A pair of young architects, Zuzka and Jakub, stand behind the architectural studio ZUHU which is among the first fix-desk tenants at BASE. Their work is primarily focused on the interior design of apartments, offices, but also food service establishments. Every project is a shared effort in which Zuzka represents the creative part and Jakub oversees the technical side of things.
How long have you been working in the field of interior design?
We have been in this industry for 6 years. At the beginning, we used to work for a larger studio, but we have been working independently for the past year. The main purpose of our job is to create interiors that are as personal as possible. We don't like designing sterile spaces. We always strive to reflect the client’s character in our designs. And of course, our main goal is to make the interior functional.
With every new client, we go through several sessions where we try to get to know them better. We talk to find out what they do, we try to understand how they perceive the given space, how they move around. We really need to get the essence of what the person is like in order to tailor the design to their specific needs. We want to avoid designing a huge kitchen for someone who doesn’t actually like cooking, for example.
Why did you decide to become independent?
It was a gradual process. We slowly started working independently and our cooperation formed from that, with time. It wasn’t our initial idea to open our own studio right away. Everything evolved through time. We believe that a person needs to go through different things, situations, and experience in life to learn what they like. We discovered that we want to create interiors with human touch. We don’t want our projects to feel like a generic space which hasn’t been tailored specifically to our client’s preferences.
Architecture should bring a sense of fulfillment to a person. When you work on projects you don’t enjoy or work in an environment that doesn’t suit you, it ultimately affects the quality of the work you do. This was also one of the reasons why we decided to become independent.
There are also offices in your project portfolio. Aren’t these a little different? What is the process behind designing them?
The process is basically the same. We also have several meetings with the client where we look at how people work in the given space, what are their habits, we talk about what they like about the old space and what are their expectations from the new one. We designed offices for Slovak Refresher, for example. At the beginning of our cooperation, we had to define the nature of the company and the way their employees work. We also discussed various operational requirements such as what departments should sit next to each other to make things practical and logical. This particular project was great also because they let us have a free hand in creating the design. We went through the basics together and they left the rest to us.
The Refresher office was the first project we worked on. We remember it very fondly and we appreciate the opportunity and trust they presented us with.
Is it common for clients to come up with their own designs?
Yes, but usually the design proposed by the clients is not the best. We can, however, always work on some improvements together since we can view it from different angles. The situation which happens most commonly is that the clients want to bring something from their old place and recreate it identically in the new one but unfortunately, that is not always feasible. In an ideal world, the clients should explain what they have in mind, we should incorporate that into the design, propose alternative solutions and then leave it up to them to decide which variant they prefer. It is always a good idea to show them something new, something different and unexpected. The clients often say that these unexpected ideas are what they find to be pleasantly surprising and inspirational.
The client should trust us. We always strive to turn the years of experience in combination with our precise and responsible work into designs which will bring the best solutions to our clients. After all, we are the ones who are studying, observing, living, and working in this field for many hours a day.
Do you only work for Slovak clients?
We are currently working on a redesign of the Czech branch of Refresher. It is a slightly smaller project than the Slovak branch. In Slovakia, we designed the space to fit their specific needs, whereas in Prague, we have to keep it a bit more universal because they will be using this space only for a few years.
We are also working on one newly built residential project in Prague. It is a little dream of ours to slowly work our way to designing old town apartments. That would be a great challenge.
There are many different types of interiors in your portfolio, from residential to commercial. Which ones are your favorite?
The ones in which people live. So, I guess, offices as well, ha ha. We like that the projects vary every time.
Do you help your clients with the realization of your designs?
It is up to every client to decide whether they wish to oversee the realization of the design themselves or if they leave it to us. We always prefer the second option. Usually, when the client takes it to their own hands, they end up with a different result to what has been originally designed. However, when we are in charge of the realization, we make sure that the result is identical to the design. We also like to turn our designs into reality ourselves because it completes the entire process of studying, planning and creativity and it makes our work meaningful. In the end, this option is also better for the client because they have less work to do, they only need to set up a couple of meetings with us. These meetings usually take place at the beginning of the process when we show them the design and then again at the end when they can just bring their boxes and move in. The process would be much more lengthy, stressful, and energetically draining if the client decided to do it all by themselves. By the time the client contacts the builders or tilers, the work could have been already taken care of by us. We have our own network of dependable suppliers whom we can contact and rely on.
Have you ever received any crazy requests from a client?
Ha ha. I don’t think I can recall any. No torture chambers or anything like that.
Have you noticed any recurring trends in the field of interiors lately?
I would say we have noticed two main trends. We call the first one “the business baroque” which consists of golden faucets, upholstery with stitching on couches, and the like. The second trend are Scandinavian interiors, grey colors, and wood. However, we must say that we receive quite diverse requests from our clients.
What if the client chooses an interior which does not align with your taste?
We perceive interior design as a service for people. It is important to realize that it is not our job to create masterful artwork but to help people. That is why we tailor our designs to the needs and taste of our clients. We must adjust to our clients’ preferences but at the same time, we try to incorporate a bit of ourselves into the design. The result should make both parties happy, we never submit a design which would satisfy only one of us.
How do you design interiors for food service establishments?
So far, we have always had a free hand when designing a food service establishment. The client provided us with a mood board which shed more light into what they had in mind and they left the rest to us. With these types of interiors, budget plays the main role. Food service establishments usually invest majority of their budget into equipment, so the design is not the utmost priority. Once, we designed a very small food service establishment where it wasn’t so much about the design as about the functionality itself and being able to fit everything into the space.
When designing apartments, have you ever had a request for a functional interior due to lack of space?
I don’t think we designed an apartment quite that small. Small apartments usually require to be furnished creatively, atypically even, which can end up being more expensive than conventional solutions. It means that furnishing a small apartment would cost you more than furnishing a typical two-bedroom apartment. The price per square meter is always higher in small spaces.
Why did you choose BASE? Have you ever worked in another co-working space before?
We have never worked in a co-working space before, but we have been through quite many of them. When we came to BASE, it was love at first sight. We like that it doesn’t have that typical office, corporate vibe. The environment is very inspirational which, considering our profession, we found very appealing. It is important for us to work in a space that isn’t overcrowded with things and colors. Everything here is designed with care, the space is very powerful.
We also like the placement of our fix-desks. In other co-working spaces, the fix-desks were usually located in a crowded area, somewhere near the elevators where there were many people working back-to-back at small desks. BASE is very generous in this sense. We work in an open space, and we feel like we can think more clearly in this environment. Furthermore, the fix-desks at BASE seem like the best option for our starting business. It is just the two of us so renting our own place, which would most likely be a studio apartment, wouldn’t be worth the money.
Another advantage is that when we have a meeting with a client, we do not have to invest into a representative space. This was also one of the main reasons why opted for BASE, it is very representative. The clients like it here, everyone likes coming here because of the space. Other co-working spaces we visited were very fast paced, there was a busy office life atmosphere with lots of people which we found intolerable. Our work requires calm but at the same time it is great that we work with other people here at BASE. We like to talk to other members, find out what they do for work but then we can always sit down and continue working in peace.
A kind of community is forming here. For examples, on Wednesdays we have a lunch together which attracts more people and makes it a very friendly social event.