The beautiful world of Studio Indigo
Words by Jake Russell
We talk to Mike Fisher, founder of Studio Indigo, about his principles of design and the secrets of his success
Architecture and design
Albert Place was designed by Studio Indigo, one of the country’s most celebrated architecture and design practices. They believe in creating spaces with character, so that the building tells a story about the people who live there.
The practice was founded by Mike Fisher, who studied architecture at the University of Dundee, followed by a Master’s degree in urban design from Oxford Brookes. His degree gave him a thorough grounding in architecture, while his mentors taught him the intricacies of interior design. Over the years, he began to recognise a gap in the market for a single practice that offered both services.
‘Nowadays more companies are doing it, but at the time it was rare to offer architecture and interiors from the same service. But, as an architect, I felt that once you overcame the hurdle of planning applications, the interior designers took control. If you wanted some influence on the internal aesthetics, you needed to offer both.’
Mike recognises that too many architects ignore the experience of people living in the building. ‘The best example is architectural magazines. Look at the photos: they never have any people in them. But you get more out of a building if you consider how people will live in it.’
‘One of the first things we think about is furniture layout,’ he adds. ‘We develop designs where two or three different layouts are possible, so that people can occupy the space in different ways. Where to place the electrics, how to dress the windows – it’s helpful to think about those things from the beginning.’
Mike started his own practice in the year 2000, officially becoming Studio Indigo in 2005. Since then the company has grown, so that it now employs around fifty people, working in a range of countries and languages. In addition, the variety of projects has increased, from London homes to Alpine chalets, as well as yachts, art galleries and hotels.
However, when asked about the reason for the firm’s success, Mike emphasises the basics. First, they’re good at understanding the planning system and securing permission for projects. This involves respecting both sides and recognising that there is always more than one way to solve a problem. ‘And we never worry about a difficult planning situation, because the larger the challenge, the more original the solution.’
Listening to clients
Second, they always listen to their clients. The practice doesn’t have a house style; instead, every project looks different from the last. What’s more, clients often want to be involved as much as possible with the process. ‘Our job is to understand their wishes, and then find creative ways of realising them.’
Even though Studio Indigo doesn’t have a house style, they do have a series of principles that remain consistent across their projects. First, no matter how grand the property, people want spaces that are liveable, where they can relax with friends or family and feel at home. Second, the quality of the design and construction needs to be first-class from the start. ‘If the bones of the house are strong, then everything else will follow.’ Third, the quality of service is always immaculate. ‘In the end, this is a people business.’
The growth of Studio Indigo has been driven by the exciting new projects they have been offered. Recently this included designing the bedrooms of the new Mandarin Oriental hotel in Mayfair and a private Scottish estate in conjunction with the whisky brand Glenrothes.
‘We want to keep delivering the same high-quality product, while also diversifying our practice. One popular trend at the moment is asking designers from one discipline to try another, which means you go into a space not knowing the “nos.” And that naivety can be useful, as it allows for more inventiveness. But the approach is always the same: how do we make a space where people will feel comfortable spending their time?’