Building collaborative relationships with suppliers enables architects and designers to expand their knowledge about available products and get a better understanding of how they’re designed and manufactured. Suppliers, on the other hand, can better their understanding of design requirements to propose the most appropriate solutions bespoke to the needs of a specific client.
This collaboration between Robson Rak Architects and George Fethers is a design dream come true, and it started with a phone call and a flooring product Chris Rak of Robson Rak Architects might not have found out about otherwise.
“About four years ago I was working on my own house, Elwood 2,” says Chris Rak. “I was looking for flooring with a matte finish and in particular colours that would compliment the rest of the project. I called Tim from George Fethers who told me he was working on a new product which would have new colourways available.” Chris visited George Fethers’ offices and picked a selection of the new product in colourways that complemented the palette of his own house – and a range of other projects.
The new product was Otto XVI – George Fethers’ hardwood flooring range perfect for high-end residential and commercial products. Complementing finishes like marble, stone, concrete, steel and timber, Otto XVI turned out to be an ideal choice for Chris’s project. The undeniable quality and aesthetic appeal of the product meant Chris went on to specify it on other projects too. “The hard coating on the product was exactly what I was after, and I started specifying the Otto range on other projects I was working on,” says Chris. “It’s not all about the contemporary colour palette and superb natural finish – the flooring needs to perform, and Otto XVI has,” he says.
Otto XVI has been engineered for high stability and is resistant to spills which makes it a very versatile flooring choice. Designed with wider and thicker board options including longer lengths and a hard-wearing finish that makes it suitable for high traffic applications, Otto XVI is a natural choice for many contemporary interiors. In addition, the flexibility to mix and match various board dimensions makes the range work in any design space.
Beyond a wide range of quality products, the close collaboration between the designer and George Fethers helped overcome some of the more demanding tasks on other projects. “We had a project with a feature staircase that required fully solid stairs,” says Chris. “We worked with George Fethers to achieve consistent colouring across the stairs, and that’s where the collaboration came into play – we needed bespoke colouring, and George Fethers was able to assist.”
That ability to provide a bespoke service is the direct result of a collaboration between designers and suppliers to better meet the needs of the modern client. Chris says: “Our clients’ bespoke needs demand bespoke architecture – and a higher level of service. Some of the products aren’t made for the specific brief, which means suppliers need to add a bespoke service. Having a collaborative relationship helps.”
The enriching benefits of building collaborative relationships extend beyond that. For the designer, it’s the ability to learn about the product – including what its limitations are. “We know more about flooring than ever before, and that enables us to offer more to our clients. With so many grades of flooring, the ability to choose the right product – and be able to manage clients’ expectations is crucial,” says Chris.
For suppliers, the collaboration allows them to immerse themselves into the industry otherwise experienced from the outside. Chris adds: “The suppliers visit our offices and get a feel for the products we’re looking for, what our clients are responding to – and the different ways we work in.”
With the Elwood 2 project winning a commendation in 2018 Australian Interior Design Awards, the collaboration between Robson Rak Architects and George Fethers continues with great success, and Otto XVI has become one of the most popular ranges.
From an aesthetics point of view, the palette includes a variety of colours from natural grey tones to darker caramel browns in line with design trends that favour the natural and organic look. The choice of different patterns enables specifiers to embrace the unique style of the space. At the same time, the Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certificate ensures VOC compliance, making Otto XVI a safe, versatile product that will inspire the collaborative spirit in any project.