Career Profile: Ed Plumb, Studio Found

As part of our Career Profile series, we had the privilege of speaking with Ed Plumb, Design Director and Founder at Studio Found. We’re pleased to share Ed’s career so far and hope you can find inspiration in his journey to drive forward your own creative career.

When/how did you discover that you had a passion for design?

I wouldn’t say I was inherently arty as a youngster but was always fascinated about how things worked and joined together, so this naturally led me into 3D design and Tech at school. This was more product based but allowed me to explore materials and create objects. I liked the idea of automotive design but lacked the high levels of maths and physics required to study that, which in hindsight was probably a blessing in disguise. When looking for Uni courses I discovered that there were people whose job it was to design nightclubs and bars, and thought that sounded like a lot of fun! 

What is your educational background and what did you take away from your education that has been the most vital throughout your career?

I studied GCSE’s and A-levels in a range of subjects including Design and Technology, and then went onto Kingston University after a one year break travelling (having convinced the head of the course that I would benefit more from that than an art foundation!) I was incredibly fortunate to have some wonderful tutors whose passion for design meant that they invested a lot of time in us – often more than they were meant to! It’s only as my career developed, and being around other designers, that I realise the fundamentals which were driven into us at Uni were not the norm. There was significant time spent learning the principles of architectural design from basic form and composition through to how natural light impacts a space, and how to work with colour and texture. There was also a real emphasis on drawing and we spent a lot of time using drawing boards and pens (which then were already outdated). This gave us a real understanding of the importance of line weight. All of these principles still form the beginnings of my design approach now. 

How did your career progress?

Having graduated during the 2008 financial crisis, options were limited so I took a job in event design which was not exactly the first job I was hoping for. However, it taught me about communicating design ideas effectively, and working to a challenging timescale and budget. Moving  on from there I was fortunate to get a junior freelance role at Kinnersley Kent Design which, at the time, was big in the retail design world. I spent the next seven years working my way up there to mid/ senior design level. Working with some very talented and experienced designers on projects across the world was fundamental to my development as a designer. Within KKD I ran projects as a fairly young designer and developed a lot more confidence in my ability to design and deliver projects.

Although I enjoyed retail design I was getting a little bored of it, so I decided to leave KKD to take some time out of design to rebuild a house. During this time, I funded my time off by dealing and refurbishing Mid-century furniture, which is a passion of mine. This time out gave me the time to reflect, and I returned to freelancing with the ambition to test the water in a number of agencies to see where felt right. After a year spent across a handful of companies, I had the opportunity to take on some private work and that was the beginning of Studio Found. 

What have been your career highlights?

Whilst working at KKD I spent some time living and working in the Middle East, we had a project in Beirut which required fairly regular visits. I loved the city and people I met there. I have been fortunate enough to work on some wonderful projects before, and during, my time running Studio Found, the one which stands out is The Libertine at The Royal Exchange which was completed late 2022. Started just before Covid this project was a labour of love, and we poured our all into it. The building and history plus a very trusting client combined to make for a great project. Winning four industry awards for the project last year was the icing on the cake, and a real pat on the back for all the hard work. 

The Libertine at The Royal Exchange

Could you tell me about 3 key projects you’ve worked on and why were they so important to you and your career path?

Mint Velvet at KKD was the first significant client I managed on my own; I oversaw the design and roll out of 10 stores. It was a bit of a baptism of fire, and a good learning curve in managing clients, contractors, and local authority planning departments.

ABC department store in Beirut took me well out of my comfort zone, and was the first time I presented to a large board of directors. Working and living in the Middle East was a very different experience to the UK, and I grew up a lot during my time there.

Gloria in Shoreditch

Early in the formation of Studio Found, I took on some consulting work for the Big Mamma Group for their first UK site, Gloria in Shoreditch. Myself and two other designers created the concept alongside the two owners. Although by that point I was an experienced designer, it was my first real hospitality project which had a solid budget, and the first time I’d worked with extremely involved, and passionate owners. There was a lot of time spent creating the narrative and then translating this into the interior. Whilst the concept was heavily influenced by the Amalfi coast and Capri, we worked hard to avoid it feeling pastiche, while ensuring it was timeless. Looking at it now over five years on, I am very proud to have been involved in such an iconic restaurant, which still looks incredible. 

What do you feel are your core skills?

I like to think I am quite rounded as a designer but I believe my ability to understand how things are made, and my attention to detail probably stand out. I also have a lot of experience onsite, so I’m strong when it comes to getting a design built, which in my opinion, this is one of the most important and challenging parts of what we do. 

Why did you decide to launch Studio Found?

When I was working at a design studio which moved away from interior design, one of the clients I worked with approached me to see if I’d like to continue working with them. So I took that opportunity and it snowballed from there. I spent the first few years acting more like a designer for hire, and then in 2019 decided it was time to take things up to the next level and build a design studio. 

What would you like to achieve through your work with Studio Found?

I like to design spaces which have depth and integrity as well as being timeless. I see our role as designers as creating spaces which allow our clients to deliver the best possible experience for their guests. If we can achieve this then I can sleep happy. Increasingly, we are working with independent artisans and makers, which although is much more labour intensive for us, gives great rewards for all. 

Can you tell us about some of your hobbies and interests? Do they inform your work?

I am passionate about making things, although with two kids my time is limited, so this hobby is mostly channelled into my design work at the moment. I’m a very keen cook, and have been since I was a teen. The layering of ingredients is much like design in that each is there for a reason, and it is the combination of all that creates the final experience. I love eating out and trying new restaurants to check out both the food and the design. With an ever changing restaurant scene here in the UK, it is important to stay on the pulse. 

What are your plans for the future? 

I have thought about this a lot over the past few years, and learned that setting goals around lifestyle and maintaining a happy design team are more important to me than aiming for big financial rewards. Ultimately, I want to build our client base and expand the studio a little, however I do not want it to be at the expense of quality work, and maintaining existing client relationships. Therefore measured and organic growth built around honesty and integrity is the goal. 


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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