Design Insider caught up with British bathroom manufacture Imperial Bathrooms to catch up with Export Sales and Marketing Manager James Stevenson.
So James, how did you get into design?
My background is product engineering and, as the son of the owner, I have been involved with Imperial in one way or another since the company was founded.
I have been the lead designer at Imperial since 2007 and have the full responsibility for all of the marketing and new product introductions at Imperial for the past 10 years. Up to our 2007 design guide we were not really innovating, just going along with everyone else and often 2 years behind the market leaders – so the business had to change.
Imperial’s product development philosophy is very much based on the iconic “Aston Martin” – it has to have stylish classic lines but inside you have all of the modern technology from anti-lock brakes, Bluetooth , DAB etc and that is what we focus upon when we develop new designs or revamp existing lines.
I am very lucky to have a very creative group working with me – from designers to ceramic modellers, development engineers and graphic designers. Together we bring these new and exciting products to a worldwide market.
Your latest collection Attica is very different from the usual classical bathroom design, why the change?
The Attica collection is a follow on collection from our hugely popular 2012 Radcliffe Thurlestone collection. We wanted to have a modern twist to a classic design and what better but to integrate glass in to this hugely popular collection. Digital printing has come a long way in the past 5 years and partnering with a very experienced UK Company we have been able to bring this technology to the Bathroom marketplace and who knows where it will lead to. We already offer bespoke printing options to our customers, so there are endless options available with this.
Many of our customers always believed that Imperial was their prime supplier of classical bathroom products, but many are now including this collection in to their more contemporary area of their showroom – Imperial is a Modern Classic.
What was inspiration behind the range?
Glass drawers is nothing new and has been around for many years, however I have been cautious of bringing printed glass to the bathroom – as moisture can be a real issue and we all know what happens if you get water on an inkjet printed paper. However, over the years I have seen the technology improve and you can regularly see this technology within the kitchen and home stores such as Laura Ashley.
The real key is that we are the first to bring it to the classical bathroom furniture market. Imperial brings bathrooms to life, for life.
What is your view on the balance between hand crafting and technology?
The handcraft element is tremendously import to us as a business – we are in the business of using the highest grade of materials in association with the traditional craftsman skills that are past down from generation to generation. We are not in the business of making something that has a short term life span but something that will last for generations. This is what people expect from Imperial.
With our own ceramic and wood division within the West Midlands, we bring the pride of our British workers to a world market – selling to over 55 countries around the world.
“I was recently in Ashbourne looking at some antiques – and being sold was one of our Classic Oxford Suite basin and pedestals – still being sold today by Imperial but they were selling as an antique at more than the current RRPs – now that is a sign that Imperial’s products are a true classic for generations to come.”
What is your favourite part of the design process?
Concepts – Designing something that is different is always a gamble – but you have to take these risks – the safe option is not really an option as if it was everyone would be doing it. I am always thinking about new ideas and concepts and it is with you 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
“Designing something that is different is always a gamble – but you have to take these risks”
If you were to sum up design in one word, what would it be and why?
Timeless – I want my designs to be around for generations