Our overseas clients wished to establish a sandwich bar and cafe with limited seating area in Bath. With the additional challenge of the foreign language and their unfamiliarity with UK processes, we ended up spending hundreds of hours helping them in many ways, far beyond our usual brief as an interior designer (and almost all pro bono). This was a case where our engagement ended at the design stage, as you shall see.
First was the listed building in question: there was an extraordinary amount of work required firstly to get it to a baseline standard which should have been undertaken by the previous tenants (the so-called schedule of dilapidations), and then to design the layout that would work for their new bar and supporting kitchen and staff areas in the basement.
We arranged for the formal schedule of dilapidations to be drawn up by a surveyor and priced this to help the clients negotiate their rental, taking account of the works required. A separate asbestos survey was also undertaken (which we negotiated for the landlord to pay), and the price for removal of asbestos by a certified company established. We coordinated discussion by all parties to help the clients’ solicitor to minimise their costs and obligations under the lease.
Using our designs, we also engaged an architect and conservation officer (for listed building consent) to consider the proposed changes both internally and externally; eventually this included signage, font and esterior paint scheme. The architect would also oversee the change of use planning application with the council. We asked two builders to quote for the works against a detailed specification and presented their respective prices to the clients.
We also introduced our clients to a reputable marketing agency to help them build their brand and communicate their presence effectively to Bath and its surrounding area.
At the same time, there was the pressure from the landlord’s agents to compel our clients to sign the tenancy agreement; before they were ready. As our clients got to know us well they asked our advice (!); we allayed their fears through the proper channels, making the solicitor aware and asking her to confirm the need to be sure of all facts before committing.
We were also concerned that the clients would need advice on health and hygiene regulations so we arranged and attended a meeting with the council environmental health officer responsible for signing off the relevant certificate for the premises. This helped to identify health and hygiene factors to be accounted for in the detailed design, and for the clients to understand their operational commitments to cleanliness, rubbish management and so forth.
In parallel, we identified all the machinery and storage they would need and produced a 3D model to suit; this included the coffee machine and grinder and suppliers of coffee beans, yoghurt maker, waffle maker, sandwich grill and the fridge units.
Whilst we enjoyed this challenge and the new role in which we found ourselves, after 6 months or so, it became clear that the clients were going to withdraw from the project; in fact, they disappeared. So the design now sits on the shelf.