Into the Woods (Land & Water)

Creative content studio, Stranger Collective, commissioned me to write a story exploring the architecture that encourages us to explore the liminal spaces between land and water for their client of the same name. I wrote a piece which took readers on a journey into some of the spaces with me while diving into the history and psychology of our designer to return to nature. All copy as provided to the client. 

On a mission to discover the architecture that reconnects us with nature, author, journalist and design commentator Katie Treggiden packs a rucksack and takes us camping in the liminal spaces between trees, land and water.

I arrived after dark and parked my car in the rain. Shouldering a backpack, I clipped on my head torch and turned to the right, finding a hand-painted sign with its beam: ‘Kudhva – adventurous route.’ Deciding I’d signed up to enough adventure already, I took the left-hand path, following a distant light through the trees – a candle flickering in a triangular window. Soon I was climbing the steep ladder into my simply furnished ‘kudhva’ (‘hideout’ in Cornish) – an insect-like pod atop metal stilts. I pulled the door shut behind me and settled in for the night.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” says Henry David Thoreau in his seminal work, Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854). He is not alone – ever since we came down from the trees (a way of life maintained by the Korowai and Kombai people of Papua New Guinea), we have yearned to return; to reconnect with nature and with ourselves.

In the 1st century AD, the emperor Caligula reputedly held banquets in a large plane tree; in 15th century Tuscany, arboreal architecture was a must-have for the Medici; and pulley systems hoisted champagne up to diners in the chestnut-tree restaurants of 19th-century Paris. “Climbing a ladder feels out of the ordinary, and in the adventurous surprise, people delight in being transported back to their childhoods,” says Studio Puisto architect Jenna Ahonen, explaining our attraction to treehouses and the ladder-accessed sleeping pod she designed for Finland’s Arctic Treehouse Hotel. “We instinctively feel safer in elevated places,” adds Kudhva founder Louise Middleton. “Looking upwards opens our body language, making us feel more capable.” Middleton’s theory is backed up by social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s ‘power pose’ – a wide-legged, open-hearted stance she argues makes us feel more in control.


It’s not just trees that we instinctively long for, but also water. A treehouse in Atlanta might be one of Airbnb’s most ‘wished–for’ listings, but Scandinavia’s summerhouses are perhaps Europe’s most ubiquitous rural retreats – Finland boasts one for every three inhabitants – and they’re just as often at the water’s edge as in the woods. Most are simple huts designed to provide little more than shelter and reconnection with the natural world. “Everything about summerhouses emphasises nature,” says Sabine Zetteler, the half-Finnish director of her eponymous London-based communications agency, who relishes the annual pilgrimage to her family’s ‘mökki’. “They are wholly designed to make you look outside or go outside.”

Despite insisting on tactile textiles and a wood burner, designer Heather Scott purposely excluded a bathroom from her Triangle House, the glazed end of which frames the sea view. “An outside loo might feel like a hardship, but there’s something wonderful about being reminded of your surroundings by the stars or the hoot of an owl,” she says. London-based Danish designer Nina Tolstrup took a similar approach in her Whitstable beach chalet. “A simple life isn’t necessarily an easy life,” she explains. “I wanted a contrast from our home comforts so we could enjoy time in nature, cooking slowly and even the washing up. The only thing you want to do here is take in the infinity of the sky, the sound of the waves and deep breaths of fresh air, so my focus was the view – we don’t need much more than that to be happy.”

Urban escapes

Scrolling through Instagram’s aspirational ‘cabin porn’ – a term popularised by Zack Klein’s coffee table books of the same name – might seem like the only way for urban folk to get in on the action, but there are in fact architectural interventions that bring flora, fauna and water to the city. Cutting right through Manhattan, the High Line is an elevated former railway line, repurposed as a linear park. Paddle-perfect water features are planted with wetland species such as cattails and swamp milkweed, and miniature woodlands engulf you with crab apples and bigleaf magnolia. The 10th Avenue Overlook provides a unique view of the Hudson River and a reminder that you are in one of the biggest cities in the world.

Architectural office Boeri Studio took a more vertical approach in Milan, planting as many large trees as you might find in a hectare of woodland, along with 5,000 shrubs and 11,000 floral plans on the balconies of all four sides of its ‘Bosco Verticale’ (Vertical Forest) skyscrapers in the Italian capital. The planting is intended as a way to combine high-density residential planning with new habitats for birds and insects – and will create both a humid oxygen-producing micro-climate and shaded areas of outside space for the building’s residents. VTN Architects took a similar approach for Vietnam’s FPT University Administrative Building the chequerboard design of which sees square walled sections alternate with tree-planted balconies, offering a contrast from the technology-based courses taught within and screening from the heat of the sun. And it’s not just outside walls that are going green, ‘living walls’ – and even relaxation rooms filled with plants – are a popular trend in office interiors as part of a biophilic design movement that embraces the natural world.


It’s that sense of unplugging from the digital demands of our always-on lifestyles – even just for a moment – that these spaces have in common. “For everything that today’s connected world offers, its fast pace leaves many of us feeling disconnected,” says Ahonen. “In nature, we can slow down and re-engage with its inherent order and beauty.”

“I feel so lucky to be able to walk in the woods and swim in the lakes – things that feel a million miles away from modern life,” says Zetteler. “After two days in the chalet, it feels like we have been away for a week,” adds Tolstrup. “It’s the perfect antidote to London life – calming my mind and bringing joy to my soul.”

As for me? I woke at dawn as the half-light streamed in through that triangular window and birdsong came not from above, but from all around; the view through the tips of the willow trees revealed in the morning light. Pushing open the window to feel fresh air on my face, I nestled into my sleeping bag and felt a deep sense of connection – not only to the landscape around me, but to something within myself. I felt refreshed, renewed and ready to take on anything. Not least the trek through the woods in search of coffee.

To read the article at its source click here, or find out more about Land & Water here.

I’m slow (Massproductions)

Massproductions commissioned Katie Treggiden to help them to articulate the rationale behind their new brand positioning of ‘I’m slow’ through a press release to launch the Roadie at 2020’s Stockholm Furniture Fair. ‘We worked with Katie in connection to our most important week of the year – Stockholm Design Week,’ said Massproductions’ Sanna Fehrman. ‘With a very short brief from us, Katie asked the right questions and encapsulated our brand DNA and philosophy into a brilliant press release. The release was very well received by international press and opinion leaders in the design industry. I would highly recommend Katie. She is professional and delightful to work with.’ All copy as provided to the client.


I’m slow: Massproductions calls for a change of pace at Stockholm Design Week

Stockholm-based furniture company Massproductions is taking a stand against today’s fast-paced obsession with novelty and growth with a brand positioning encapsulated in the words: ‘I’m slow’ and an installation at Stockholm Design Week comprising a bell tent and central ‘fireplace’ that provides space for tranquility and relaxation.

On Wednesday 05 February, while embracing the dynamism of the city during the busiest week of the design calendar with an explosive club night, Massproductions is also offering a place to slow down and take stock. An oversized bell tent, with newest product release Roadie encircling a ‘fireplace’ at its heart, will provide the time and space for visitors to the Stockholm Design Week to step off the treadmill of the typical design fair experience. From tactile surfaces to a bespoke scent, every one of the five senses has been carefully catered for to enable a mindful moment of reflection, evocative of nights under starry skies.


