Danielle Leech takes the opportunity to chat with Simon Evans, the founder of ground breaking interior designers The Design Practice by UBER.
At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking you are on the set of the latest Batman blockbuster. However, instead of being immersed in the heart of the superhero’s command centre, you are in the basement of a luxurious family home – a subterranean space which has been ingeniously transformed into what can only be described as the ultimate boy’s toys trophy cabinet, resplendent with a magnificent McLaren 650S revolving on a turntable as the show-stopping centrepiece.
This conceptually unique space is the brainchild of trail-blazing interior designers, The Design Practice by UBER. Skilfully guided by Founder and Director Simon Evans, his design team are encouraged to push the boundaries and constantly challenge the parameters of possibility. Set up in 2009 UBER rapidly made a name for themselves in the luxury residential arena and have a number of international design awards under their belt – hardly surprising if this level of design expertise comes as standard. I was intrigued to find out more and met with Simon at his retail showroom and base near Manchester. As I settled into the luxurious surroundings with coffee in hand I was struck by the calm warmth of the man sat in front of me – someone who immediately gave me the sense that he is a person you can rely on to get things done.
As Simon explained his design philosophy to me it became refreshingly clear that he does not view world class design as the exclusive domain of the elite, he is driven by the desire to deliver the same standard of excellence to all. With the formidable team that he has amassed around him, UBER work on a diverse range of projects, locally, nationally and internationally. Equally refreshingly, clients need not expect UBER to provide an “off the peg” design solution. “There is no UBER ‘signature’ look as every brief and project requirement is unique. We work with clients to amplify and enhance not only their own style but also to ensure that the schemes are sympathetic to the property and its surroundings. Lifestyle is a huge part of what we do too, we take the time to really understand how our clients live in order to create schemes that will help create an incredible lifestyle.” says Simon.
“When it was time to look at the design scheme itself, we knew we wanted to create a feeling of escapism often found in an upmarket club”
A classic case in point is the “man cave” project which has so captivated me. I was interested to learn that the brief for this project was amazingly loose, the client simply wanted to be able to house two or three of his supercar collection in the garage and convert some of the space into a place where he could relax with friends and enjoy a game of pool or watch a movie, how this was to be achieved was left to Simon and his team. So how did that very general brief evolve into the high-tech spectacle of design innovation that so intrigued me? “Actually, the initial idea of the turntable was born out of functional requirement as we had a very limited space to work with, an issue further compounded by two huge structural support columns which were positioned awkwardly in the middle of the space, this would have made it challenging to manoeuvre the car in and out of the garage. From this initial thought grew the concept of showcasing the car in a glass cylinder with a pool and entertainment rooms strategically placed around this central focal point. A project of this magnitude and ambition is a finely tuned process which pulls on the skills of all of our in-house design and architectural team. In addition, the technological complexity of this venture was ground breaking and had to be meticulously planned, with its success relying heavily on the expertise of external specialists with whom we have close relationships.” explained Simon.
The technical sophistication required by this design scheme is awe-inspiring, with the facility to start the car from a touch panel, rotate the vehicle in a continual display setting or place it in pre-set positions. It also offers temperature control for the chilled wine cellar and pool room and pre-programmed music settings. Floor sensors on gate entry detect which vehicle is entering the garage and all the settings can be customised to suit the particular driver as they drive in, from the music that greets them, to the lighting and even heating levels.
“When it was time to look at the design scheme itself, we knew we wanted to create a feeling of escapism often found in an upmarket club. In complete contrast to the above ground’s light and clean feel we went for a very dark and moody atmosphere in the underground den. Touch was very important and so we used a number of tactile products ranging from the crushed metal handles to the eel skin wallpaper and faux croc leather floors. Cleverly positioned low level lighting further highlighted the light and shade of the textures. The key element used throughout the scheme to give it a seamless feel is the smoky quartz which is backlit in the ceiling elements, wine flooring and in the backdrop to the liquor display cabinetry. To refract the light off the glass doors and cylinder walls we used polished plaster ceilings and black gloss resin floors.”
It seems to me that the “man-cave” is as much an exquisite display of theatrics as it is a stunning example of innovative design. The space planning has been approached with a meticulous eye for detail from the very top of the staircase leading off the main hallway in the house down into the basement space. It is designed to transport the visitor on a journey which hints, with every step, at a change of pace from everyday living to an opulent, other-worldly feeling below stairs. This journey culminates in a dramatic unveiling of the supercar in its pride of place position on the turntable.
As our meeting draws to a close, with my mind still trying to grasp the creative complexities of the project we have just discussed, Simon explains that he is now on his way to the airport. He is heading to Cape Town where he is in the midst of managing another mammoth project, the renovation of an old game lodge. It seems that The Design Practice by UBER are conquering the world, one country at a time.