful with the Grade II listed cart house and original building being stunningly connected with a new addition by Adam Richards Architects. A really sensitive adaptation of the existing in an honest way, using traditional materials has resulted in a space that is not only contemporary in feel but one which also feels very much in respect of both its location and heritage.

ditchling museum of art and craft

Exposed rafters in the cart house, which acts as the entrance, shop and cafe show the original structure of the building beautifully, plus the numbered tour of the elements are a clear and minimal way to engage visitors with the architecture.

ditchling museum of art and craft

The exhibits and collections at the museum are rooted with the artists who are connected with Ditchling, plus there is a substantial type influence, as Eric Gill, the designer of the Gill Sans typeface was a resident of the village. All signage throughout the museum is in the typeface, with both lettering and symbols used to great effect.

ditchling museum of art and craft

There is also a significant amount of both lettering and print based exhibits from all ages, all displayed with sensitivity in a variety of interesting ways.

ditchling museum of art and craft

The Ditchling Museum of Art and Crafts is not a huge affair, but it is bursting with clever architecture, character and heritage, not to mention wonderfully enthusiastic staff and fantastically stocked shop.

Plus, the museum is currently a finalist for the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2014

A must visit for print and architecture junkies alike. Which we are both.

(photos by claire potter)

december wish list day 16 – Montezuma’s Chocolate…

If there is one time of year when you can legitimately eat mince pies and chocolate for breakfast – and nobody can say anything at all, it is Christmas. But, the fussy ones that we are, we do not want any old chocolate – we want chocolate that is organic and has strange flavours. We would like Montezuma’s Chocolate please…

Dark with Orange & Geranium

Based in West Sussex, Montezuma’s Chocolate started with one shop in Brighton in 2000 (and I actually happened to be in town that very day – and got to sample one of the best truffles I have ever tasted). Since then, Montezuma’s Chocolate has grown – and their bars can now be found in multiple locations as well as in Waitrose and other selected stores (like hiSbe) – which is an excellent thing indeed.

Treacle Tart

With flavours ranging from the standard milk, white and dark to orange and geranium, chilli and lime and treacle tart, these are certainly chocolate bars to be savoured. But, at around £2.49 or so a bar, they will not break the bank and are the absolute perfect treat for a Christmas stocking.

Sea Dog

Which one will we be hoping for? The Sea Dog – a mix of dark chocolate, lime and sea salt. Pretty much perfect…

So, if you can’t make it to one of their shops to sample the full range of buttons, truffles and other delicacies, head to one of their other stockists and grab the bars…

(images via Montezuma’s Chocolate)

december wish list day 8 – Brighton Gin…

We are keeping it local today on our december wish list, with a beverage that has just been launched in our very own city – Brighton Gin.

Created by five Brighton chums who all enjoy a spot of gin, this rather special tipple has literally just hit the shelves. 

We discovered Brighton Gin at the recent hiSbe Food 1st birthday party, where we were all there celebrating one year since the store that the Anslow sisters (plus Jack) had envisaged and we had designed was open. It was a marvellous night of fun – and of gin – specifically Brighton Gin, which is now being stocked at the hiSbe store in York Place Brighton.

And after double checking the Brighton Gin website today, we noticed that it will also be stocked at Quaff in Portland Road – just along the road from our new studio, which is also on Portland Road…

So – when you are stocking your drinks cabinet this year, why not think about getting something new, and if you are in our neighbourhood, something very local…

(images via Brighton Gin)

SPOTTED – the Intrepid Camera smashes their Kickstarter project!

A few weeks ago we introduced you to the Intrepid Camera – a final year project by BSc Product Design graduate Maxim Grew that has been developed from a fully working prototype of a re-imagined large format camera to a production ready product. Joining up with fellow Product Design graduate, Eddie Garcia, the pair have worked over the last few months to ready the Intrepid Camera for a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for the first production run. And back in October, we were delighted to announce that they had reached their £27k target in under two days. Incredible.

the Intrepid Camera Co

But, a Kickstarter project does not finish when (and if) you reach your target. No. It runs for the whole 30 day time period… so, if you are doing well, you are very likely to do really well by the end of the campaign.