‘We hope this approach might encourage visitors to slow down and think twice before acting on their first “I want this” instinct – and perhaps even inspire some of our colleagues in the industry,’ says Massproductions co-founder Magnus Elebäck. ‘It’s time to make smarter choices and think more carefully about why we consume the way we do. If we slow down, we will have the time to make sure we buy products with a long-lasting value, in terms of quality, design or even the resale value. The slow movement is here.’

‘We need to produce fewer things, and better things,’ echoes Massproductions co-founder and designer-in-chief Chris Martin. ‘That’s where we should be heading for environmental reasons. Furniture should have a long life for the customer – and that means investing more time before bringing it to market.’


With a name like Massproductions, this approach might seem counterintuitive. When craft theorist David Pye defined craft as the workmanship of risk, he argued that the maker’s ‘judgment, dexterity and care’ are exercised throughout the making process. But he contrasted this with mass production and the workmanship of certainty in which the ‘judgment, dexterity and care’ are deployed before making begins – and that takes time. It is time Massproductions is happy to invest. ‘We are in no rush,’ says Martin. ‘Of course, we have deadlines and we keep our customers happy by delivering on time, but when it comes to developing ideas, it is better to be slow.’


True to his word, Martin often holds on to ideas, developing them slowly over years, even decades and only releasing them when they are absolutely ready. ‘If an idea can stay with me for 20 years, the end-result should last a lifetime,’ he explains. Massproductions is very careful about what it puts into production, always asking what contribution the piece is making and whether it is built to last. Remaining true to these principles requires a certain set-up: to break-free from sales and PR-driven product launch cycles, Elebäck and Martin assumed control of the entire production chain when they established Massproductions in 2009 and haven’t looked back since. Without being tied to one factory, they invest time in research and relationships to ensure the best fit for every product, whether that is the latest technical innovation, quality materials or sustainable practices. The approach has paid off with Möbelfakta certification for quality and sustainability, 700 Odette bar stools in use 24/7 at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport with only two repairs in five years, and a glut of distinguished awards, renowned clients and representation in the permanent collection of the Swedish National Museum of Arts.

Website Copy (Studiomama)

Katie Treggiden was commissioned by London-based multidisciplinary design studio, Studiomama to help them articulate their brand through a revised About Us page and then write/edit all their website copy to reflect this revised positioning and tone of voice. All copy as submitted to the client.

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About Studiomama

Studiomama is an East London-based multidisciplinary design studio founded by the creative couple Nina Tolstrup and Jack Mama in 2000.
Nina draws on a deep grounding in design and an innate connection to nature that is inherent in her Scandinavian roots and was honed during her training at ENSCI-Les Ateliers in Paris. Combining this with her diverse experience in trends, design management, photojournalism and marketing in Paris, London and Copenhagen gives her a 360-degree perspective and a unique approach to design.

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Born into a Greek-Cypriot family in the East End of London, Jack enjoyed the rich influences of a multicultural and cosmopolitan upbringing. After graduating from the Royal College of Art, he worked in the Netherlands and Sweden as creative director for several global brands, developing a reputation for visionary work in design futures and design-led strategy, which led to innovative products and new business models. His work with Philips, Electrolux, Nike and BMW has been widely recognised with awards and global exhibitions.
Nina and Jack’s ability to combine their diverse backgrounds and skills has enabled Studiomama to work coherently across multiple disciplines and develop its own distinctive expression. A sustainable ethos combined with an exploratory and playful approach has resulted in a daring, influential and socially-relevant portfolio that encompasses architecture, interior design, jewellery, exhibition design, curation, products and furniture – taking in collaborations with a diverse client base ranging from NGOs to global brands.

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Understanding people’s needs and the socio-cultural context within which they live is central to Studiomama’s practice, and whether they are designing objects, interiors or architecture, Jack and Nina’s approach is characterised by the same level of rigour and attention to detail. The result is a body of work that has pioneered open-sourcing, pushed the limits of material recycling, extended product lifespans and explored new forms of up-cycling, all while challenging conventional business models and distribution methods.

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Studiomama’s wide-ranging portfolio includes product and architecture projects for companies like E & Y, Lexon, BMW, Skagerak and Habitat as well as commissions for Bloomberg, the Danish Embassy and Wallpaper*Handmade. It also collaborates on art and design commissions for organisations such as Phillips de Pury & Company, The National Trust and the Serpentine Galleries to name a few. The studio’s work has been featured extensively in the world’s media and exhibited globally. Nina and Jack are regularly called upon to speak about their work and participate in panel events. They maintain active links with leading art and design schools such as the Royal College of Art, Design Academy Eindhoven and Konstfack in Stockholm.

You can find out more about Studiomama here.

Brand Workshop (Helena Star)

Katie Treggiden worked with interior designer and stylist, Helena Star on a one-day brand workshop to help explore and articulate her studio’s vision, create a pen portrait of its target audience, understand her brand personality and define a tone of voice.

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‘It felt like such an indulgence to really spend time thinking about my brand, how I position myself and talk about my work, but this has been an essential step,’ said Helena. ‘My business has grown organically and without much planning, so to take a breath and really look at my offering and how I communicate has been really helpful.’

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‘Katie is passionate and warm and we had a lovely morning of coffee and chat with plenty of soul searching, mapping exercises, relevant TED Talks, vision boards and working out who my audience actually is,’ she adds.

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‘Katie is incredibly insightful and knowledgeable about the design world and understands my industry completely. She reminded me that design is a valuable service and I finally feel confident about talking about my offer and charging what I feel my time is worth. I came away feeling really inspired.’

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You can see more examples of Helena’s work here.

Tone of Voice Workshop & Consultancy (Hem)

Katie Treggiden was invited to Stockholm to run a tone of voice workshop with key members of the Hem team, following the opening of their showroom (pictured above). The workshop helped to define the brand’s purpose and character, the target audience and tone of voice across multiple communications channels and content types.

Right to Repair (Skinflint)

Skinflint approached Katie Treggiden about an event during their pop-up at the MARK Product showroom for Clerkenwell Design Week. Katie worked with Skinflint co-founder Sophie Miller to come up with the topic of restoration, mending and repair, playing into Skinflint’s USP while providing editorial value.

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Katie wrote the copy for the Clerkenwell Design Week guide and secured three panellists to sit alongside Katie and Sophie’s partner Chris Miller – textiles artist Celia Pym; artist, maker and Hackney Fixers co-organiser Bridget Harvey; and Justin South, recovering addict and volunteer at Restoration Station.

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Katie conducted extensive research into the topic and pre-interviewed each of the panel, resulting in a fascinating conversation that covered built-in obsolescence, design for repair, the ‘right to repair’ movement, the gender and class implications of mending, the layers of stories in a repaired object, the dangers of westerners appropriating terms like ‘wabi-sabi’ and ‘kintsugi’, conscious consumption, and repair as an act of sustainability, recovery, wellbeing and activism. The event sold-out and secured an engaged audience on the day as well as being live-streamed on Instagram for both Skinflint and MARK Product.

