Dawn's Designer Case Study | The Terrace Suite
The Terrace Suite in Margate started off as a derelict space which during my childhood had been a Pizza Hut strangely enough. I used to go there with my dad as a youngster so the space brought back a lot of memories from my youth of munching on a deep pan pepperoni whilst nattering to my dad and looking out of the window at the sea. Since then it had definitely seen better days... It had obviously disused for many years and this is the state I saw it in when I was first invited to have a look by my client Nick the owner of the Sands Hotel. He asked me to have a look at the room to see what my thoughts would be on turning it into a function room for the Sands. The space obviously needed a lot of work but with some planning I felt it could be transformed. Anyone who knows me will understand that I'm pretty passionate about the regeneration of Margate. It used to be a thriving holiday destination which somewhere over the last few decades lost it's way. Growing up here made it personal for me and when given the opportunity of a project in the area I do my best to make it as beautiful as possible so that people will want to visit Margate again. Margate has a lot to offer... it's just needed a bit of creativity, passion and investment to make people realise it.
Planning the layout
The first thing to do is to get the space on plan so that you can start looking at the best options for laying out the areas. The space required a set of toilets, a kitchen and a bar if it was going to act as a self sufficient function room catering for parties, conferences and weddings. It also had two possible entrances, one from the high street and a new entrance through the hotel restaurant. The building is old therefore it had to be planned with existing structures in place, and, with any old building (as you can see on the plan) it was completely wonky. I love working with old buildings because it gives me a sense of reviving old architecture but it has it's complications. Trying to layout the zones took a lot of time because of existing walls in place and in the end took a bit of 'playing it by ear' on site in terms of exact dimensions of each room.
Designing the Space
Once the plan is set then it's time to start aesthetically designing it. This includes ceiling, lighting, finishes and furniture. It's all well and good having an idea in your head but you have to be able to translate this into readable information that the contractors can use to create your design. This includes a set of design drawings showing each aspect of the space.... plans, elevations, sections and joinery drawings. Schedules of furniture, finishes, light fittings, quantities and costings, and a set of 3D visuals to give the contractors a visual representation to work from (Interior Design isn't as easy as everyone has been lead to believe. There's actually a lot of work involved). The visuals also assist me in presentations to clients by showing them what the design will look like. The scheme was relatively easy because it was a follow on from the design of the restaurant at the Sands. I used the same colours and finishes and translated them into a design that fitted with the space. Part of the planning was to look at how the the space would be used. If there was a wedding how might the room be set up for the ceremony or for the evening dinner? How would the bride come into the room and where would the guests be sitting? If there was a conference how would this be set up? All of these arrangements had to be thought about in relation to the space and so this project was more of a space planning exercise than a concept design which had already been set in place when designing the hotel.
A key part of the design was the lighting. I wanted a similar set up to the Sands Hotel (designed by Lighting Force) which had a control system in place to pre-set certain schemes depending on the time of day or if there was an event being held. This allows you to set an atmosphere which could cater to a conference (all on bright lights).... or a party (moodier lighting with some RGB colour) without having to manually set the dimmers of every circuit in the room. Because the idea was that the room would be multi functional I designed in every eventuality when it came to the circuits and types of lights. Accent and RGB lights are hidden on ceiling shelves, spots are distributed in the ceiling for task lighting, decorative chandeliers and wall lights are in place to give the scheme a bit of glamour, directional lights to highlight wall textures. I learnt the importance of good lighting when being involved in the Sands and seeing the effect of what the lighting designers produced. It really made the hotel, and inspired me to start learning a bit myself. Larger projects I would always consult with a professional but with The Terrace Suite I just about managed with the help of the electrical contractor. You never learn anything unless you try! Just to give you an idea of the amount of lighting that was involved I've attached the plan. This doesn't include the lighting schedule showing the fittings, circuits, quantities, technical information and all the research which was involved in selecting the fittings. There's a lot of work that goes into lighting design which people don't realise!
Once the design information is complete the contractor can cost the work involved and give an overall estimate of the build. My client selected Design & Build, a local building company which handled the whole refurbishment. I like to be involved in my projects until they're completed so that I can see the transformation of the space but also so that I can make sure things are done as I would like. Visiting the build through out and having regular meetings with the client and contractor means that any on site questions can be answered as we go and any adjustments we need to make which couldn't have been foreseen in the design stage can be handled sympathetically to the original design. Additionally, it's a great opportunity for me to learn from the contractors and see how they do things. I'm fascinated by seeing how contractors make things happen and how they can turn a derelict space into something I've designed. I'm not a contractor so I don't pretend that I know the best way to build something. That's their skill and they've got the experience so I like to hear their methods of making something work and alway take the opportunity to learn from them. A good contractor is worth his weight in gold and I was lucky enough to work with two excellent contractors, on the hotel (Cardy Construction) and on the function room (Design & Build).
So... Design & Build started work and I visited the site once or twice a week for what I think was about 12 weeks.
There were a few complications along the way which there always are. There were some adjustments on the plans because of the original site survey being a little inaccurate and I had to re-measure and review all the drawings. Unfortunately I hadn't been aware that the original drawing I was working off was not a professional site survey (my fault... I should have checked). There were also some issues with the kitchen design being changed so many times (not by myself I might add) and then in the confusion the kitchen company fitting according to an old plan. This was a big error on their behalf and did cause quite a lot of stress for the hotel and everyone else involved considering they had been taking catered bookings for soon after the function room was due to be completed. I've found over the years that no matter the deadline for a project whether it's reasonable or not it will always be tested. The Terrace Suite was no exception considering the contractors were working up until within 10 minutes of a wedding ceremony with all the hotel staff, the contractors and myself frantically sweeping and mopping to make the space look presentable! That considered I think the ceremony went off without a hitch and I hope that the bride, groom and guests all liked the venue.
The end result is the part I love. When you look at a completed space which you designed and it looks great. If there was any stress or sleepless nights on a project (there weren't too many on this one) then this is the time when it all becomes worth it. Click on the photo below to go to the portfolio section to see all the finished photos. Thanks for reading!!
Photography by Andrew Boschier Photography