The Greek god, Morpheus, had the ability to assume any human form. It is fitting, then, that the London-based design company that takes his name should be all about the balance of form and function and, above all, transformation. Corner catches up with Morpheus‘ newly appointed Head of Design, Alex Isaac, to talk the resurgence of luxury.
Congratulations on your new role as Head of Design at Morpheus. What was it about the company that attracted you?
Morpheus Chairman, Andrew Murray and Chief Executive, Giles Green have a very considered approach to their business and a strong vision for its future. It was that, coupled with the already-strong design team and the supporting aspects of the company, that make being a part of Morpheus very appealing. The customer journey is as important as the completed project; Andrew and Giles have built the foundation to support this and, as such, the deliverable is a holistic one at the highest end of the market.
Talk us through your experience up until joining Morpheus.
Following studies in Civil Engineering & Law, I joined the renowned yacht design studio, Jon Bannenberg Limited in the early 2000s. At Bannenberg I was a designer/project manager and was fortunate to work on some of the world’s most prestigious yacht projects, ranging in length from 30-140m. It was at Bannenberg I learnt the design trade at the highest end of the market, through numerous projects and a very hands on experience. I left Bannenberg in 2008 to pursue my own venture from Switzerland. Working from a studio next to Lake Geneva, my partners and I undertook yacht projects in Turkey and Germany, plus several high-end residential and commercial projects in Europe and the USA. Returning to London in late 2012, I was asked to take on the Creative Directorship of LINLEY, whose major investor was international yacht broker, Jamie Edmiston. I leapt at the opportunity and spent the past two years developing the brand and their offering in retail, bespoke furnishings and interior design to become more relevant to the contemporary luxury lifestyle market. In November 2014 I was approached by Morpheus with the exciting prospect of leading its established design team. Given the nature of Morpheus’s work, it felt like a perfect fit.
Morpheus is a multi-disciplinary luxury design brand, with a healthy portfolio of residential and hospitality projects. What projects are you currently working on?
Currently we are completing the interiors of a 9000 sqft house in Kensington, which is going to be spectacular. We are also working on two large projects in Monaco, a villa and private members health club, which is striving to reinvent the total concept of a luxury gym.
And what are you most excited about that Morpheus has in the pipeline?
Domestically, we have some very interesting boutique multi-unit development projects in London, although this year we are also concentrating on building awareness of Morpheus and the service we offer internationally. The ‘pipeline’ shows a lot of interest from clients abroad, who turn to London-based practices as the super prime property market here is the global reference point for good design.
Sum up your approach to design…
It is not always possible, but the key to articulating a successful project is all in the thoroughness of planning. What attracted me to Morpheus is the completeness of package we offer at each stage of a project. When we deliver a project there should be no unknowns and this applies from the details of the interior architecture to the colour of a throw cushion on a sofa.
How do you think Morpheus will change under your leadership?
At LINLEY, a large part of my role was to effect change; at Morpheus the brief is more along the lines of refinement and fine tuning. The design team is extremely strong and has produced a market-leading portfolio of completed projects. We are keen to build on this established platform, bolstering the team with further talent and defining exactly what is the Morpheus design DNA.
Morpheus works in prime locations in historic parts of London. How important is it to you to keep in sympathy with the existing built environment?
You have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. I am all for being progressive and pioneering in design and I truly believe London, at the moment, encourages architects and designers to be world leaders. That said, I do think that historic buildings of architectural merit and heritage need to be treated sympathetically, and that sympathy should not hold back the relevance of the design to a modern consumer. It just means we need to be cleverer about it, and that is a challenge to be embraced.
Having started your career designing for super yachts, do you think that experience has made you extra meticulous and demanding of yourself when it comes to design?
The expectations of quality in the super yacht market are indeed set very high, justifiably so when a client is spending that kind of money. However, with the acceleration of the super prime property market in recent years, super yacht levels of service and finish are being demanded residentially, as the two industries converge and overlap more and more, there is now much parity between reference points expected by any design house working at highest end, whether land or marine focused.
After almost two decades in the industry, designing both domestically and internationally, what movements have you noticed in the design world?
I feel design has become much more accepted as profession. Clients are more aware of the benefit of paying for professional intellectual property services versus the mere tangibility of supply; it has allowed the industry to grow more rapidly, attract greater talent and push the envelope; it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Certainly at the top end of the market, the appointment of an interior designer is now as much a consideration as the lead architect and clever leveraging of the brand of an established design house can add a lot of value to a project, which is a win for both designer and client; indeed, design in general.
And specifically in the last year?
Referring the above, how has this affected interior design? To my mind, it is in the detail and layering. Post-recession there is a resurgence and desire for luxury; clients committed to the design process, articulating their dream, are prepared to engage thoroughly with the designer and not rush the process and this allows for a more considered approach, noticeable in recent projects to market, in which you can see new levels of comfort and attention to every element.
Have you got any predictions for next year?
On a macro level, despite the obvious resurgence in luxury, I believe it is a designer’s responsibility to know where opulence and embellishment becomes bad taste. Next year, we will see a number of ‘over the top’ projects, countered by many, evoking a restrained elegance. On a micro level, a lot more natural finishes, mixed metals and feminine colour ways.
What are you most excited about in 2015?
Bedding in at Morpheus and becoming a valuable and intrinsic part of their team.
Finally, tell us how you will be decorating for Christmas at home this year. Design-led or playful and fun?
It’s been a busy year, unfortunately my Christmas tree is a bit like Charlie Brown’s – however the one in the Morpheus office is well designed and very festive!