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Exploring Eden with Nature Squared (Bethan Gray)

CEO of Bethan Gray Design, Massimo Gray, approached Katie Treggiden shortly before the launch of Exploring Eden at Milan Design Week in April 2019 seeking a copy platform that could be quickly repurposed for a number of different copy requirements. She reviewed all the pre-existing collateral, interviewed Bethan and Massimo, and wrote a ‘vision document’ that covered the ‘who, what, why, where and when’ of the launch. The copy for the press release, website, brochures, postcards and social media was all adapted from this one piece of writing, with Katie offering editing and proof-reading support as needed. All copy as submitted to the client.


When Paul Hoeve and Lay Koon Tan founded Nature Squared in 2001, it was with the express purpose of re-imagining sustainable natural materials – waste, by-products of other industries and fast-growing natural materials – and transforming them into beautiful surfaces fit for the pinnacle of the luxury market using master-craftsmanship and cutting-edge technologies. Exploring Eden is the first collection to come out of a new partnership between Nature Squared and award-winning British designer Bethan Gray. It brings Bethan’s passion for telling stories with craft and design together with almost two decades of living and breathing sustainability and social responsibility in natural materials.

‘Creating objects of outstanding beauty and quality is absolutely at the core of ensuring that the materials we work with are recognised and cherished,’ says Lay Koon Tan. ‘There is a groundswell of desire for change, and we hope that such recognition translates into greater acceptance of holistic sustainability and the importance of balancing the needs of the environment with social and economic health.’ 

Nature Squared’s 200 craftsmen have pioneered applications such as banana bark ceilings, eggshell bathtubs and feather dashboards and their surfaces appear in 92% of the world’s superyachts – yet they are virtually unknown. The Exploring Eden collection of furniture and accessories brings previously unseen materials, skills and techniques to the attention of a wider audience, enabling further stewardship of craftspeople in the Philippines and beyond.

‘The more we find a market for what we produce, the more we create a virtuous circle of jobs, appreciation for materials that are currently seen as waste, acceptance of sustainable practices, and self-belief in our people. In Bethan, we have found a like-minded partner and we are delighted to be working with her on this collection,’ says Lay Koon Tan.

The collaboration resonates with Bethan’s love of natural materials and her nurturing approach to craft, which involves enduring partnerships with master craftsmen and women based on mutual trust and respect.


‘I met co-founders Paul Hoeve and Lay Koon Tan by chance because we are both based at Great Western Studios in West London – it was a genuine water-cooler moment,’ says Bethan Gray. ‘I knew we were kindred spirits as soon as I heard their story and realised how passionate they were about nurturing craft. The opportunity to work with these incredible materials, and apply them to furniture for the first time, has been really exciting, especially as it will expand their reach and expand their stewardship of Filipino craftspeople.’ 

Bethan Gray and Nature Squared share a passion for exploration, experimentation and pushing the boundaries of possibility within natural materials and craft. Bethan immediately saw the potential in the skills and techniques of Nature Squared’s artisans, and spent time working alongside them to develop the Exploring Eden collection.

‘They know their materials so well that it has been a real joy to join them in their explorations and push the boundaries of what the materials can do in the context of a contemporary design,’ she says. ‘We were able to use the pen shells for this collection because of the hundreds of samples Nature Squared’s craftspeople had made in a bid to find a use for the black iridescent part of the shell that usually gets left behind.’

Bethan’s fresh perspective on these captivating materials coupled with her instinct for colour and texture, has resulted in a profusion of ideas, only the very beginning of which is represented in this first collection.

The Exploring Eden collection comprises ten key pieces including furniture such as armchairs, tables and shelving, perfectly complemented by accessories such as paperweights, bookends and bell jars – each one the outcome of Bethan’s explorations into the possibilities of these exciting materials.


Nature Squared was founded to create new value for sustainable natural materials that are currently either waste- or by-products of other industries or simply fast-growing enough to be entirely self-replenishing; transforming them with master-craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology. In keeping with Bethan’s love of seashells and feathers, she has chosen pearl, abalone, capiz, pen and scallop shells for her first collection – along with goose and pheasant feathers.

‘The iridescence found in nature is absolutely unique. My colour palette has always been inspired by natural materials, so this is a really exciting opportunity to work with something completely new and yet absolutely aligned with my practice,’ says Bethan.

The exotic but plentiful shells used across the collection are sourced from Filipino fishing communities with on-going conservation projects while the British goose and pheasant feathers come from birds that have been sustainably processed for food. These are perfect examples of Nature Squared’s commitment to traceability throughout the supply chain.

Known for pushing the boundaries of craft techniques, Bethan Gray has the expertise to deftly combine materials, resulting in products and spaces that are tactile and engaging. Her work has always been characterised by bold, confident patterns inspired by the shapes she sees in the natural world – the graphic patterns in this collection are not just inspired by, but also created by, natural materials.

‘The scallop shells are graphic in themselves. When they are laid flat and infilled with black [eco-resin?], the natural pink pattern they create is really beautiful,’ says Bethan. ‘The capiz shell is usually used in circles, but by arranging it in a grid, not only is it a more efficient use of the material, but you get this striking modern pattern made from a side of the shell you don’t usually see.’


Bethan’s refined colour palette, developed over a number of years, is inspired by her love of travel, photography and culture and informed by the natural materials she works with.

‘In every piece in the collection, we’ve tried to keep things as simple as possible so the naturally occurring patterns and colours can really shine,’ says Bethan. ‘Putting matte black next to shiny, iridescent pearl really highlights it – and the black iridescence found in the base of the pen shells was a revelation. It is like a black rainbow and comes from the part of the shells that is usually discarded. I’ve never worked with iridescence before, so to find it in natural materials is really exciting. It’s added a whole new dimension to my colour palette.’

Each material comes with its own story – of its environment and its community. Bethan’s instinct for creating combinations that work has resulted in a distinctive colour palette that weaves a continuous narrative across the collection.

Bethan Gray’s ancestors went on an incredible journey across continents – Bethan has since visited many of the places they passed through, inspired by a love of art, travel and culture. Today, Bethan’s expertise lies in bringing contemporary relevance to the traditional techniques from these regions – keeping both cultural narratives and craft skills alive.  Established in 2008, Bethan Gray Designs creates best-selling collections of hand-crafted furniture and home accessories for global retailers and brands, such as Lane Crawford, EJ Victor, Living Edge, The Odd Piece, Liberty and Harrods. The studio’s work features extensively in global media; has been recognised with four Elle Decoration British Design Awards; and is regularly exhibited in London, Milan, Paris and New York. Working within equal partnerships built on mutual trust and respect is at the heart of Bethan’s creative practice. By collaborating with master craftspeople and bringing contemporary relevance to their work, she is able to connect them to new commercial markets all over the world, celebrating and preserving their skills in her furniture and home accessories.

Nature Squared transforms sustainable and abundant natural materials, such as eggshell, seeds, bark, seashells, precious stones, exotic leathers and feathers, into unique surfaces and luxury objects using centuries-old craft techniques enhanced with today’s ingenuity and technical innovation. Employing 200 master craftsmen, Nature Squared has elevated heritage craft to heirloom quality and today, their surfaces can be found in 92% of the world’s super yachts. With almost 20 years’ experience in sustainability and social responsibility, they are now expanding from their bespoke roots into furniture and accessories, to make their work accessible to a wider audience and promote the compatibility of such skills and quality with environmental, cultural and social stewardship.

