How challenging has sourcing been during the pandemic?

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OKA asked designers how COVID-19 has impacted the way they source and specify their projects. Their responses demonstrate the determination, resilience, creativity and adaptability of those in this industry. It’s clear that good design can triumph even in adversity.

Lisa Mitchell – Interior Style Studio

During the first lockdown the majority of our projects were put on hold. Once work started up again, the focus was to work only with my established contacts and reliable suppliers who not only had the right product range, but whom I trusted to provide the right service and settle anxiety about deliveries and staff safety. One of my first and only sourcing trips to London between lockdowns included a visit to the OKA showroom in Chelsea, which is always a treat, but also as it is important to know the product ranges and quality firsthand so you can order remotely with confidence. Being able to order online via the trade portal, boosted with occasional showroom visits, is essential and a welcome offering.

OKA furniture and accessories feature in a recently completed luxe living room, and also in a current concept design highlighting the Wallace Coffee Table, Tuffete Ottoman and Tailored by OKA Radcliffe Sofa.

Charlotte Stuart – Charlotte Stuart Interiors

As we look back over the last year, we have all had to adapt quickly to the changing horizons, the interior design world never more so. Sourcing stock items has become key to the success of interior projects as the landscape changed overnight. Pre-lockdown, short lead times for products were taken for granted; this quickly spiralled into much longer lead times or scenarios where products were no longer available. Visibility and transparency became the key ingredients for suppliers and designers to be able to work their magic on deliverables for interior projects. A minefield of complications arose that I had never before considered as an interior designer. Fabric mills stopped producing overnight, products got stuck in customs… pivoting during the uncertainty meant it was more important than ever to be resourceful, creative and flexible. Sourcing and supply from British companies became equally important due to the further influence of change.

Working with companies such as OKA, who kept their website up to date with stock and expected arrival times, was vital to keeping my projects running smoothly. Sourcing was no longer focused solely on product but relied on a mutual trust between the supplier and designer. It became increasingly important to work with brands who could support me in ongoing projects and supply expertly crafted products of a high quality. Having the confidence to specify items without seeing them in person was essential for a project abroad. This project required a container of furniture to be sent directly from the supplier, therefore it was imperative that I had confidence in the brand, products and process. When working with a brand such as OKA, the designer can bring true value to a project and demonstrate their expertise and resilience to the client in this ever-changing world.

Lily Paulson Ellis – Lily Paulson Ellis Interiors

Our suppliers have been amazing in what has been a very tricky time. They quickly adapted to setting up Zoom meetings to present new collections and have been taking it in turns to visit their own showrooms in a COVID-secure way to get samples sent out both to the designers and direct to clients when we have been unable to have face-to-face meetings. It was great for a moment in the summer when we could visit showrooms by appointment, because it is so important to see pieces in the flesh before specifying them for a client. But as they are once again closed I find myself relying on tried and tested suppliers where I know the product quality well.

This has been even more important as my supply lines were hit by Brexit uncertainty as well as staff isolations – being able to communicate with someone I trust has been crucial. Let us hope that it won’t be long before we can all get back to the trade fairs and shows that we know and love.

Feray Takmak – The Hall Interiors

The past year was one in which we all went back to our core values and interests in our personal and professional lives. We certainly missed the trade shows, launch parties and events for new collections, getting together with our colleagues and friends, enjoying the textures and colours of the upcoming collections. Yet business remained robust in the refurbishment and improvement market. Our clients chose to invest in their current homes rather than move further up the ladder. We had to go ‘old school’ to successfully run our projects, relying on our catalogue of relationships and seeking innovation and inspiration in the tested and proven pitches. Keeping an immaculate library of product samples, catalogues and fabrics proved valuable as an anchor to success during this period. 

As an interior designer, I definitely want to source new products and find new inspiration. However, this period showed us how important our existing relationships are – these are the ones we rely on to deliver aesthetic solutions to the hardest and most sophisticated design mandates, from a penthouse refurb in Chelsea to a mansion in Wentworth, Surrey.

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