House & Garden

Designer Profile: Gordon Russell


Since buying his Wapping warehouse office in 1993, Gordon Russell has enjoyed not only well-designed premises but peace in London, too. Should he need inspiration, the sounds of the Thames and gulls soothe his at his desk. As he says, "Environment is a powerful thing - it's a joy if you get it right." He should know. His architectural practice, Detail, has been turning out high-spec interiors for a decade. This summer Gordon scooped the 2004 Design & Decoration award - best contemporary commercial project - for Metis, a funky mirror-glass and neon physiotherapy center in Drury Lane, Covent Garden.

Yet for all his slick commercial skills (his first degree was in business studies), Gordon has achieved and enviable like/work balance. Content, for the sake of his family, to shuttle between Glasgow and London every week, he feels that his business reflects a similar philosophy. "We enjoy what we do," he says with a grin, adding that his ideal clients possess similar zest for life. Clients are taken in 'evolutionary' stages from an initial briefing -"they talk, I listen" - to detailed specifications. All the while Gordon keeps a tight grip on progress. "I means we deliver fantastic quality, on budget and on time."

Given that he trained in furniture design at what has become Buckingham Chilterns University College, and that he achieved a considerable early success in that field in the Eighties, it's surprising that Gordon turned to interior design at all. "Clients were beginning to ask for the total environment," he says in response. To create the ideal mix, Gordon has built a team comprising two architects and two interior designers, to compliment his own skills. Asked if he undertakes only high-end commissions, he demurs, but sees the ability to work within a budget as the key to impeccable standards. "At every stage contractors conspire to compromise the ultimate goal of the design - it's our job to maintain it."

The projects, a fifty-fifty mix of commercial and residential, are modern and innovative. Apart from a recording studio, and n archive for Lord Bute, there's a warehouse conversion on the go, as well as a pop star's house. Projects are distinguished by the practice's painstaking approach to detail. One client was treated to a saltwater fish tank, its complex mechanism 'knitted into the wall'. Another enjoys a cowhide bed head with a curved 'ceiling' whose inset lights are expertly positioned for bedtime reading. Gordon is fastidious and energetic in his pursuit of perfection. "Design is malleable tool," he says. "I'f there's a problem I design my way out of it."