The eighth Henley Design Day offered as much architectural and home improvement inspiration as ever as it returned to the Town Hall last Saturday. 21 stalls lined the hall promoting local design and building professionals, from architects to interior designers to kitchen specialists. The free event, organised by the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), offered visitors the chance to air their ideas with specialists in home and garden design, and make relevant connections with local businesses.
Over 300 attendees came along to get advice on their would-be grand designs. With a variety of different businesses gathered in one place, the Design Day could cater for a host of aspiring home developers, whether they dreamt of an entire new build or just a garden redesign. Sarah Miller, who organised the event for the RIBA, said, “From an idea in the office one day to seeing how this event has snowballed is so gratifying. It’s not easy for an architect to secure a new project, nor is it easy for a client to find the right architects or designer to work with. Window shopping architects and designers isn’t an option, so organising days like this with local architects and design specialists all under one is so important. People have a real appetite to talk about what they really want and this is the ideal forum.”
The 2020 Design Day was sponsored for a second year running by Hamptons International estate agents, alongside co-sponsors the Chris Lewis Group. The Hamptons stall offered some light entertainment with their ‘Guess the Price’ game, inviting visitors to estimate the price of six different properties for a chance at winning a Fortnum & Mason’s hamper (although suggestions were given that next year’s prize should be a pick of the houses!) James Butler, Senior Residential Sales Manager for Hamptons Henley, said, “I’ve seen lots of different people coming in and it shows that hopefully the economy is working well. We’ve had an amazing start to the year selling houses and so it’s quite interesting that there are so many people coming in and talking to architects. It’s been a great day as ever. It’s the second year we’ve been sponsoring this event and, talking to Sarah Miller who does this, we’re talking about getting behind more of these events around the country. It’s really useful. You never get anything anywhere where you get all these architects locally, and I think it’s quite a difficult job for people to select one. So I think it’s a really excellent event.”
One of the local businesses exhibiting their work was Dave Wallace, Director of Volume. Based in Hart Street, the company uses modern technology and design to craft modular buildings, which Dave states are smarter, greener, and more affordable than their traditional alternatives. Once designed with the team, or via the company’s website, the buildings are put on ground screws, making the building process quick and easy. Initially set up to cater for garden spaces, the company has extended into living spaces, and has also come up with concepts for school buildings. Dave explained, “It’s all about doing things quickly, economically, and also beautifully. I think a problem with a lot of these sort of ideas is that design gets lost out, so we’re trying to bring design back to it and make it look beautiful.” This was the company’s first appearance at Henley Design Day. Dave reflected, “It’s been really good, we’ve had quite a lot of interest. In fact it’s a lot busier than I thought it was going to be with the coronavirus, I thought everyone would be staying away. And what’s good about these events is that a lot of people are seriously considering stuff and turn up specially for the event. It’s not just people wandering past being nosy, so I feel really positive about this.”
Whilst some businesses were new to Design Day, many seasoned exhibitors also made a return, including Henley-based architectural firm, lapd Architechts. Opinder Liddar, Director of lapd Architechts, said, “It’s always good to meet the public and tell them what we do. There’s usually a few projects that come out of this show so it’s worth doing. We’ve been doing it for about six or seven years now, so it is good. It’s always fascinating to see what the competition is doing too. We’re used to doing much bigger events where it’s non-stop throughout the day so it’s a nice acceptable pace of enquiries that come through. We can have a chat with people, show them what we do and talk them through the process.”
For those visitors interested in an interior spruce up, local Interior Designers such as Anne Haimes Design were on hand to provide some professional insight. Anne Haimes and her team are renowned for their creative and dedicated approach to home decoration, and their shop in Bell St offers an array of carefully selected furniture, lighting, bedding and accessories. Christian Haines said about the Design Day, “We did last year and then we did one a couple of years before that, so this is our third. It’s a little bit quieter than other years so far but there’s a great group of people coming out. Lots of people seem to be doing construction work so there are projects out there and people doing things, which is good.”
The Royal Institute of British Architects, who organised the event, is a global professional membership body driving excellence in achitecture. The RIBA serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Organiser Sarah Miller said in reflection of Design Day, “Although I was apprehensive about this event, due to the Coronavirus outbreak and its effect on visitor numbers, I was delighted with the 300+ people who came, many with projects and home improvements in mind. This year I capped it at 21 exhibitors, mainly local architects and those who although are not based in Henley, have worked, or are currently working on projects in Henley. Complimenting the architects were interior designs, landscapers and other specialist designers. The hall was buzzing with activity — each exhibitor talking to potential clients. It was great to see and such a relief! Feedback has been fantastic.”
The next Henley Design Day will take place on Saturday 20 March 2021.