April 2017

22 BUILD / April 2017 , In addition, the design needs to work for the owners – but also needs to keep in mind the changing needs over time. Sometimes Arjan pulls back owners and asks them where they see themselves in five years – and see if the home would still work for them under that scenario. This sometimes changes things in space planning or material choices. First of all, a good designer needs to listen to the owners; indeed, he or she adapts to their needs and wants first. Excellent designers go into new territory – exploring with new styles, new materials and pushing beyond their comfort zone. It is easy to want to copy and paste previous designs, but that is not how you innovate and improve. For every project, Arjan is experimenting with something new. Sometimes to great success – and he has also had his share of epic failures. He feels that you learn most from the bad choices made and push yourself to come up with new techniques or designs to improve. Whichever style Arjan is trying to execute, he believes you can still find personality in the home. He thinks that is important and as a designer you should not lose their voice when creating spaces. This means that sometimes you need to pass on an opportunity, because it doesn’t allow you to grow and do something new. Approaching a new project The most important aspect is chemistry between Arjan and the owners. Often, owners don’t realise it, but when they come for a consultation – Arjan evaluated them as much as they would evaluate him. He feels that he can’t create a space he can be proud of, so he would try not to undertake the project. Secondly, as a designer you really need to listen to what the owners want and design the spaces based on their requirements and not based on what design aesthetic you are after. This means you often work outside your comfort zone, but that makes the process so exciting and creative. Since we Aiden T are working with the client’s budget, there is always an area of compromise. Arjan would have a few design areas he would stand firm on, while other elements he can forgo. Sometimes, owners want him to scrap certain design details or materials, and if that compromises the design too much, he will stand firm on those elements. At times, this means not getting a project, but in the end, it establishes his stand on aesthetics as a designer. Finally, there needs to be trust between the owners and the designers and the contractors. There is a time that the owners just need to step back and let the design unfold. Every project has that period where we tread into that uncertainty – but then you need to trust that you’ve made the right choices and everything comes together. That is why Arjan sees interior design more as a curator and editor function – you pick individual elements, but keep your eyes on the big picture. In terms of what sets Aiden T apart from other companies in this industry, Arjan believes it’s the personalised service and the hands-on approach to each project that the firm embarks on. He is also trying something new in each project, so he keeps learning and expanding his knowledge. He sees a lot of other companies repeating their designs – probably because it is slightly faster and they found a way maximising the profit. Being a boutique design firm and working with small teams of contractors, Aiden T thinks of the project first and not always how they can maximise the profit. Being 45, Arjan has a lot of experience under his belt. Because he was fortunate enough to travel for work and having lived in different continents – he has a more cosmopolitan approach to design, compared to other local designers. Lastly, coming from a contractor family, he has some basic knowledge on how to do certain things. During his school holidays when he was 15, he did things like brick lying and such. With this hands-on experience, he understands to a certain degree the level of difficulty in implementing design elements. He also works with a great team of contractors who are willing to experiment and try new things. From his in-depth discussions with them on construction matters, they help him improve in areas of finishing and material choices. Arjan’s overall aim is to work on projects that allow him to experiment and push boundaries. This means that often the firm need a slightly higher budget to work with and require more time to execute their work. As a designer, the firm are limited as to what owners allow them to do and to what level they can experiment. So, Arjan’s aim is to have something unique in each project he undertakes. While he prefers to work with the same team of contractors, he does take on projects with different contractors – so he can see how other contractors work and finish their projects. This can result in sometimes learning something new or finding areas for improvement. On these projects, there is always a collaboration with an architect or an engineer – so Arjan believes it is good to bounce ideas off and learn from other professionals. To stay relevant and see what is new in the market, Arjan tries to stay at boutique hotels when travelling (since they are often more creative and show personality versus the large chains) and visit places that are innovative. He thinks that innovation in design can be found everywhere, and it’s good to expose yourself to new trends. Innovative solutions to maintain success “You always have to stay true to your own design aesthetics, but you also have to be critical and see areas for improvement” Arjan believes. When he designed his own home in 2009, he had a certain design approach – if he would do it again, he would make drastic changes to the overall flow of his home. Maybe not in the design look and feel, but more in the functionality of the home. One of the best compliments Arjan has received was from a client that said it was so easy to live in their new home. Simple things like where a power socket is located – in the right place for the right function. This means that as a designer I imagine how the space will be used and that it will function optimally. The most successful project to date Success can be measured on many different things and mean something else for everyone Arjan says. To him, some of the best projects are measured on the joy of the owners – not only when they move in, but also during the process of renovation. Arjan is currently working with a couple and they have a lot of fun in the process – while the project has not been completed yet - they have already recommended three friends. To Arjan, this means that he is delivering beyond what they are expecting – not only on design but also in service delivery. This project allows him to experiment with new materials and new design aesthetics. This is very exciting to him. On the other hand, Arjan did a project in 2010 that was a Star Wars inspired home. This home was featured in multiple magazines, newspapers and on several TV shows. So, if you would measure ‘success’ on exposure, then this would be one of the top projects. However, although there was a lot of exposure, Arjan did not get a lot of repeat business from it, while other projects gave rise to more referral business – so from a business perspective, he would regard his other projects as more successful.

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