And, last week, the Kickstarter campaign for The Intrepid Camera finished – raising a total of £63,158, with 495 backers from across the globe, which is incredible. It has also allowed the guys to purchase machinery and get the keys to their first workshop in Brighton to start the production.

We are all absolutely delighted for Max and Eddie – The Intrepid Camera is not only a beautiful piece of kit, it ensures that large format photography is available – and accessible for the next generation. Plus, the buzz that has been generated by this very personal form of fundraising ensures that there will be a whole raft of Intrepid Camera evangelists around the world when the cameras go into production for delivery next March – including me – when I will be taking mine to the Alps! I am determined to be the first person to take a photo on one of a mountain on one of their cameras that looks like their logo…

Take a look at The Intrepid Camera Project for more information – 

(photos by Maxim Grew)

is eco design really now an option?

A little while ago, back in 2008 when I set up this studio, we were very explicit about saying we were eco design specialists. We were fully committed to creating beautiful, innovative and sustainable solutions for whatever project we tackled. We were green. Fast forward a few years and nothing has really changed, except perhaps the way we explain who we are and what we do. Certainly, we are eco design specialists, but we do not necessarily promote that.

Now, this is not because we are not immensely proud of what we do, we think that we are getting to a stage where this should almost be a given. Eco design – and designing responsibly – is not a choice. We have a responsibility to our clients, the wider world and ourselves to ensure that we are designing in the best possible way we can be. Surely we should all be ‘eco designers’, or that that the methodology is integral to the role of being a ‘designer’?

Unfortunately, this is not the same for all of us, but we are seeing a distinct shift…

We have found over the years that our clients are expecting that we would be creating responsible designs, just as we would create designs that are on brief, deliverable and to budget. Designs that are exciting, innovative and forward thinking. And we are delighted about this.

So, when I was asked if I would like to contribute to the fourth edition of the fantastic architectural publication EDGEcondition, with the subject of ‘Teaching the Future’ – I was delighted again. And this is because I really see a bit of disconnect in many of the design courses up and down this land. You learn design, then somewhere along the line, you have an ‘eco design’ module – a singular, tag on, additive module that often is not talked about in many other modules. Surely we are past this now?

You can see my article – Perfect Circles – on page 80…

weekend colour inspiration – birds and butterflies…

Today on weekend colour inspiration, we are looking at a few images we took at a recent visit in Brighton. The Booth Museum of Natural History is one of those places that we travel back to – looking at the wonderful cases of Victorian taxidermy to study pattern, juxtapositions, the building itself and of course, colour. Nature really does do colour best, be it for camouflage or showing off, and the birds and butterflies are a fantastic source of colour inspiration.

On this visit, we were looking specifically at brights – almost neons – and how the natural world puts these together in a way that works…

colour inspiration morpho butterflies


The Morpho butterflies, which hail from rainforests are the most incredible bright, metallic blue. They are also beautifully edged in black, which work fantastically in a dark and moody bar interior perhaps…
colour inspiration the indian roller bird

The Indian Roller bird has a good balance of neutral plumage and a lovely blue green shade – almond green as we used to call it. Throw in a bit of a teal blue and you have got a very interesting mix. The eye is what does it though. That orange red is a perfect foil for the blues and would be a great highlight colour. Being opposite in the colour wheel, blue and orange are always good pairings.

colour inspiration tropical birds

Last up we have two very different birds – one all about the colours and one all about the blue blacks. Very different and both incredibly striking. With the neon based green of the top parrot phasing through the mint green, black, purple and peach, we have a lot to play with. Pick two and run with them. Any more and it could get a little too club Tropicana. The crow like bird at the bottom gives lots of inspiration in a similar vein to the Morpho butterflies earlier, with the combination of black and blue sitting together. But what about the shine? Looking at the plumage we can see mint green, blue and purple, but there is also the essence of glossiness alongside the matt feathers.

What about a matt wall with a gloss pattern over in the same colour? Subtle but very effective…

So, if you are looking for a bit of colour inspiration, you could do far worse than looking at the natural world.

(photos by claire potter)