Bethan Gray and Nature Squared share a common commitment to natural materials, nurturing craft and sustainability and this is just the beginning of a long-term collaboration.

Photography: Bethan Gray and Nature Squared.

The Future of Architecture (RAJA / Greenlight Digital)

Working on behalf of eco-friendly packaging brand RAJA, Greenlight Digital were looking for expert opinions on the future of architecture and sustainability. They interviewed Katie Treggiden and put together an article for the RAJA blog from her answers. They also used key quotes within press releases which were then picked up by industry press such as International Investment. All copy as provided to the client.

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Trends move quite slowly in architecture, so 2020 is likely to see a continuation of the current shifts and movements: Innovation around small-space living and the ‘tiny house movement’ as more people move to cities where space is at a premium and young people find innovative ways to own their own homes – and the continued growth in the importance of sustainability and wellbeing in both new builds and adaptations of existing buildings. The UK Green Building Council is focused on: ‘mitigating and adapting to climate change, elimination waste and maximising resource efficiency, embracing and restoring nature and promoting biodiversity, optimising the health and wellbeing of people, and creating long-term value for society and improving quality of life’ and I think and hope we’ll see positive shifts in all those areas.


The United Nations predicts that two thirds of us will be living in cities by 2050, and so-called ‘megacities’ such as London, New York and Tokyo already house more than 10 million people, so by 2070 we can assume the population will have urbanised further putting extreme pressure on space; and we can anticipate more single-dwelling premises too. MINI Living – the architecture arm of the automotive brand – has come up with creative solutions such as tiny two-story ‘totems’ that operate as live-work pods for single people within communal spaces that offer shared kitchens, dining rooms, gyms and entertainment zones. This sense of sharing space chimes with mid-century ideas for how we might live in cities and might finally come to fruition.

I would also like to see the notion of ‘universal design’ (also known as ‘design for all’ or ‘inclusive design’) that is already popular in Norway, America and Japan gain traction worldwide. Universal design brings the people usually at the peripheries of design into the process very early on, resulting in solutions that might only be needed by some, but are better for everybody – it avoids the stigma and mis-steps associated with the ‘special solutions for special needs’ that typify accessible design, and ensures everyone’s needs are considered – Oslo School of Architecture and Design professor Tom Vavik defines it as ‘a framework that accepts diversity of ability and age as the most ordinary reality of being human’. The Norwegian government has committed ensuring their entire infrastructure is created according to the principles of ‘inclusive design’ by 2025 – so another 25 years for the rest of the world to catch up doesn’t seem unreasonable.

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Trying to predict the future is always dangerous and tends towards either utopian or dystopian thinking, but let’s be optimistic. I would like to predict that in 100 years’ time the most significant change in architecture will be a shift in focus away from skyward gestures of ego, towards a more inclusive practice that finds lasting solutions for the 1 in 200 people who are currently homeless or living in inadequate homes, for the people in the 617 UK buildings still thought to be fitted with combustible cladding and insulation, despite the 72 lives claimed by the Grenfell Fire in 2017, and for the 46% of 25- to 34-year-olds currently unable to get onto the housing ladder and therefore living with the instability of renting. Just like inclusive design, this sort of architecture would start with building solutions that might only be needed by some, but create better world for all of us.


=There is a lot of material innovation at the moment – largely driven by sustainability and that will continue. Fast-growing, mouldable and entirely compostable, fungal mycelium is a really exciting material to watch for its use in cladding, temporary structures and insulation. Green & Blue’s bee bricks are another interesting innovation – they provide habitats for solitary bees – currently in decline due to loss of habitat and yet responsible for a third of what we eat due to their pollination activities.

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We’ve been experimenting with cardboard as a sustainable building material since Buckminster Fuller prototyped a house in 1944 – attracted to cardboard’s low cost, flexibility, strength, sustainability, and recyclability. Japanese architect Shigeru Ban returned to the material in the 1990s and built emergency shelters for Rwandan refugees and dwellings in Turkey and India from cardboard tubes and tarpaulin. He built a schoolhouse in China, a concert hall in Italy, and a cathedral in New Zealand, all out of cardboard, promising a life expectancy of 50 years for the latter. Most recently Dutch collective Fiction Factory created cardboard ‘Wikkelhouses’ made from made of 24 layers of corrugated cardboard, which is glued together and then wrapped up foil. It’s clearly a material that architects will keep returning to, and with the need for sustainable, flexible and temporary dwellings only looking set to increase, it seems cardboard might indeed become an increasingly a viable option as a sustainable material.


When Louis Sullivan coined the term ‘form follows function’ he was actually referring to forms found in nature. It has become a somewhat of a mantra for architects the world over ever since, but many are now coming back to its original meaning and embracing more organic shapes, especially as we understand more about their role in sparking joy and supporting wellbeing.

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Peldon Rose approached Katie Treggiden to write monthly editorial blog posts for their website as part of a broader content marketing strategy. Katie worked closely with the marketing department to put together an editorial calendar to support their marketing objectives and position them as thought leaders. Having agreed monthly topics, she interviewed industry experts and undertook desk research before drafting each post and then working with the in-house SEO team to optimise the copy for the web. The website has seen increased traffic and dwell times and the work is valued within the organisation. ‘Katie brings a fresh approach and valuable advice which helps shape our strategy and deliver successful marketing’. says Benjamin Murray, Head of Marketing at Peldon Rose. ‘She seeks out a diversity of voices for her insightful and well-researched blog posts. Working with her is also really enjoyable – she’s great to collaborate with.’

Please find below an example journal post about using workplace design to attract and retain talent.

Attracting and keeping talent is one of the most pressing issues for businesses today – and something in which workplace design plays a significant role. When we say ‘talent’, what we mean of course is talented people. But what if there was another perspective? In her TED Talk ‘Your elusive creative genius,’ Elizabeth Gilbert argues that creativity does not come from within us, but instead visits us when the conditions are right. In ancient Rome ‘genius’ wasn’t a word used to describe a person, but a divine entity that lived in the walls of artists’ studios and occasionally chose to pay them a visit. The American poet Ruth Stone describes poems barrelling across the landscape towards her like a ‘thunderous train of air’ sending her running for a pencil and paper so she could write them down before they passed her by in search of another poet. In the deserts of North Africa, people used to gather for moonlight dances and occasionally one of the dancers would become ‘lit up with the fire of divinity’ and people would chant ‘Allah, Allah, Allah’ at the incomprehensible brilliance – ‘the glimpse of God’ – that had momentarily inhabited the dancer. It was only with the advent of the Renaissance 500 years ago that creativity started to be understood as coming from within us and with that the usage of the word ‘genius’ changed from something people had to something they were.

What if we went back to these earlier understandings of creativity – to the belief that our most brilliant moments of talent are only ever on loan to us? The brief then becomes not about attracting and retaining talented people, but about attracting talent to the people we already have, coaxing the genius out of our walls and creating spaces that enable our people to do their best work.

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With that in mind here are three ways to coax the genius out of your walls:

There has been a lot of attention paid to creating spaces for introverts as well as extroverts – cubby holes for those who detest open plan offices. But the truth is two-thirds of people don’t strongly identify as either one or the other, leading to Adam Grant’s research into ‘ambiverts’. It turns out that most people oscillate between the two extremes depending on how they’re feeling or what they’re working on. Getting the best work out of ambiverts is about designing spaces that support different types of work, rather than different types of people. Creating opportunities for dynamic collaboration, spaces for focused introspection, and everything in between – and most importantly encouraging people to move freely between these spaces – enables people to do their best work regardless of where they sit on the introvert-extrovert spectrum today.

