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October, 2015:

Houzz University @Surface Tiles 20 October 2015

I have only just figured out how to use my phone. Being technologically-challenged, I naturally have no clue about social media. Houzz University was a good place to start. More recently, I learnt how to blog, and hence this post.


I first joined Houzz in January 2013 when it was all American. This tied in with the design I was doing which was an industrial, Americana log cabin themed entertainment room. There was plenty to go on. I was using it as a user rather than a pro for working out concepts and art direction.

For two years until yesterday, I have not touched Houzz let alone update photos. This is because I have been running my business for twenty years without social media, and suddenly there is social media. Many of my photos are either lost or still on my hard drive or both. I had to come to grips with modern life.  I found out about the workshop through attending the Tom Dixon event @Multiplex Old Selfridges Hall.

Surface Tiles

… is behind an unassuming grey painted hoarding. Once in, it’s like a tardis. There are spiral swirls of white mosaic-tiled ‘vertebra-like’ tunnel of rings to the entrance. The surprise was that the space inside Surface Tiles is actually enormous. It keeps unravelling more and more rooms. There was a wonderful spread of breakfast and the goody bags (which included Muji pens, a pencil, a notebook and a bag of basil seeds) are eco, practical and thoughtful. No more paperweights, yay!

What's in the goody bag

What's in the goody bag


I think of all social media as take take take. They take your footage, files, content, data. Houzz is the first social media platform which has given back. To have a young person (Sophie Spence, thank you) beside me to quickly teach stuff which would have taken me a long time finding for myself, is a bonus. To have more than ten people in a room working on the same goals has also shown me that Houzz is a community.

What I learnt

I know how to upload my profile pic (though I may have to change that, as my hair is in such a terrible state, needing a cut etc, but now at least I know how to change a profile pic!). I know how to write a business description and I know what 30 keywords are important in describing a photo. I have learnt how to ask for reviews. I did send out five requests, and two clients have done reviews but I cannot view them online yet, because I believe it will take two to three days? (is that right, Ffion, or was I not listening carefully?)

Houzz summary

Houzz summary - for when I'm forgetful

Where I am going

Since Houzz is a social media platform for designers, it is a stage to showcase yourself and your stuff. No one can take away the unique nature of each professional. Creativity and personality still belong to the artist.

Not only have I gained new skills after three hours, I am excited to have gained contacts. That’s the old word for them. Today they are called ‘followers’.


Tom Dixon OBE evening at London Design Festival in MULTIPLEX Old Selfridges Hall

wingback chairs

wingback chairs

Being a long time Habitat fan, I was keen to hear Tom Dixon speak. His designs are always identifiable. They are perforated metal or twisted and welded metal, in the modernist tradition. His pendant lights which are rather more like geometric lanterns or upturned burnished copper urns, have formed the ‘look’ of Habitat lighting as we know it. The blue wingback chairs, copper pendants and coloured distorted glass bubble lighting are visually distinctive.

geometric perforated metal lanterns

geometric perforated metal lanterns

The talk

He presented an engaging, funny and honest slideshow and talk about his past and how he ended up being a designer. We saw his first chair, a junk metal chair covered in twisted wire and we saw later chairs, more sophisticated and streamlined versions, but still metal. He was a bass player fortunate or unfortunate enough to have a motorbike accident as he was looking at a girl. Because of his injuries, he then had a lot of practice doing welding which led to designing metalwork. He was impatient which suited metalwork more than woodwork, which required patience and accuracy. He was not a designer who ended up doing welding, it was the other way round. In the old days when branding was less rigid, he explained how we as designers were more free to explore and create without the pressure of branding,  marketing and typecasting. We saw how a visit to Jaipur in India inspired the aforementioned upturned copper urn lighting. Tom Dixon came across as a down-to-earth nice guy even though of course, I do understand that the design world is very commercial, corporate and branded now. There was no shortage of instagramming or selfie-ing young individuals. Of course they are young. No one over 33-and-a-half takes selfies.

The cocktails

One must have cocktails. We enjoyed different delicious cocktails made of Belsazar Vermouth and tonic and Rose Vermouth reverse martini. Both were light and refreshing. I didn’t know who the DJ was but I very much enjoyed the old school (should it be skool) funky stuff.

upside down watering

upside down watering

Upside down watering

…which is not to do with cocktails. I was tempted by the upside down perspex cube self-watering orchid planters. The photos are not upside down so it’s not that I forgot to rotate them. That’s how they came. The planters were hooked and suspended from a ceiling grid. But I had to stop myself from being carried away. Unless the orchid was dangling very low, I would not even notice it anymore which defeats the point of having orchids, right? Yet I had to concede it was still a good idea if one was too forgetful or busy to water orchids or any household plant for that matter. The space under the ceiling grid  had the true feel of a greenhouse with lush cascading vines. Also I thought that it would work better if one had a lot of these rather than one.

Wooden vintagey spectacles

…in the usual flattering classic designery shapes such as Rayban’s wayfarer. Oh… and the mould from which they are made, an idea that I was interested in years ago after seeing homemade bamboo spectacles in Vietnam.

Multi-sensory platform

Multiplex has the feel of a luxe street market because it is multi-sensory and multi-disciplinary. Twenty years ago when I first started design, every design discipline is disconnected from the others, you just mind your own business. You don’t even know what your mate is doing in the next office. The term crossover did not exist. We are very lucky now where good ideas are holistic and have to work alongside other good ideas. Whether it is fashion, architecture, graphic design, interior design or product design, they share the same roots and often these are grassroots.Thanks to Houzz for inviting me. It made me think about what the Houzz platform is. It no longer is enough to create, one must also create a ‘buzz’.