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The space makers, Sella Concept
24th October 2017

The space makers: Q&A with Sella Concept

It may have only existed for a few months, but design studio Sella Concept has already chalked up projects for the likes of Google, Netflix and Instagram, created bar, restaurant and retail spaces across London and – most importantly – designed Zetteler’s coffee supplier and meeting venue of choice: the Deli in De Beauvoir Block (or as we call it ‘downstairs’).

The company is the brainchild of Tatjana von Stein and Gayle Noonan, whose worlds first collided when they were both working on the launch of multifunctional design space/store Clerkenwell London. In the process, they realised they shared a passion for consumer-focused design, the psychology of space, chairs, and each other. Clerkenwell London may be no more, but Sella Concept hasn’t stood still since.

We asked Tatjana and Gayle about the business they’ve built together,  their working dynamic, the ever-expanding scope of their services and their plans for the future…

How did Sella Concept come about?

Tatjana: We met during a period of sleepless nights while working on launching Clerkenwell London – a space we curated and designed from its embryonic concept stage to its opening. Our passion for design, craftsmanship and creating spaces became apparent and launched us into a series of other projects… Oh, and we fell in love on the way!

Gayle: The dynamic of working together on a daily basis was an aspect I loved as much as our shared sensibilities for design. While creating a brand together, it quickly became apparent that we had complementary approaches. It was and still is far too much fun that anyone would care to admit for a day job.

Clerkenwell London, Sella Concept

What inspired the name?

G: Tatjana and I have an infatuation with chairs. I love the humility of a simple chair. Like any great piece of design, utility was the main reason for its birth; now it serves as much a purpose of decoration as it does utility, but what piece of great design doesn’t? In short, it’s a noble, beautiful object that supports us everyday – so what’s not to love? Drawing on similar values and characteristics of what we were aiming for in our business, we felt that this was a great place to start and began to consider it as a motif in the naming process of the company. After some reading and research, it turns out that one of the earliest words for chair (or one which at least alludes to a formation that is similar in shape) comes from the Egyptian ‘Sella’. Its form is based on a depression at the top of the spine where it meets the skull, which supports a gland. A shape that supports another form. Phonetically, it was uncomplicated and elegant; visually it offered us a lot of scope; and physiologically it perfectly aligned to the characteristics and values we had established for our company: utility, support and design. Immediately, we knew that a ‘Sella’ concept was the direction we wanted to go in.

T: On further research it transpired that ‘Sella’ was also an Israeli man-whore who can't make up his mind about women. Our preference was to explore the former route.  

Tell us about your logo design – what does it signify?

T: I have a slight obsession with the moon. I love circles, what they signify and their aesthetic – they’ve just always seemed to reoccur around me.

G: When we began to consider the possible territories for our logo, I hoped this spherical, cyclical motif would make its way through to the final design. Once we had established our name, our common love of furniture (particularly the four legged seating type), and an overall circular shape, the stars aligned and a modernist, linear symbol emerged.
Clerkenwell London, Sella Concept

How do you summarise what the company does?

T: We are a creative studio and work on various projects from the concept stage to design in its purest form. We focus on designing retail and hospitality spaces as we are both fascinated by the influence that space, materials and layout can have on human psychology. We consider the energy and flow within a space – every material and minute composition, almost still life-like, to encourage and promote certain behaviours and emotive responses by really analysing the brand, the target audience and the environment of the space we work within.

In an ideal world, we get to immerse ourselves fully in a brand from concept through to delivering its complete visual identity in interiors and branding. Essentially, we design experiences!

What’s your professional backstory? How did you both get to where you are now?

G: I studied art and have a degree in visual communications. I’ve been immersed in the art and design world for the past decade and counting. In the art world I worked with various artists and galleries in curatorial roles, but design has always been an integral part of who I am and how I make sense of the world, so I’m happy to be fully committed to this discipline I love. Growing up, I’d see my father constantly making and deconstructing things at home, and my mother who, as a dressmaker, would agonise over the perfect cut to any garment. I attribute my love of creating and designing to their sense of curiosity and commitment for material. It’s taken me here and I couldn’t be more appreciative of them both.

T: For as long as I remember, my happy place can resemble anything from hours of obsessing over complex Lego structures to days of endless making in the Austrian mountains where I grew up. Creating spaces, and contemplating how people might use them, has always been fascinating to me. I started in the film industry, but soon moved on to launching and designing music nights and some theatrical events. My love for spaces and design evolved through working on various retail and hospitality concepts around the world, which led me to my role at Clerkenwell London.
Drawing Room in Canary Wharf by Sella Concept

How does the dynamic work between the two of you?

G: Honestly, I wouldn’t dare to have even hoped for a more perfect balance. Tatjana approaches every project with buckets of optimism and possibility. She’s so fluid in her ideas and how she designs. I love the boldness and brevity of her approach. There’s a fire in her belly that ignites at the beginning of a project and injects so much creative potential, while I sit back practically paralysed by the endless options that are nowhere near resolution.

T: Thankfully Gayle’s rigorous six-year art degree means she agonises over every detail and proposition until it’s fully resolved – while I have the luxury of indulging in a thought process of creating something without the restraints of having to work out all the moving parts and whether they could even ever sit together! Every day, I am in awe of Gayle’s talents and approach. It’s meticulous, and I sit watching her for hours on end moving every millimetre while her hair slowly curls as the rate of concentration increases and levels out at an extreme frizz…

G: Tatjana goes MACRO: ‘Let’s build everything out of mirrors, make it spherical and at least 10 metres in diameter.’ I go micro: ‘Let’s make a tiny, perfectly smooth, oblong hole on the surface.’

Where’s your studio based and what does it look like?

T: We are based at the Great Western Studios by the canal at the moment – it’s a wonderfully creative community and, luckily, a lot of our other friends have studios there. It’s a pink room full of collectibles, a record player and a touch of Bauhaus.

Netflix hub by Sella Concept

What has been your favourite project so far?

T: We’ll never quite be able to forget completely immersing ourselves in the Clerkenwell project for days and nights on end, with a fantastic team alongside us. However, each new project means indulging, exploring and mastering new materials and techniques. This is what excites us – so my heart is now fully in love with our newest project: Omar’s Place, a Mediterranean restaurant in Pimlico opening in November. Omar gave us the opportunity to explore his complete visual identity and indulge in every detail so we’re in an exciting and nerve wrecking time to see it come to life on site as we speak.

What are you currently working on?

G: We’ve just finished another space for Google, have a few branding projects on the go, and are working on site at Omar’s Place.

T: We are at the concept stage of a member’s club in Lisbon – it’s an exciting and challenging project for us as our brief is to design a surrealist space with a focus on illusion and discovery. We are also exploring a couple more curatorial/strategical roles and projects within the retail and marketplace realms, as well as working on a couple of projects we can’t really say much about yet, other than that they include another restaurant and a new exciting bar concept in Hackney.

What are your ambitions for Sella Concept?

T: We cannot wait to get our hands on more design projects that will allow us to exercise, explore and showcase our design skills further. We strongly believe in the overlap of the retail and hospitality industries and are often asked to activate spaces with new ideas to create a culture and add value to the real estate. We, therefore, can’t help having the ambition to have our own commercial space that brings Sella Concept design to life, through the curation of experiences, products and a community of designers and creatives.
Desk in Swiss House by Sella Concept
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