Jeffrey Davis recommends the best way to solve a problem is to clearly define it, analyse it, think about it until your head hurts, and then ‘step away and play.’ Creating spaces for seemingly idle recreation attracts moments of genius, whether you believe in the spirit in the wall or just the power of the subconscious mind. The cliché of the table-football table in every advertising agency across the land is actually backed up by science, but it’s not the only solution. Anything from a climbing wall to an Etch-a-Sketch on every desk will encourage breaks from work that foster new connections.

Research shows that people work best within environments for which they feel ownership and control. Bickering over the thermostat rarely has as much to do with the temperature as it has to do with autonomy and power. As communal spaces, hot-desking and clear-desk policies risk de-personalising individual workspaces, it’s important to ensure staff feel at home and empowered to do their best work. Involving staff in designing their own office spaces has been shown to increase productivity by as much as 32% and companies that encourage personalisation have better cultures and lower staff turnover rates than those that don’t. Customising digital spaces, team areas or mobile carts that move from desk to desk are all ways of supporting personalisation within a flexible office.

You can read all Katie’s journal posts on the Peldon Rose website:

Brand consultancy and website Copy (Trifle*)

After a long period of strategic development, Katie Treggiden came on board to help workspace design agency Trifle* find clarity around their brand messages and tone of voice. A short consultancy session was followed by several pieces of key copy for the website and follow-up support as the project evolved. ‘We always love working with Katie. She has a way of taking all the creative jumble from our minds and making perfect succinct sense of it all!’ says Emma Morley, founder and creative director of Trifle*. ‘She is insightful, wise and funny and brings great energy to the process and her writing. She was absolutely instrumental in helping us understand our USP and how to express that.’

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Creative Consultancy (Sainsbury’s Home)

Katie Treggiden was among a group of design experts invited to work with Sainsbury’s Home as a creative consultant on an ongoing basis, reviewing collections in development, visual merchandising and collaborations, giving critical feedback before launch.


‘Working with Katie has been a great opportunity to share ideas and reflect upon greater creative decision making,’ says Andrew Tanner, Design Manager, Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd.




Brand Reset (Bethan Gray)

Katie Treggiden worked with Bethan Gray Design as their in-house copywriter for an intense period of six months. She joined the team in March 2018 after strategic work initiated by CEO Massimo Grey. Together Katie and Massimo refined the brand definition and Katie then developed its articulation, creating two distinct tones of voice – one for the studio and one for Bethan. This unusual approach enabled the brand’s high-end aspirational values to sit comfortably with Bethan’s down-to-earth, approachable and empathetic personality. Over the following six months, Katie edited or originated all the copy across every brand touchpoint from the website and brochures to press releases, film scripts and speeches.


‘Everything I design starts with a story – through collaborating with skilled craftsman I bring those stories to life for contemporary audiences.’

London-based Bethan Gray is one of the UK’s most celebrated furniture and homeware designers, having been awarded three Elle Decoration British Design Awards including the coveted Best British Designer. Established in 2008, Bethan Gray Design creates luxury handcrafted collections of furniture and home accessories that are sold through global retailers such as Harrods, Liberty, Lane Crawford and EJ Victor, and also available directly.


Bethan Gray has an extraordinary background: born to a Scottish father and Welsh mother, her maternal family descends from a nomadic Rajasthani clan that migrated across Arabia and Persia over centuries. Inspired by her heritage and fuelled by a deep-seated curiosity about global art and culture, Bethan has travelled to India, Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa and South America.

‘My Grandmother was a Romani Gypsy. I was brought up to be proud of my roots and open to other cultures – I think that might be why I love travelling so much.’


Working within equal partnerships built on mutual trust and respect is at the heart of Bethan Gray’s creative practice. By collaborating with master craftspeople and bringing contemporary relevance to their work, she is able to connect them to new commercial markets all over the world, celebrating and preserving their skills in her furniture and home accessories. Within her own practice in London, she nurtures, connects and encourages new design talent and mentors upcoming female designers. She has recently launched a Prize for Women in Craft with Cardiff Metropolitan University where she is an honorary fellow.


Bethan’s design process always begins with a story. Whether it is the sails of Oman’s distinctive Dhow boats, the rounded castellations of the Nizwa Fort, a 12th-century Italian cathedral or the three-legged Welsh cricket tables of her childhood. These stories are distinctive parts of the cultures to which they belong – and often in danger of being forgotten. By capturing their essence in collaboration with local artisans using traditional craft skills, Bethan is able to tell stories through craft, deftly preserving and translating cultural narratives, materials and aesthetics in a way that resonates with both the people to whom they belong and audiences across the globe.


Bethan Gray’s work is characterised by bold, confident patterns inspired by the shapes she sees all around her from the growth spirals of shells to the sacred geometry seen in architecture all over the world. Her patterns are drawn by hand to capture their natural imperfections and then meticulously executed using ancient craft skills.
‘Even the most complex pattern becomes harmonious when you get it just right. I think my instinct for geometry comes from my family’s middle eastern heritage.’


Known for pushing the boundaries of craft techniques, Bethan Gray has the technical expertise to deftly combine materials as diverse as marble, birds-eye maple, leather and brass need some refining, resulting in products and spaces that are tactile and engaging.

‘I am often inspired by nature and I absolutely love natural materials’


Bethan’s colour palette is inspired by her love of travel, photography and culture and informed by the natural materials she works with. References such as the ombré effect caused by sunlight falling across the castellations of the Nizwa fort, paired with an innate talent for creating combinations that work, has resulted in a distinctive colour palette that represents a contemporary take on femininity that is warm and welcoming.

‘Photography is an important part of my creative process and I try to really pay attention to the colours I capture. Over the years, I’ve distilled those colours into a balanced palette.’



Combining their talents, creative director Bethan Gray and husband and CEO Massimo established Bethan Gray Design in 2008. A decade as Habitat’s design director provided Bethan with extensive experience collaborating with craftspeople all over the world as well as a thorough grounding in the commercial workings of the industry. An honorary Fellowship of Cardiff Metropolitan University recently recognised her contribution to craft and design – one that is characterised by empathy, originality and instinctive talent. Massimo’s entrepreneurial upbringing, a previous career in finance and an MBA from the SDA Bocconi School of Management, combined with his training as a registered life planner under George Kinder, provides the long-term vision to realise the creative potential of the studio.

In the ten years since establishing the studio, Bethan and Massimo have built meaningful partnerships supporting over 400 craftspeople worldwide, always developing deep relationships based on mutual trust that help to achieve the ambitions of all parties – in fact, as well as sitting on the boards of some of the world’s leading design studios, Massimo works closely with each of the studio’s partners to help them to develop and realise their visions. In partnership with local artisans, Bethan tells cultural stories through craft and design, creating best-selling collections of luxury furniture and homeware that are at once decorative and highly original, while remaining comfortable and functional.

