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Reclaimed, Sustainable and Inclusive - Interview with Architect Vaila Morrison

Posted by Mark Godsell-Fletcher on

Did you know that Eat Sleep Live were the first company to specialise solely in the design and manufacture of furniture handmade in Great Britain from 100% recycled wood? Proud of our craft and the unique furniture that we produce, we surround ourselves and are inspired by others who appreciate and understand our values. In our industry there are many likeminded businesses that share our passion, they may be; fellow furniture manufacturers, interior designers or even architects. As well as being environmentally friendly, reclaimed wood is also sustainable, something that architect Vaila Morrison from The Inclusive Home can relate to. Can you tell us a bit about you and how you got into architecture? I am an architect with a particular passion for inclusive design and sustainability. My background is predominantly in housing design and refurbishment, from house extensions to new build housing developments and estate regeneration projects, in Glasgow, London and Cambridge. IMG_2756-e1428263262789 I’ve always been interested in structures. As a child I loved Lego, drawing and building things out of cardboard! My favourite subjects ranged from physics to art, so in many ways architecture was the obvious choice for my career, although for some reasons that didn’t dawn on me until it came to applying to university! What is ‘inclusive design’? Inclusive design is design that works for as many people as possible, for as wide a range of ages and abilities as possible. It’s not only about wheelchair access, grab rails or stair lifts.  It’s all about making life easier for everyone (parents with pushchairs, toddlers, wheelchair users, older people, people with visual or hearing impairments, tall people, short people…..) Good design should allow for peoples differences (disabled or not) and provide alternatives, be flexible, comfortable and be welcoming for friends and family whose needs may be different to your own. Why do you think that it is important to design in this way? I’m very passionate about treating sustainability holistically and not only as an ‘eco thing’. Energy efficiency means nothing if the design excludes the people it is built for, or if it is designed in such a way that, should future needs change, it would be expensive or wasteful to make changes. For that reason I believe that inclusive design is a key aspect of sustainable design. Where did your passion for this form of architecture come from? I’ve always been a bit of an ‘eco warrior’ and my interest in eco design began as soon as I started studying architecture and formed a greater appreciation of just how much the building industry could do to help the environment in general, and also the immediate environment for individuals. My passion for inclusive design has developed further since becoming a mum to a little girl with disabilities, and experiencing first hand, how good and bad our built environment can be when you need to get around with wheels. What inspires your designs? Inspiration comes from so many places, but usually my initial inspiration is boringly practical! In home design it’s all about getting a clear understanding of the family’s needs and wants and translating that into a layout that will work best for them. And sometimes the tighter the constraints, the more interesting and exciting the project can be as the solution will often need to be the most creative. Inspiration will also come from the site itself (or the existing house) and the location, picking up on different building styles, materials and what the space will be used for. Pinterest is a fantastic tool that I’ve begun to use a lot. It’s a great way to find and collect inspirational ideas for projects! Apart from the design how else can an architect assist in home renovations and building? As well as their experience of the process, an architect will bring a fresh pair of eyes to your project. Before the designing begins, I feel it’s important to step right back to basics and not take anything for granted. I think an architect can help people to challenge their preconceptions of what they want. It can be really helpful to think through bigger more radical changes than initially considered.  As the project develops an architect will be able to help guide you through the planning process and the building regulations. And having an architect draw up a set of detailed drawings and specifications will help you to get an accurate set of compatible quotes from builders. The more detail you can give a builder, the easier it will be for them to price without having to make assumptions, that might lead to extra costs or misunderstandings. The architect can also be employed to administer the building project on site, particularly helpful for keeping on top of a large or complicated building project. What are your thoughts of using different materials within a build and seen in programs such as Grand Designs and 100K home? Materials are very important and can change the appearance, feel and mood of the structure or space enormously. The choice of materials are often very much influenced by the style of the project and the location. At the moment I have a big soft spot for black painted timber cladding. I love that it can look very contemporary, yet it’s a very traditional colour/material combination here in East Anglia. How can we all make our homes sustainable? A very boring answer, but high levels of insulation and good energy efficient windows will make a huge difference! Save energy by reducing the need for it! Other things to consider are how we heat our homes, renewable energy technologies can be fantastic and are changing and improving all the time! Also, the choice of materials we use to build from, how and where they are sourced and if they are in themselves sustainable. Ventilation is also a key consideration which is sometimes forgotten in home design. The more energy efficient we make the construction of the house, the less ‘leaky’ (ie draughty they become), so without designing in a strategy for ventilation it could result in more condensation - not good for people or buildings! There are various ways to achieve a well ventilated home, and in a new house I think a ‘whole house ventilation system’ or ‘mechanical heat recovery ventilation’ (MHVR) system is well worth considering - ventilate the house but save the heat! What are the main things to consider when thinking of designing your own home? Think long term. Future proof your design and build in flexibility. Think carefully about how you will use the house now, but consider what might change in the future. Perhaps consider how rooms might be used differently or design the layout so that walls that could easily be removed or added without much disruption, cost or waste. Think about services (electrics and plumbing) and whether they will allow for different room layouts. Perhaps put in a drain in the floor for where you might want to install a downstairs loo or shower room in the future - it’s much easier to do the plumbing at the start than later having to dig up floors. [caption id="attachment_6148" align="aligncenter" width="620"]cover-photo-family-image Vaila and her family[/caption] My own personal ‘thing’ is to think about inclusivity. You (or one of your family members) may in the future need greater accessibility. Again it’s much easier (and cheaper!) to design that in from the start - i.e. making sure corridors & doorways aren’t too narrow, include a downstairs loo if possible. This will often make life easier generally for things like prams and buggies, moving furniture around etc. and a downstairs loo is always great if you have small kids too! Eat Sleep Live produce stunning furniture from reclaimed wood, what do you think reclaimed wood brings to a home? I love wood as a building and furniture material. It’s strong and durable, yet soft and friendly. I love to contrast wood with other harder and softer materials both inside and outside the home. It is also a very forgiving material! It’ll happily put up with a lot of wear and tear (well it does in our house!) and, I think looks the better for it. A bit of wear adds character, and you can always sand it back and refinish it if you feel it needs it. Reclaimed wood is lovely as it comes with amazing character – pre-distressed! It has been seasoned and aged and is therefore extremely durable, yet it’s soft and tactile. We would like to thank Vaila for taking the time to talk to us at Eat Sleep Live. Reclaimed, Sustainable and Inclusive. Three strong words with such a powerful meaning whether you’re talking about a piece of furniture or your home. You can add a touch of “eco-ness” to your home through the character and history in each piece of Eat Sleep Live’s furniture.


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