For many London house-buyers, “buying off-plan” – purchasing a home before it’s been built – is a necessary evil. You do it to get ahead of the inevitable hordes fighting to snap up the limited supply of new homes. It’s a process fraught with risks and uncertainties, especially considering you’re eventually obliged to live somewhere you’ve never set foot in.
As has happened in many industries, technology has stepped into the breach. Companies have found a lucrative business making hyper-realistic CGI images of developments that are currently under construction, often for glossy brochures and overseas marketing suites.
Rebecca Tucker and Helen Fewster, heads of London-based design studio Suna, have taken things one step further, offering a full CGI interior design package to developers to help them project the potential of their new homes to prospective buyers.
“A few designers are doing it now, but we’re the first company I know of that’s marketing CGI design as a service,” says Tucker. “Developers want to sell off-plan, and they used to rely on brochures, but that slowed down during the recession. Suddenly people wanted to see a product, which seems less high-risk. The technology is so much better now as well; these images can be confused for the real thing.”
In many ways, the work is similar to Suna’s more conventional work designing showrooms, marketing suites and interiors for hotels and new-builds. Its 13-strong team, including seven designers, draw up mood boards, colour schemes and products for the rooms, then send those ideas to a CGI company.
From then on, it’s a collaborative process to get everything looking perfect before the marketing images are sent off to the developer. “It’s no more difficult to design for CGI than it is to design a room,” Tucker says. “You don’t usually get to set foot inside the room until further into the process, so you’re used to looking at blueprints in 2D but visualising your work in 3D.
“In many ways, it can be a more creative process because you’re not restricted by the limitations of budget and space. If you’re creating a showroom, you might go ‘I really love that chair but the developer can’t afford it’. That’s not a problem with CGI. And if it doesn’t fit the dimensions of the room, then we can simply make it smaller.”
While design for CGI is Suna’s newest venture, the firm has been working on real world projects since 2001. It describes its brand as “boutique”, designing to very specific, one-off briefs rather than honing a particular style.
“The London market is so competitive that developers want something innovative and different to give them the edge.”
Suna recently completed its first hotel interiors for Flemings in Mayfair, a luxury offering which specified that every room must have a unique design that was “impactful and colourful.”
“We had already designed communal areas and concierges for big developments, and Flemings was very open to us not having done a hotel before, thankfully.” And why not? As Suna’s CGIs show, it’s not necessarily better the devil you know.
For more examples of Suna’s work or to contact them for projects, call 020 8544 9350, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit sunainteriordesign.com.