Bethan Gray Design also works with global design brands such as The Glenlivet, Anthropologie and Rado creating immersive experiences as well as physical products to help them tell their own stories. Bethan’s empathetic approach combined with Massimo’s strategic vision results in unique narratives communicated through craft. Bethan Gray Design’s collections are distributed by global retailers such as Lane Crawford, EJ Victor, Living Edge, The Odd Piece, Liberty and Harrods. The studio’s work features extensively in global media; has been recognised with three Elle Decoration British Design Awards; and is regularly exhibited in London, Milan, Paris, Dubai and throughout the United States.

See more at

Brand and copy guidelines (Giles Miller Studio)

Katie Treggiden worked with surface, sculpture and architecture practice Giles Miller Studio following a long period of brand strategy work to help them clearly articulate their vision, brand character and pillars, target audience and tone of voice. She ran a brand workshop for the whole team and subsequently developed a set of brand and copy guidelines to guide communications going forward, providing website copy and an example press release to demonstrate how they might be applied.


Katie’s astute interpretation of our studio and aspirations made for an invaluable contribution to our re-brand,’ said founder and director Giles Miller. ‘Critically, she was able to bridge the gap between our internal creative dialogue and the projection of that process to the wider world. We will certainly be working with her again at the earliest opportunity.’



BOILER PLATE COPY (Universal Design Studio)

Katie Treggiden worked with Universal Design Studio to help them to define and articulate their brand, running a brand workshop and 121 interviews with the company’s six directors to find and articulate a vision that this diverse group of designers and architects could each sign up to. She then wrote the boilerplate or ‘about us’ copy and a personal profile for each director. This copy is already in use on the website and in pitch documents – and Katie continues to offer editing and proof-reading support on new copy.

Built By All (MINI Living)

Katie Treggiden worked with Design Milk and filmmaker Jenner Brown to create a suite of branded content for MINI Living as part of their Built By All initiative at Milan Design Week, 2018. Katie interviewed architect and creative lead of MINI Living Oke Hauser and StudioMama‘s Nina Tolstrup, the designer behind this installation, for a short film and created a series of sponsored Instagram Stories and Grid Posts for the Design Milk feed. All content was created, shared with the brand team and editorial teams for sign-off and shared across social media channels live from Milan. All photography by Katie Treggiden.






Katie Treggiden was commissioned by Studio Small on behalf of their client Londonewcastle, to write a book called The Makers that brought Shoreditch to life as part of a marketing campaign for a new housing development and school in the area. Katie interviewed Hackney locals Sheridan Coakley – founder of SCP, Violet Bakery’s Claire Ptak, Martin Usborne – co-founder of Hoxton Mini Press, renowned Marksman chef Tom Harris, CEO of Hackney Empire Clarie Middleton, Nik Southern – founder of Grace & Thorn, graphic artist Camille Walala, and DJ, poet, teacher and founder of Run Dem Crew Charlie Dark in order to explore what makes the area so special. She then worked alongside Studio Small and a team that comprised a photographer, a filmmaker and an illustrator to create content for a cloth-bound hardback book, a website and a short film.



Milliken commissioned me to put together their activity for the London Design Festival around the theme of Creativity in the City, to coincide with the launch of my third book, Urban Potters: Makers in the City. I put together a programme of activity that included an exhibition of work by the four London-based potters in the book, Matthew Raw as artist-in-residence running a series of workshops and demonstrations, an exclusive preview of the Design Milk Made in London film featuring ceramicist Chris Keenan, and of course the book launch which included a talk and drinks afterwards. The showroom was packed all week, with a record 200 people visiting the throughout the week. “Thank you so much for a great week of events at the Milliken showroom,” said Lucie Parkin, PR for Milliken. “The exhibition looked fantastic and I thought Matthew Raw was really great.”

Brand Workshop (Hattrick)

After many years of collaborating on projects for content marketing agency Hattrick’s clients, Katie Treggiden was invited to their Manchester-based offices to run a brand strategy workshop to help define and articulate Hattrick’s brand vision, service offering, target audience and new business approach. The workshop resulted in enough clarity around the agency’s offering and differentiators to undertake a visual rebrand and the adoption of a new strapline developed within the workshop, ‘Seek Beyond The Obvious.’ The process also gave the whole team a confidence boost and renewed energy and enthusiasm for their roles.

Eliza Soane Instagram Takeover (Sir John Soane’s Museum)

Photography by Katie Treggiden

As part of their bid for Museum of the Year 2017, Sir John Soane’s Museum commissioned to Katie Treggiden to do an ‘Instagram Takeover’ running its feed for a week as part of a series of takeovers on the theme of ‘Inspired by Soane.’ Katie explored the role that Sir John Soane’s wife, Eliza Soane, had played in his life and work. She took original photographs inside the museum, undertook secondary research and met with the museum’s curator to put together a series of posts telling the story of Eliza Soane and her influence on her husband, his career and those who seek to follow in his footsteps. “Katie shows an infectious enthusiasm for learning and research, approaching subjects in a really fresh way, resulting in new angles every time. Her professionalism and unique insight is coupled with a warm and generous nature that makes her a pleasure to work with.” – Adam Thow, Barbican / Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane left his wife’s bedroom untouched for nineteen years after her death, only converting it into a space to house his extensive collection of architectural models towards the end of his life in 1834 – 1835. At the same time he created the oratory off his own bedroom, which seems to be a shrine to his wife, displaying paintings they acquired together, a stained glass panel depicting the hermit St Arsenius and an white urn believed to have been painted by Eliza. #InspiredBySoane #InspiredByElizaSoane

Design in Education (Milliken)

Milliken approached me about putting together and chairing a panel event that would drive footfall to their showroom during Clerkenwell Design Week. I suggested a talk exploring the theme of Design in Education, building the Designing Futures campaign they’d been involved in the previous year. I secured high profile and passionate speakers on the subject – cofounder of Barber Osgerby Jay Osgerby, creative director of the Crafts Council Annie Warburton and principle and CEO of Plymouth College of Art Andrew Brewerton. The resulting conversation was informative and inspiring and offered a real insight into what Annie Warburton described as a “wicked problem.” The event was well attended by key industry members and journalists, and the conversation continued into the evening long after the panel event formally concluded.

Reflections (Desso)

For Desso / Tarkett’s 2017 Clerkenwell Design Week activity, I commissioned Kia Utzon-Frank and Faye McCaul to create a stunning window installation, combining Kia’s patent pending Louver Twisting Comb system, a frame made from recycled yogurt pots, and 21,500 dichroic rods that Faye knitted into a screen that changes colour depending on the light and angle it is viewed from. I also worked with Desso to create a programme of activities for the space. We hosted a ‘fika’ ritual – a cake and coffee break that is an important part of Swedish culture – for which Kia made a series of sculptural cakes covered with Tarkett’s flooring designs and featuring an ‘ombre’ flavour profile that changed in intensity from rhubarb compote to white chocolate and rum ganache depending on which slice you tried. I also chaired a panel event on Designing for Wellbeing in the Workplace, for which I was joined by interior designer Emma Morley, deputy editor of OnOffice magazine Charlotte Taylor and Elinor Huggett, Sustainability Officer for the UK Green Building Council. 

