Founded in 2010, Fuse is a unique practice of architects and interior designers offering services across a wide range of sectors including leisure, hospitality and retail. Over the past five years, the company has worked on a number of high profile projects including the VIP areas in Leeds Arena, the Hard Rock Café in Amsterdam and the Leeds College of Building.
Fuse recently moved into its new home at West One in Leeds and we went to meet Director Scott Ryalls to find out more about the company and how they went about designing their own office space.
Tell us a bit more about Fuse?
We are an architectural and interior design practice working across a wide range of sectors including education, workplace, leisure and hospitality. We’ve been going since 2010 and now employ 32 people across two studios here in Leeds and in Manchester. We actually moved into West One on our 5th birthday.
We read that you swapped a promising career as a footballer for a career in interior design, tell us a bit more about that.
As a school boy I was was lucky enough to play at city and county level – I was actually about to sign professional forms but at that point, I was tired of playing football from such a young age. So instead, I went to play and coach in Florida - just before America hosted the world cup. Whilst I was over there I started to figure out what I really wanted to do as a career, so after a year I came back and started over again.
So how did you get into interior design?
Back then interior design didn’t really exist as a profession, it was before ‘Changing Rooms’ – not that that’s actually what we do. As those kind of shows developed and people became more design orientated a trend formed, that’s when a lot of colleges, particularly arts colleges, started to advertise specific courses in this area. So when I came back from Florida the path to becoming a commercial interior designer was far more defined than when I first left school.
I went on to do a BTEC at Sheffield University, a degree at Huddersfield University and then went straight into work from there.
It sounds like you’ve worked on some really interesting projects over the years, what would you say is one of your most memorable to date?
Hmm, our projects are like our children – you can’t really have favourites and I love them all for different reasons. There are a lot of memorable occasions from different projects. The Hard Rock Café in Barcelona was interesting because the contractor didn’t speak English, so we communicated a lot through hand drawn signals and arm waving – which was pretty unique. There was also a big Cadillac over the centre of the bar; we told the contractor the only way to get it out of the building was via a window, he didn’t believe us and closed that route too early. Needless to say I almost got arrested as we had to close Plaça de Catalunya (Barcelona’s main square) because the contractor thought it would go through the doors – it didn’t and got stuck. Sometimes it’s the stories that are most memorable.
Since Fuse was founded in 2010, it’s grown a great deal, what do you think the reasons behind this are?
I think we got our timing and our offer right when we set up. There are a lot of architectural practices that do architecture, there are a lot of interior design practices that do interior design, and there were some architectural practices that said they did interior design but it was more of a bolt on service. Fuse is none of these - we offer them both simultaneously on all projects, no matter the size or value of the project, clients get architects and interior designers working side by side. As disciplines we think differently but when you join those thoughts together from the outset there is an opportunity to create efficient, cost effective designs that look fantastic. It’s still a relatively unique offering to genuinely provide the services side by side – there aren’t that many people out there doing it.
As Directors, we remain hands on– like I said earlier it was me trying to get that car through the doors. This is something our clients really appreciate as they receive immediate responses from senior people based on global experiences. In construction this saves time and money. We are still very focused on this – providing excellent customer service is equal to the quality of design on offer. We aim to become our clients' ‘trusted advisors’.
With Fuse carrying out a number of international projects, do you get to travel often?
Yes. Over the years we have done a lot of air miles and I think collectively we’ve pretty much covered most of the world between us. The world is much smaller than it used to be but travelling is a fantastic way of seeing and experiencing new things and it allows us, from a design point of view to reference and relate back to things we’ve seen abroad. This has provided us with a wealth of knowledge on the ways different countries work, construct and operate the type of venues we are most involved with.
You’ve recently moved in to your new home at West One, talk us through the process of designing your own office?
The biggest driver for us was having spaces like this [a break-out area] where the guys can break-out, come together and do what they’re good at which is being creative and collaborating. Previously, because of the rapid growth we experienced, we didn’t have that. So what we wanted was an office that we could really put our stamp on, to visually represent what we’re about whilst giving our staff what they need. It was about creating an office that actually does everything we preach to clients and the things that they need to consider for their own organisations.
Were there any features that you just had to have?
Break-out and collaborative spaces were really important to us. We also wanted more functional features like our large materials library which stores everything from fabrics to bricks. This is great for allowing clients to visualise various looks. Our aim was to create a design studio within a corporate building.
How are you finding the new space?
Great, it feels like we’ve been here a lot longer which is a good thing. The building is great and the staff on-site are really friendly; they remember your name always say hello. They’re also attentive to our needs which is great from a customer service point of view.
Do you have a favourite haunt in the city centre?
(Laughs) On a late evening we tend to find ourselves drifting back towards Rolands on Call Lane. It’s a little independent bar with an attentive landlord that always looked after us when we located just down the road.