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An adventure in diversity: in conversation with Daytrip Studio

Daytrip Studio founders Iwan Halstead and Emily Potter on originality, storytelling and what makes for good design.

24/05/2022 6 min read
This article first appeared in Mix Interiors Issue 219

Founded by Iwan Halstead and Emily Potter, Daytrip is a London based design studio specialising in architecture and interiors. Creating spaces across workplace, hospitality, retail and residential, the team are known for considered and impactful spaces that are unique to each client and purpose – through intelligent use of materials, an attention to detail and awareness of style.

With life changing abruptly in the first few months of 2020, Daytrip’s work for a media company in Clerkenwell offered a good example of how workplaces can blur the boundaries between work and home. Building upon a reinterpretation of strong feminine aesthetics, the team looked at 1950s kitchens, Hollywood glamour and the orange-hazed vibe of Californian club houses as references. The result is a daring and eclectic approach to colour and a mix of materials that range from the industrial – plywood, pigmented MDF and passivated zinc – to the luxe, with high gloss lacquer finishes, deep velvets and plush carpets in lipstick red and acid yellow.

Quite different then from their work at Turner Contemporary, which sits on Margate’s iconic seafront. Inspired by Turner himself, as well as the surrounding landscapes and the effect of salt and rain on the metal architecture of the Chipperfield-designed building, Daytrip created a new fit-out for the store using humble materials, muted colours and minimal furniture.

It’s this ability to work so unrestricted by entrenched styles across different sectors that makes Daytrip so unique – and a studio to watch in 2022 and beyond, as it prepares to unveil the interiors for The Office Group’s ground-breaking Black & White building.

How did the studio come to be?

IH Emily and I both studied together at Nottingham Trent University. We formed a bond through a shared appreciation for one another’s aesthetic – Emily’s minimalist attention to detail caught my eye and I was described as more of a ‘surrealist’ by one of our lecturers. After graduating we discussed the idea of starting a studio together. Ten years later, and after completing several small projects we developed together outside of our previous employment, we set up Daytrip on the back of winning the menswear floor at Liberty London.

EP I often think of our studio as full of contradiction. We are drawn to gentle, quiet environments, created with a lightness of touch and then we throw in something bold as a surprise; or we will develop a contemporary aesthetic by looking to the past for bygone references. We’re drawn to contrast and creating a narrative. A Daytrip design will always be referential and feel uplifting.

Do you have any differing opinions or sticking points?

IH I’d worry if we were always in agreement. It’s important to have different opinions and be able to debate what’s correct for each project. There is often no right or wrong answer and sometimes it’s a matter of taste. Emily and I do have differing styles, though. Emily can be more detail orientated and practical whereas I can be more avant-garde and visionary, yet somehow we do agree on what we both like and consider good design. I think it tends to come down to an appreciation of quality and craft, consideration of detail and functionality, and sometimes it matters to us whether it is unique or different to what is already on the mainstream design blogs. We always aim to make each project distinctive.

EP We agree more than we disagree and we also both deeply care, which means that it’s always coming from the right place. We’ll debate what feels correct for the project, according to all the parameters, our concept, client brief, context, budget and so on. Design is not a linear process and no singular opinion is right.

What have you been working on recently and what project are you most proud of?

IH Currently we are working with The Office Group on two major new office developments in Central London; one new-build workplace building in Shoreditch constructed completely in Cross Laminated Timber by Waugh Thistleton Architects; and another eight-storey office building by David Chipperfield in Kings Cross. Both interior renovations are completely unique and a departure for The Office Group. These projects came to the studio during COVID restrictions, at a time when sharing space with strangers felt complicated. We wanted to demonstrate how interior design can enable interaction and a sense of community: we’ve involved local artists and makers and have explored sustainable, recycled, British-made materials throughout the schemes. We’re very excited to reveal them this summer.

You work fluidly across several different sectors – how do you maintain your design DNA?

IH Emily and I are aware of our industry and we were keen from the beginning not to be too pigeonholed into a house style. We both have wide references from old, historic antiquities and period architecture to contemporary art, modern furniture, fashion and design. These influences continue to inspire us and each of our clients bring their own narrative and personality, which we aim to reflect in the spaces we design for them.

EP We’re strong believers in the power of collaboration. Wherever possible, we involve artists and makers with our work. We partner with them to bring in new elements and enjoy how their own thinking will complement and enrich our environments.

Can you walk us through a typical Daytrip design process?

IH References are pulled from a large library of books and blogs and are endlessly sifted through to find the right imagery that begins a narrative. I like contrasts and the juxtaposition of words and images assists my visual imagination and aids my communication to wider members of the team, including Emily. Our library is an abundance of inspiration and materials, and finishes play an important factor in how we shape an interior. We often bring materials to the table and see what works with one another – very similarly to how we put images next to each other on a page, one material can complement the other and begin a dialogue, a mood or a tone.

EP In the early stages we define the concept as Iwan describes and we look at how this affects a layout and interventions in the existing shell. We then progress to a development stage, selecting materials and specifications, partnering with builders and specialist makers who will bring our ideas to life. Throughout the process we coordinate with the client, taking onboard their brief and seeking their approval.

Speaking of references: who or what are you inspired by?

EP Everything inspires us. Our eyes are always open and my photo reel grows and grows. Of course, we have a selection of Daytrip known favourites, but with every project we find ourselves exploring new avenues.

IH There are too many amazing creatives to take inspiration from that I would struggle to narrow it down to a select few. I enjoy travelling and a lot of my inspiration comes from taking trips abroad. Japan is a constant influence on Emily and I, and always seems to appear in our references. Currently I have been delving into the Art Deco archives to discover Jean Dunand, a decorative artist of the early 20th Century.

What do you consider the role of an interior designer to be today?

EP It very much depends on the project, but we playa part in shaping the way people live, shop, eat and entertain. We learn about our clients, respond to their needs and help define their businesses and lives.

IH For me, it’s about creating a vibe or an atmosphere. If you walk into a space, a building or a structure and feel an emotional change then the designer or architect has created something special. If I’m designing for are tail brand or hospitality client, then it’s important to explore what kind of space is appropriate and what feelings to evoke. Many of our residential clients want their homes to feel comfortable, personable and, ultimately, theirs. It is my job to enable that through distinct, subtle design techniques that enhance that comfort level. It could be warm materials, soft patinas, complimentary colour palettes or contrasting textures, each shapes the interior atmosphere.

What does the future hold for Daytrip?

IH It’s very difficult to predict what the future holds as each month we’re surprised by what lands in our emails. The odder the project, the more intriguing – we like the challenge. We are optimistic and looking forward to seeing what happens next. We have always wanted to design a boutique hotel, though, hopefully with a swimming pool.

EP It’s been an unusual couple of years and the future feels more unpredictable than ever – especially as our industry often reflects the zeitgeist – but it’s spring and we’re feeling optimistic.

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