We could never have dreamt of working with the sort of emerging talent Katie commissions and curates for us. Her endless enthusiasm and inspirational ideas help us to deliver really outstanding campaigns.” Louise Palmer, PR for Desso

Makers of East London (Desso)

In May 2016, I was commissioned to curate a small exhibition and a programme of talks and workshops inspired by my recent book Makers of East London for Desso as part of their Clerkenwell Design Week activity. The exhibition featured products from the book and highlighted the craft movement in the capital. Workshops from Kyla McCallum and Daniel Heath enabled visitors to get involved in paper folding and screen-printing and a panel event with Novocastrian’s Richy Almond, Hampson Woods’ Jonty Hampston and The New Craftsmen’s Natalie Melton explored the quest for identity through craft and the handmade. Finally, I commissioned Kyla McCallum to create a stunning window installation for the Desso showroom, bringing to life the art of pleating.

London Design Week (Design Centre Chelsea Harbour)

Design Centre Chelsea Harbour commissioned Katie Treggiden to run their live blog for London Design Week in 2014 and 2015 and for Focus 2015. This involved interviewing influential members of the design community live on camera for the screens throughout the centre; liaising with a film crew and production team to ensure key events were filmed, edited and published; writing blog posts both in advance and covering events as they happened, providing both words and photography; and hosting a panel event as part of the talks programme.


Brand Consultancy & Website Copy (Charlie Smith Design)

Website design by Charlie Smith Design

Katie Treggiden was commissioned to write the copy for Charlie Smith Design’s new website. She started by running a one-day brand planning workshop with the whole team to provide clarity on the brand messages and tone of voice. She then wrote all the copy required for the new site. “Katie delivered a very well prepared and thought out workshop which helped us develop our personal tone of voice and how we present ourselves, particularly online,” said founder the eponymous design studio, Charlie Smith. “She’s professional but warm and really listened to our comments tailoring her approach to our individual needs. We loved Katie’s energy and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her for other projects.”

Informing (American Hardwood Export Council)

Photography by Jon Cardwell and Petr Krejci.

In early 2015, Katie Treggiden was commissioned by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) to follow the process of thinking, designing, making and informing that underpinned The Invisible Store of Happiness, shadowing Sebastian Cox and Laura Ellen Bacon as they worked. As a result, she wrote a series of four essays that were used across printed and online materials produced for the project. All copy as provided to the client.



Furniture designer Sebastian Cox is passionate about English coppiced hazel. So he’s perhaps not the obvious choice for the American Export Hardwood Council (AHEC)’s installation for Clerkenwell Design Week. But then AHEC aren’t known for making obvious choices. Their installation for the 2013 London Design Festival – designed by dRMM as an investigation into the structural properties of hardwood – was an Esher-inspired Endless Stair.

What excites Cox about coppiced hazel is its sustainability. Coppicing involves felling trees every 14 years. They regrow and, as long as they are coppiced, will never die of old age. But it’s also about giving value to an underused resource. One fourteenth of the wood is cut every year, so there are always trees at every stage of regrowth. British woodlands were managed in this way for thousands of years, so whole ecosystems of plants, insects and birds evolved to live in these unique habitats. A decline in coppicing due to the falling value of the timber is threatening these species. “My motivation is putting money back into the woods by making objects that people want to buy,” said Cox.

Having worked as a maker for Benchmark on AHEC’s Out of the Woods project in 2012, Cox was one of ten young designers asked to take part in AHEC’s Wishlist project for the 2014 London Design Festival. He was commissioned to make a ‘cocoon-like desk’ for Sir Terence Conran. First, he needed to be convinced of the environmental impact of importing wood. It turns out that the carbon footprint of moving wood 6,000 miles by ship is equivalent to moving it 600 miles by road, so sourcing wood from the East coast of America is comparable to getting it from Scotland. Given that Europe will never be self-sufficient in hardwood, even with declines in manufacturing, it made sense. And the American hardwood forests are so vast that the timber used for the entire Wishlist project was replaced in less than two seconds. The next thing Cox wanted to know was which timbers are currently underused. Design is subject to trends like anything else, but when it comes to wood it’s important to use what nature provides. The current fashion for white oak and walnut is resulting in imbalanced demand. Cox chose to work with red oak and cherry and made Conran’s desk with a carbon footprint one third that of an iPhone 6.

The challenge for the Clerkenwell Design Week installation is to raise the profile of maple and cherry, both beautiful and yet underappreciated American hardwoods, and to create a three-dimensional form to communicate the environmental benefits of using them. To meet this challenge, Cox is collaborating with artist Laura Ellen Bacon, known for abstract willow sculptures – another surprising choice. The two couldn’t be more different, illustrated by the fact that Cox draws with a 2H pencil for accuracy, while Bacon sketches with a 6B for complete freedom, but as David Venables AHEC’s Marketing Director explains, “She turns the whole thing on its head – she comes at this from a completely different angle, but with the same passion.”

AHEC want to challenge perceptions of hardwood, both as a material and as a sustainable and growing resource. With an installation in one of Clerkenwell Design Week’s most important locations – the archway at the Order of Saint John – created by two such passionate and interesting designers, it’s difficult to see how they can fail.


Laura Ellen Bacon is a sculptor. Sebastian Cox is a furniture designer. Laura sketches in 6B pencil. Sebastian uses a 2H, or a computer. For Laura, the form and scale of a piece dictate the material. Sebastian designs objects that make best use of his material. Laura’s creative process starts with the space she’s designing for. Sebastian rarely knows where his work will end up. Laura works with her hands, often using willow because of how it feels in her fingers. Sebastian uses machines, and even when he’s making by hand there’s a tool between his hands and the wood.

What these two very different designers do have in common is a love of wood, and a love of making. “Every maker derives such a lot of joy from the making process,” says Laura. “That shows in your work – it has a fullness to it. Everything you make has an invisible store of happiness hidden inside it. We poured over ideas for months, but in the end that’s what it came down to.” So the seed for the Invisible Store of Happiness was sown.

Working together to turn that seed of an idea into three-dimensional form has tested them, challenged them, driven them. But the design process has always come back to a love of making things out of wood. Together, they have been able to look at American hardwood in a completely new way.

“To work with Laura, I needed to reduce the material from great lumps of hardwood to something that could be woven,” said Sebastian. “The obvious way would have been to cut it into strips, but I wanted to do something more interesting, more efficient, more beautiful.” Using a spindle-moulder and a series of cutters, straight lengths of maple are partially split into ribbons, which are then soaked in water overnight creating something more akin to the willow Laura is used to working with. “Kiln dried American hardwood is usually used for flooring or furniture, it’s a very solid thing, so we’re reimagining how it can be used,” says Sebastian.

And that’s not all they’re planning to do with it. “We want fluidity in parts and solidity in others,” says Laura. “We want some sort of disciplined structure in there. It will be clearly defined and show strength and yet also have this organic aspect to it.”

But for all their talk, the honest truth is that they don’t yet know what it will be. There are sketches (Laura), CAD renderings (Sebastian) and 1:1 plywood models, but until the wood comes off the boat from America, they simply don’t know what they’ll have to work with. “We still don’t know what’s going to arrive in that container, which is quite exciting,” says Sebastian, “We have to design this thing to make sure it will work with whatever lengths, whatever grades of timber arrive. And that is an important point. Of all the wood that grows in the forest, you can’t only take the sweet stuff – you’ve got to use some sap wood, some shorter lengths, some not so straight bits.”

