March & White is an architecture and interior design studio based in London. The firm’s portfolio of work in the luxury sector includes hotels, restaurants, as well as private residences. The studio has recently completed two significant projects in London, the acclaimed LIMA restaurant and an apart’hotel on Sussex Gardens. We caught up with their Directors, Elliot March and James White, to find out more.
M&W: We undertake an unusually broad range of work, spanning from hotels and restaurants to houses and royal residences. But linking all of our projects is a detail-focused approach, from selecting the perfect materials to designing bespoke furniture.
A defining characteristic of our work is its holistic approach, merging architecture and interior design. A lot of firms treat the two disciplines as separate, but our team integrates the two skills – if you want a remarkable property, you can’t create an exciting bit of architecture that is let down by the details of the interior. Fundamentally, we see the integration of the exterior and interior as one of the key drivers for producing better buildings.
LM: Where are the majority of your clients from, and which type of customers do you work with?
M&W: We are lucky to have loyal clients who appreciate design and understand the value we add. This can range from private individuals in London to royal families in the Middle East. We also work with design-led developers and landed estates such as Grosvenor on their Mayfair & Belgravia high-end residential portfolio.
LM: Luxury can also be about extravagance. Are there any specific demands or requests which have particularly stood out during projects to date?
M&W: We are currently designing a 10m high circular revolving dining room clad in exquisite crystal walls – that’s pretty extravagant!
M&W: Simply having vast quantities of space can make a project ultra-luxurious, especially if you are working in a city like Paris or London, where this is at a premium. With space, it gives you the ability to indulge yourself. We are now seeing a demand for these additional special rooms to house private collections including vintage dresses, personal wine collections, and even state gifts.
LM: When you receive a commission, what are the principal steps in taking a design from concept to reality, and how much of the design is influenced by the customer?
M&W: We approach each project with no preconceptions – we don’t have a “house style”, but we do have a process. This involves mapping out initial concept mood boards to help understand the client’s aspirations and lifestyle. Then we produce detailed designs and visualisations so we can discuss how the design is processing with the client. We then develop the design further and select the furnishing and fixtures, seeing the project right through to completion. The client is involved every step of the way – we value their input, experience and aspirations as it is ultimately their own special place we are creating.
M&W: All of our projects are challenging and exciting in different ways. Our approach is not to play it safe but keeping on trying new ideas. However, we have a particularly remarkable project in the Middle East which is rumoured to be the largest private residence in the region!
LM: Whether you are designing a mansion or high-end hotel, what are the most important architectural considerations?
M&W: Light, space, and volume should always be at the forefront of good design, because without these, the design is always let down. Also, don’t design your building around your façade! We sometimes inherit buildings from architects who have planned it this way around and spend months trying to unravel the floor plans and make the interiors work, especially if they are high-end luxury apartments.
LM: Are there any materials (e.g. marble/wood/slate etc) or interior design finishes which are proving particularly popular today?
M&W: We have been using metal-effect panelling by a company called Metal FX in our residential interiors, which is more commonly associated with retail and hospitality. Until now, this material has been seen as being too cold for living spaces but new matte finishes are warm and sophisticated and will become a popular choice for home-owners wanting to find a new way of animating their spaces. For instance, we have recently completed a penthouse in Chelsea where we clad an entire feature book wall in metal Shargren, which is really beautiful.
M&W: Forecasting interior design trends is always tricky because we try and blend the latest ideas, technologies, and trends with a timeless elegance. In 2013, we expect a return to 1920s glamour in the home with the creation of opulent Great Gatsby-style interiors using real signature pieces to create a very strong look, blending contemporary and classic design.
Luxury interiors will avoid becoming pastiche by focusing on craftsmanship and the use of quality natural materials such as Made a Mano tiles created from lava stone and painted by hand in Italy. But, as we say, these current styles have to be introduced subtly into an interior, giving designs longevity.
LM: And about yourselves, Elliot and James, what are your backgrounds in architecture/interiors, and where do you see the business in five years’ time?
M&W: We have both been in the industry for over 10 years having previously worked for renowned design firms such as Daniel Libeskind Studio, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands and Stiff & Trevillion. We came together and created the company with an emphasis on designing the most striking and remarkable buildings and interiors.
We are already working on some of the most ground-breaking large scale private residences around the world, so who knows where we will be in 5 years’ time? Hopefully we will have the opportunity to design a cutting-edge hotel and resort!
LM: Thank you for your time Elliot and James, and you have given our readers a great insight into your business.