Congratulations on the launch of your new #live/learn collection! What can you tells us about the concept behind Ellis’ latest offering?
The new concept is to provide universities and specialist accommodation providers with the very latest contemporary furniture and interior styles – just like you’d see in a high-street showroom, but of the high quality and specification that Ellis Furniture offer. The rooms won’t only look great, they’ll last the course too. That’s why we have a 20–year guarantee on our Solo range, and a 15–year guarantee on our Focus Plus range, and Contract Heavy Duty kitchens that stand up to any kind of party!
How have trends differed recently in university interior design?
As a key supplier to universities for over 50 years (in 2014 we were privileged to supply to 88% of UK universities), the world of design and interior trends has seen an immense shift, primarily driven by higher student expectations, and the emergence of the student accommodation specialist sector. At one time furniture was bought in isolation, and in broad terms could be delivered and placed in a room, but the trend for a fully coordinated and fitted interior design has been the biggest single change. On top of this; the drive for creating a distinct eye-catching look to the room has been another significant change – this is one of the key reasons why we’ve introduced the very latest colourways in the #live/learn collection, which gives the chance to introduce more versatility and personality into these interior designs.
Another big difference is how students live. In the world where ever-changing technology and devices, gadgets and great Wi-Fi speed are a priority, it’s had an impact on how we design, and how we make the room work for today’s occupant, whether it’s a student or a conference delegate.
Is there ever a risk of sacrificing functionality when trying to meet these trends?
Yes, we see examples where aesthetics have been a key driver, and functionality and performance have been compromised. Again that’s what we’ve tried to allow for with the #live/learn collection, and now the choice of ‘contemporary’ and ‘high performance’ are no longer mutually exclusive – why not have both?
On the subject of functionality, how have you ensured the #live/learn collection matches a student’s use of a room?
Great question – as a specialist in the student accommodation sector, we spend time talking to halls managers, students, specialist providers, and everyone involved in the day-to-day world of student rooms. This means we get to know how the room is used, and what functions are essential. As part of the #live/learn collection, we’ve introduced a number of new functional unit types, and we’re planning more of these through 2015. The bed space is a key example here, and we’ve introduced a funky and functional window seat, great for relaxing, great for storage, and great to look at too. Under bed and headboard storage is another key area we know can have great functional use, and we have some new product concepts on show at ASRA which we’d welcome customer feedback on.
A key issue that universities face is the provision of functional social spaces for groups of students. What solutions have Ellis developed to meet these challenges in particular?
Social spaces seem to have become the priority area to get right in recent years, especially the shared kitchen, and we’ve helped to create some functional designs in these spaces. We typically start by thinking about seating – how students will chill-out, what they’ll be up to (often letting off their own steam), and once we’ve got that aspect covered, we move onto creating a shared kitchen that not only looks fantastic, but will stand up to heavy use every day, for a long time – and provide everything the students need from a quick breakfast to an end of year party.
Where can we see Ellis Furniture’s #live/learn collection being displayed?
We have a new design centre at our West Yorkshire base displaying the new #live/learn collection, and we love to show this off. Alternatively we’ll be at ASRA and the CUBO conference, so come along and see us there.
What else have Ellis got in the pipeline?
Our design and NPD team are constantly hard at work on new products and solutions, and for 2015 this includes some smart technology we have prototyped on our ASRA stand, as well as some new contemporary designs for our flagship solid timber and veneer range Solo, a new range of funky acrylic splashbacks, and a host of new unit types with added functionality.