What is very clear is their vision: “As you approach it, it will feel very constructed, very ‘made’, almost architectural,” says Laura. “But as you go past it, you’ll get tantalising glimpses of the interior. Inside, gorgeous surges of organic wood will feel like they’re springing from the structure. It will be deeply textural, like standing in seaweed in a flowing river. You will get the chance to just stand for a moment and breathe it in.”

I for one can’t wait.


They say it takes a village, and despite Sebastian Cox and Laura Ellen Bacon being the lead designers on the Invisible Store of Happiness project, they’re by no means the only people making it happen.

“Everybody ready?” Cox asks. “Ready” replies Jo Weaden. “Ready,” says George Mead. “Ready,” yell Becky McGowan, Kate Finlay and Jack Huberry in unison. “Laura?” he prompts. “Ready,” she replies.

Cox pops open a small door and pulls a 2.4m length of steaming hot cherry wood onto his shoulder, moving quickly towards his team. Together they position it into the jig. “One, two, three,” says Cox and they bend the now pliable wood around a specially made form. Within a matter of seconds G-clamps are holding it in place as it starts to cool.

These lengths of steam-bent cherry wood, linked together with 11 different scarf joints, will form the horizontal structure of the installation AHEC have commissioned Cox and Bacon to make for the archway at the Order of Saint John during Clerkenwell Design Week. They will be fixed to uprights using simple mortise and tenon joints.

Keen to work with whatever the forest provided, the designers didn’t know what they would be getting until the wood arrived. “It was hugely exciting,” said Cox. “None of it is FAS [first and second] grade wood, but there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just aesthetic – it’s about standardising materials, but why would you want wood to look uniform? It’s a plant. To see these flecks, cells and knots is massively exciting. I never expected it to look like this.” Four end panels will showcase the hardwood in all its flawed beauty – knots, cracks and sap wood in the cherry and the rippled growth-lines of the ‘curly’ maple.

The timber is cut into straight lengths on a table saw, then planed and ‘thicknessed,’ resulting in consistent lengths with sides at 90 degrees to each other. It takes two weeks just to produce the raw material the team are working with. And every time a machine is switched on, so is a stopwatch. Data sheets list the amount of CO2 used by each machine per hour, enabling the team to calculate the total carbon cost of the project. “I can’t wait to meet the AHEC lifecycle analysis team to review the data,” says Cox, visibly excited.

The timber for the interior ‘swathes’ is cut using a spindle-moulder and a stack of spinning circular blades. Slots are cut parallel to the length of the timber, resulting in pliable wooden ribbons attached to the uncut end.

The ribbons are soaked in water to mimic the green wood traditionally used for steam bending, and steamed to make them flexible enough to shape by hand. “They’re really nice, and coincidentally feel quite similar to the willow I often work with,” says Bacon. The wood will be attached to the frame with a mortise and tenon joint at one end and anchored into slots in the structure at the other. “I want to twist and flex each one as much as I can without breaking it,” she says. “Some won’t bend very far at all and some will bend much further – creating a real sense of volume and movement.”

The installation will be built in the workshop, before being divided into three pieces for transport to Clerkenwell, where it will be reassembled.

“Seb, can we try a really long one?” Weaden asks eagerly, returning to the steam bending. “Yes, why not,” comes the reply and they’re off again. It really does take a village.


On 19 May 2015, the Invisible Store of Happiness by Sebastian Cox and Laura Ellen Bacon will be installed in the archway of Order of Saint John in Clerkenwell, and after months of thinking, designing and making, the project will be complete.

But in some ways, this is just the beginning. The role of the installation, in the words of AHEC’s marketing director David Venables, is to “inform the debate,” which for David is more about provoking questions than providing answers. “It should make people think: ‘How did they do that?’ or ‘What on earth is this?,’ he said. “I love it because I can already hear all these questions: ‘How long is it going to be here for?’ ‘What sort wood is that?’ and ‘Who made this?’”

“I don’t think my job is to make people buy more American hardwood,” he said. “I think my job is to create an environment where people are choosing to use American hardwood because of a better understanding of the materials.” That understanding encompasses everything from craftsmanship to environmental concerns.

“One of the debates we’re addressing is about the seriousness of craftsmanship and what happens when you put two amazing craftspeople together,” he said. “Our job was to pick the right people, put our trust in them and let the process happen. Creating is about relationships and every time we do one of these projects, we learn more about that collaborative process. I think that’s very valuable.”

The other element of craftsmanship was about pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible with wood. “Sebastian and Laura were continuously improvising,” said David. “It’s been an on-going experiment. One of the challenges for wood right now is embracing innovation and we’re learning all the time. We could write a manual on steam-bending hardwood as an outcome of this project.”

The two designers have been sharing their learnings throughout the process, not just with AHEC, but with a team of interns and students. There’s a type of insight you can only gain by doing something yourself – a ‘hand’ understanding rather than a ‘head’ understanding, and it’s one Sebastian and Laura are keen to share with whoever is interested enough to lend a hand.

And finally, there’s the environmental impact, which is where American hardwood really comes up trumps. “I’m a marketing guy so I look for advantages,” said David. “We’ve got some brilliant timbers that you can make efficient structures out of, that you know are affordable and there in the long term.” The hardwood forests in America are so vast that the wood used in the Invisible Store of Happiness will have been replaced in the time it takes to walk from one end to the other. The whole project has undergone a formal process of environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and the carbon footprint of the whole structure, on a cradle to grave basis, is just 173kg CO2 equivalent – that’s less than an iPad Air 2.

“When we started this project, I had no idea quite what we would end up with,” said David. “But I knew one thing for sure, when we got in under that arch, it would create a buzz. People are going to want to touch it, regardless of whether they love it, hate it or simply don’t understand it. Emotion is good, positive or negative, because it means people are thinking about it, and that’s all I want them to do: If people are thinking about what we’ve done then this thing has immense value.”

These essays were written for the American Hardwood Export Council. You can also read them here. 

Judge for Let’s Colour Awards (Dulux)

Having helped to judge the Dulux Let’s Colour Awards in November, I was honoured when Dulux asked me to present the award to the Best Young Designer – Kit Miles. The ceremony was held at Zaha Hadid’s Magazine Restaurant at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and hosted by Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic. It was so lovely to see Kit’s face when I announced his name – what a wonderful way to recognise someone’s work at such an early stage in their career.

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Rebrand, Maggie’s, 2012 – 2013

Rebrand, Maggie’s, 2012 – 2013

Following their strategic and visual rebrand by world-renowned design agency Pentagram, Katie Treggiden spent a year working with Maggie’s to re-write all their printed materials from fundraising posters and brochures to leaflets for people with cancer and their biannual magazine for supporters. She then worked closely with Pentagram and Maggie’s other agencies to oversee the design and execution of these materials, initiating several new content ideas such as the Maggie’s Matters newspaper. Once that process was complete, Katie created a comprehensive lexicon to sit alongside Pentagram’s brand guidelines, providing guidelines and advice for all staff on writing for and about Maggie’s. 

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Scratch, Falmouth University, May 2012

Scratch, Falmouth University, May 2012

Katie Treggiden was commissioned by Falmouth University’s creative agency Stranger to write two features for a magazine celebrating their alumni – one about the creative people helping to make the London 2012 Olympics happen and one about lighting design. 

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