Going green

We talk to Jaki Amos, about founding her own London-based luxury interior design agency Amos & Amos, the key to achieving a good work-life balance, and how to approach a biophilic design brief

People 23 Apr 2021

The Wardian

Wardian London at Canary Wharf

My husband and I spent many years working with some of London’s leading design agencies, which gave us amazing opportunities to travel and refine our craft. But we found it came with a culture of incentivising people to work longer and longer hours, and we reached a point where we were both working past midnight multiple nights per week, and we were exhausted. We realised something had to change, so we started talking about founding our own agency, and by the time we set it up in 2009, we had a really good idea of what we wanted our ethos to be and how we wanted to support our small team of five.

We describe our design aesthetic as ‘tough luxe’, as our projects are luxurious and innovative, yet instead of using materials such as perfectly polished brass, we might use a heavily patterned bronze metal, or instead of a polished Italian marble, we might choose an acid-washed, heavily veined marble. Our colour palette is quite desaturated, and our aim is to bring character and soul into our spaces – that’s what we really pride ourselves on doing.

The innovation comes as a side effect of working for developers, as you can’t use the same idea more than once. You have to keep reinventing your ideas and paying a lot of attention to trend forecasting, because you’re often designing an aesthetic three years before it comes to market.

The design of Wardian is inspired by biophilia
Wardian has a biophilic design concept

Sustainability is also very important for us, and we’ve always championed British design and emerging British design talent wherever we can. So on our projects we like to collaborate with innovative British companies that are pushing the boundaries, and we use local materials to reduce our carbon footprint wherever possible.

EcoWorld Ballymore is known as the market leader in its field with a number of very exciting projects, such as Wardian London located at Canary Wharf. This is special because of its biophilic design concept, which aims to foster health and wellbeing by increasing the connectivity between the residents of the building and the natural environment. That goes through architecture and design, and the connectivity should be woven into the fabric of the building at every level, through natural lighting, ventilation, internal and external views to nature, interior and exterior planting, plus textures, patterns and colours. Essentially, we are creating an immersive natural environment for residents at every touchpoint.

Canary Wharf is one of the capital’s leading financial centres, yet, following the pandemic, many people living on the outskirts of London no longer want to commute into Canary Wharf every day, so are instead looking to buy and rent a walkable distance to their offices. Recent research carried out by Knight Frank showed a 23 per cent increase in viewings and a 35 per cent jump in offers accepted in Canary Wharf in the second half of 2020 compared to 2019

The area’s lifestyle offering is also growing, with many exciting new launches such as new street food market concept Mercato Metropolitano, due to open this summer.

Wardian’s four show apartments reflect four different visions for how residents might live in Wardian, so we have Earth, Architectural, Green and Eclectic themes. The architectural apartment is all about rigidity of design, geometry and symmetry – it reflects the strict architecture of the Wardian towers themselves. Whereas the Earth apartment strikes a very different tone; it’s calming and meditative, featuring natural stone sculptures, freehand painted canvases and Danish linens. These all started as four identical canvases, but once they have been dressed, people generally get drawn to one identity.

Wardian glass cases inspired the building’s design

One of our show apartments is all green, and the brief for that was to create an apartment that would be a statement and really stick in people’s minds. We stripped the concept of Wardian right back, and the one word we would use to describe it is ‘green’. So we created an apartment that was an entire colour study of different hues of green, and every item within it is a shade of green.

The whole Wardian design is based on Wardian glass cases, which Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward developed in 1833 to transport plant specimens around the British Empire. He could travel with the cases and transport the plants in them for weeks at sea, and they would survive the journey. The sense of scale and space when you walk into Wardian’s triple-height lobbies is incredible. Each houses more than 100 different types of plants. It’s very calming and tranquil.

Trying to achieve a balance between being a mother and running your own company is without doubt one of the biggest challenges every working woman faces. When my second daughter was born, I had a dilemma about whether to take maternity leave or not, and so I settled on a very short maternity leave, but then continued on a four-day week, with that extra day focused solely on my daughter. As she grew up and went to school, I kept my Fridays off, so I could get my life admin done and dedicate it to family time. We then made the decision to close our design studio on the last Friday of every month, so all our team members can use this day as they want, which makes a big difference to their work/life balance. What started out as a challenge has actually helped us form a strong direction for our business that benefits everyone.

When you first start out it’s easy to spread yourself very thinly by trying to do everything yourself and saying yes to everything, but the best advice I’ve been given is to place a value on your time and knowledge, and use both in the most effective way possible. For me, as a woman in a leadership role, the key to success is knowing my craft inside and out, being able to speak up from experience, being able to bring tangible solutions to the table, and ultimately working in a true partnership with my team towards a common goal.

As a business, at Amos & Amos we are very passionate about helping the next generation enter into creative industries, and I’m currently working with a secondary school in south London in a mentoring role for their pre-A-Level classes, to help them explore different pathways to get into a variety of creative industries. People are often told to follow their dreams, but they need to know how.