Words by Rebecca Hawkey
Uniting architecture and interior design to seamlessly construct the perfect home inside and out.
The importance of having a unique habitat, a home, one that is designed and created to be distinctive from that which came before, is the speciality of architectural and residential interior design firm Monotypic. I speak with Founder Howard Oates on where the idea for this unique name came from. “Looking for a name for our brand that actually meant something and encapsulated the unique and bespoke nature of what we create for our clients was a challenge. We stumbled upon a little-known word in the dictionary and just thought it resonated perfectly. It means ‘of only one type’. In a world of duplication and repetition, our clients look for something special that is tailored exclusively for them and that’s what we strive to deliver, so Monotypic was born.”
With Howard at the helm of the ship, the company also benefits from his diverse experience in the field. Starting out by studying engineering, he changed course only slightly and followed a career in design, setting up his first full-service design agency, Red Dot Design, in the ‘90s. He says: “Early on, when programmers and designers talked different languages and barriers existed, I recruited designers that could program and vice versa to push the boundaries of what was possible. Our company expanded into interiors and interior architecture in the early 2000s and rebranded in 2010 as Monotypic, focusing entirely on residential interiors and architecture.
The concept of a ‘full service’ multi-disciplinary approach, integrating interior design with architecture, was born from always striving to deliver the most coherent and considered design for our clients, allowing us to work seamlessly throughout the process. Our clients love it and we keep control.”
Exploring and experimenting with space, line, form, light, colour, texture and pattern allow for innovative ideas to take shape. Whether it’s redesigning an existing property, a new-build, interior design or landscape design, the team here are experts in their field, ensuring the final product is something akin to true artistry. The cohesive nature of combining interior and architecture creates harmony between two elements that collide, but that cannot work without each other. In an ingenious move, Monotypic have bridged the gap between architecture and interior design, removing the miscommunication and confusion that can sometimes arise between these two fields during the build process.
Howard explains how they see interior design and architecture as intrinsically linked and believe that co-ordinating each discipline simultaneously is fundamental to a project’s success. Howard goes on to say: “I don’t believe it is rare to find other companies offering these services, however we have this approach baked in at the core of what we do and find this drives the success and quality of every project. We get very focussed on the details and have a slightly perfectionist attitude as we strive for a great finish for our clients. Therefore, it is essential that both interior and architectural design work from the same brief and in parallel, so any modifications can be accommodated before the technical drawings are finalised. When our clients experience their design whilst walking through a photorealistic virtual 3D model, they have ultimate confidence to make key decisions and feel less pressure when committing to a final design. This is the real benefit of integrating interiors and architecture, as we can do this all under one roof.”
Monotypic have a distinct way of working, but they also have a distinct style. Opting for simple and pared back, rather than cluttered and loud, the designs often consist of bright, modern clean lines with subtle and sophisticated colour palettes and textures that harmonise both inside and outside. Howard elaborates on their reasons behind this: “Everything we do has a function-first principle and we always consider how the occupants of a space may change in age, lifestyle and preferences, ensuring the building can keep up and can adapt over time. Overly fashion-led design aesthetics can tire easily and do not follow sustainability principles. However, we are happy to accommodate quirks and enjoy the challenge. We have been asked for integrated bird cages, underfloor safe rooms and concealed ‘Big Green Egg’ cooking units; we just put our spin on it.”
Understanding the client’s vision as to what they have in mind for their home can be challenging for a designer, as they have to take into consideration practicality, budget and overall finish. Having a broad portfolio from London Mayfair properties to large bespoke holiday homes in Cornwall, the team are well versed in successfully delivering high-end projects for discerning clients. Regardless of the location, Howard says: “Our design and project approach is always consistent. We start with creating a thorough brief that anchors the project, then through a comprehensive site analysis, we evaluate the constraints and opportunites for the site to develop our design concepts. We look for inspiration and design guidance from many sources and may be influenced by a piece of client’s artwork, site context or maybe something as simple as geometry.
“Every project takes us into new areas,” he continues, “where we design solutions, innovate and test out new ideas. If we can refine something from previous projects to make it quicker, more cost effective, more durable and so on, we will. Experience is everything, but we never stop learning – that’s what keeps things interesting for us.”
Howard and the team at Monotypic have called Cornwall home for nearly 20 years and have delivered many successful projects here, for both locals and second home owners. Some of which are currently under construction in the St Ives area, where Monotypic promises to deliver three individual detached properties that overlook Carbis Bay beach, offering “a measure of peace and tranquility within the hustle and bustle of Cornwall’s top tourist destination”, and I for one am intrigued to see the finished concept. Contributing these innovative, perceptive, alluring designs to our Cornish skyline will undoubtedly elevate the architectural design community and hopefully encourage others in the field to be as crisp and evolutionary as Monotypic are when creating homes of their own.