You’ve often been described as a minimalist, though perhaps that’s not the best description for your work.
Well, I’ve never tried to disassociate myself from the word ‘minimalism’. In the beginning of my career, journalists tried to create what they saw as a movement, lumped a whole load of us together and called us ‘the minimalists’ – and, of course, the Hi-Tech people said, “No, we’re not.” I think they were uncomfortable, because minimalism is so often misconstrued.
For me, the words that come to mind are more the likes of clarity; the focus on what’s essential; a drive to make space. And what we design hopefully makes people feel good. It’s that physical feeling of having a space to move, to breathe; not being surrounded by stuff gives you a certain freedom. I don’t think you can just measure comfort in terms of squashy sofas. Give me a bench any time.
And the term ‘minimalistic’ tends to get bandied about rather liberally.
Yes. Minimalism is not just painting the walls white and having wooden floors – it’s a much more sophisticated thing than that. If you control the light in a certain way, use the right materials and proportions and scale, you then get to a state that feels really good. But that takes time and money and experience – and for people, your client, to go along with it as well. Quite a lot of circumstances need to come together for it to be done well. You see the word ‘minimal’ used all the time to describe interiors, then you see them and they’re not minimal at all.