The past months have been a time of unprecedented change and challenge – across the world, throughout the architecture and design industry, and here at Arrowstreet. As we adjust to a new way of working remotely, albeit temporarily, our team has discovered unique opportunities for creativity and collaboration. In the last six weeks, we’ve prioritized connection in every sense of the word – from exploring new ways of sketching together despite being miles apart to making time to socialize virtually with colleagues to strengthening ties by helping team and community members in need. And as we build new pathways to improve our remote design process, one partner in particular has proven invaluable to the Arrowstreet Interiors Studio.
Material Bank, an online resource library where designers can search, source, and sample materials from hundreds of brands, has been one of our team’s most valued tools for some time. But now that we’re no longer together in one office, the service has helped reduce much of the friction that would have once accompanied the remote design process. Interior design is an incredibly sensory and tactile practice, especially when it comes to the selection of materials and finishes. Designers need to be able to see and feel the colors, textures, and other properties of materials to devise solutions that meet the aesthetic and performance demands of a space. And as anyone who has been involved on either side of the design process knows, physical samples are crucial in helping a client understand a designer’s vision.
By providing a single source for nearly any sample – all shipped overnight in one package – Material Bank has given each of our designers an in-home equivalent of the fully-stocked resource library of our dreams. For example, a quick late afternoon meeting brainstorming options for an upholstery fabric can lead to a Material Bank order (aided by the site’s robust search functionality) sent to each designer’s home and a morning video call to review memos together. In this way, designers are still able to collaborate and ensure that the entire project team has an understanding of the palette, rather than having to rely on the notoriously divergent color calibration of monitors or a photograph attempting to represent the texture of a material.
Perhaps even more critical has been Material Bank’s role in aiding client collaboration and presentation. Because a designer can order duplicate samples to be sent to a client – all of which arrive neatly packaged and clearly labeled – we’ve been able to continue presenting finishes in a way that engages the client and helps all stakeholders feel confident in the design. This has not only helped keep the early stages of the design process on track but has also aided in solving production-related construction administration issues by allowing designers and clients to review and approve alternate selections quickly.
It is only when we’re able to run our fingers over the beautiful weave of a fabric or see the way the colors of an unexpected tile pop alongside a rich wood grain that a project really begins to come to life. We’re all looking forward to the day when we can work side-by-side again, sifting through our office resource library for inspiration or sit in a room with a client when they fall in love with a material for the first time. But in the meantime, the selection and speed of Material Bank’s service has proven to be the next best thing, helping designers and clients maintain the connection and collaboration that remains the backbone of good design.