In Good Company: Charles Leon
Charles Leon, BIID President Elect, who will take over as BIID President in July, will be speaking at the BIID’s Inside Knowledge Conference next week. He talks to Studio about his architectural interior design consultancy, Leon Black, and his highlight of the past 12 months: the experiential design of the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A.
When was the company founded? The original company, CLA, was founded in 1995. We formed a new partnership with Nicholas Black in 2014 called Leon Black.
How many staff? The staff has varied over the years, but the largest team was 16 designers. We now try to remain as small and flexible as we possibly can.
Where is it based? We are based in Richmond, a few minutes from the park and the river Thames.
What is your latest significant achievement? We have recently completed a 5- star residential home for patients suffering from various degrees of dementia in Chelsea. We are currently on phase 3 of a residential project in Mayfair, which is the basement, and we are working on a large hotel in London.
I’ve just discovered… that our role is actually to create better experiences. Design is a behavioural, emotional and practical skill. It’s about how you make people feel, how you change their behaviour and how efficiently the design performs.
Who inspires me… Tom Kelley of IDEO for his design-thinking, Karim Rashid for his fresh approach to all design, Don Norman for his ability to analyse what design does to us. Yuval Noah Harari (author of Sapiens & Homo-deus) for his incredibly clear and inspiring thinking. And Elon Musk because he will change the world with ideas and design.
I’ve always been a fan of… big ideas (even when they don’t work). I love people who dare to think big, but I also love the little insignificant things that we take for granted, like Pez dispensers, and ring-pull cans. Someone has spent time thinking about (i.e. designing). I also love ideas that cross domains, like science, technology and art.
My highlight of the last 12 months… Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A. The rooms completely complimented and enhanced the Alexander McQueen designs. This was an “experience”, not just an exhibition. Motorcycling through California with friends.
My next design trip is to… the Dominican Republic to give a lecture on design and brand theory at a conference for architects, designers and hoteliers.