Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work
I was brought up in the west country, so Bath has always been very special to me. I’ve always loved the architectural texture of the city, its creative independent shops, galleries and restaurants. I love the large light-filled Georgian rooms, the glimpses of countryside on the surrounding hills and going to the dentist in the Circus always makes me smile.
I started my career as a graphic designer working mainly on food packaging and having that eye for the smallest detail has stood me in good stead. I love working in three dimensions so it was an easy transition from packaging to designing furniture and interiors.
My first interior project was for the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden followed by Rank Screen Advertising in Wardour Street, Soho and I haven’t looked back.
I’ve been extremely fortunate and worked on some fabulous properties. I’ve designed furniture and interiors for Lord Bath at Longleat House. He wanted his penthouse apartment to reflect the 21st century – however, this was in 1993 which was a bit of a challenge! He also wanted furniture and interiors to be unique to him and that’s always a joy to create.
I also designed for and presented on BBC One’s DIY SOS. For this my brief was to create aspirational interiors using high street goods. There are some really lovely designs out there for not much money, especially in lighting. Recently I’ve worked on two luxury harbour side properties in Sydney. I designed the entire properties from outdoor swimming pool terraces, water features and gardens through to the interiors including bespoke furniture and fittings. Even the underground garage had a makeover using 23,000 limestone stets (square cobbles) and a bronzed tree. This was literally a dried tree that I had bronze coated and added tumbling bronze leaves. It was a fabulous feature – it’s always fun when interiors cross over into sculpture.
As a designer, I don’t sell a particular style. I love historic buildings as much as new builds. My job is to make my clients’ dreams come true whether it’s sumptuous or contemporary chic. The process is about me understanding the way the client uses their space. Good design is as much about ease of use and practicality as it is about looking good.
I’ve also been involved with eco super yachts. This has led to me collaborating with Van de Sant who has asked me to design a range of furniture using plastic recovered from the oceans. Initially for yachts, we’re also looking at the UK and Australian markets. It’s something I’m really passionate about. There’s an estimated five trillion pieces of plastic out there. The problem is so acute that plastic has entered our food chain. The furniture we’re creating is contemporary, chic and fabulous quality. Each piece is numbered and fully recyclable at the end of its current life. I’m also launching my own range of accessories based on images I’ve taken over the years.
Bath was always called The Graveyard of Ambition, but I find it anything but that. It’s always a joy to be able to call on the amazing array of really talented people. It’s no surprise that such a beautiful city attracts creative people and that’s probably what I love about it the most.