26 Jul Ireland Together with: Emma Webb, Entrepreneur (Interview)
Interior Designer Emma Webb is an innovator and focuses her work on wellness. Interviewed by Ireland Together, she shares her creative vision on the future of workspaces and her expertise in biophilic design.
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Interview by: Vithoria Escobar
V.E.: Could you start by introducing yourself, your business, and how you got into this area?
E.W.: I always wanted to be a designer and tried to surround myself with beauty and harmony from an early age. However, it wasn’t until I was studying for a BA in Psychology at UCD that I found myself fascinated by the impact the environment has on us and consequently went on to study Interior Design and set up my practice, Emma Webb Design, in 1995.
Helping people feel good in a space has been a passionate motivator, and although aesthetics obviously play a leading role, I have always been driven to find practical solutions to everyday problems that make daily life a little smoother. It was this type of thinking that led me to develop the Stackajack clever crib, which we launched nationwide (after appearing on Dragon’s Den!), which was a newborn’s crib that turned into a table and chairs and also into a high chair – in other words, it grew with a child.
I love working as a designer and facing the challenges this role presents, especially because I learn something new every day!
V.E.: As a designer, has your customer experience or journey changed since the pandemic started? What has changed or been impacted the most?
E.W.: I am used to working remotely and using video conferencing when I have projects abroad. However, the first time that I used it with local clients was during the pandemic and I plan to continue with this method – the ability to screen share ( CAD drawings or 3D presentations) is a really effective aid for presentations and also allows for drawings/ideas to be fleshed out in real-time.
V.E.: Have you noticed any changes to your customer’s priorities when looking for an interior designer since the crisis?
E.W.: Probably a sense of urgency! People have spent weeks at home now and realised that their space doesn’t work for them anymore. Open plan living has its limitations, especially when shared for a variety of activities. I think we will see a growth in movable partitions for the home, which will allow us to retain bright and open living spaces, whilst also providing for temporary private spaces.
V.E.: I see you reference biophilic design. Could you explain a bit more about the concept and how important it is, especially now, with so many people working from home?
E.W.: Biophilic design is all about engaging with natural systems to enhance how people feel in a space. Much research has been conducted over the last 20 years demonstrating that lower blood pressure/heart rate; decreased levels of the stress hormone – cortisol, restored energy levels and improved concentration, are associated with regular interaction with nature and even imitated nature (natural daylight, images of natural settings, plants, sounds, etc). We spend 90% of our lives indoors, cut off from the natural systems we evolved from, it’s no surprise that the primitive parts of our brain crave this reconnection.
V.E.: With businesses now reopening, what would you recommend be the priorities in terms of adapting workspaces for social distancing?
E.W.: Remote working, I suspect is here to stay for a while – so hot desking may become more of a norm. However, businesses will be very focused on ensuring the safety of their employees e.g. sanitising shared keyboards, etc. I think we will see an increase in effective cleaning methods using alternative solutions such as ultraviolet light, Ozone, etc.
V.E.: When you think about an innovative workspace, what first comes to mind?
E.W.: Living walls and planted space dividers – there are enormous benefits to being surrounded by nature in the workspace, in terms of performance and wellness.
Also, Active Design is becoming the norm which is great for our health and longevity. This type of design encourages people to move about during the day – eg take the stairs instead of the lift, or use a stand up or bike desk.
V.E.: Any top tips you’d like to share with individuals setting up their working from home spaces for the long haul?
E.W.: Choose a bright space in your home, ideally with a view of nature. There is a tendency to use the worst room or darkest wall for a home office, in order to hide it away. However most people will spend more (demanding) time in this space than anywhere else in their home, and so it should be comfortable and inviting.
Emma Webb is an Entrepreneur and Interior Designer with over 20 years of experience. Emma’s biophilic approach incorporates design principles shown to significantly improve the experience of those living and working in interior spaces. She holds a B.A in Psychology (UCD) and has completed further studies in Biophilic Design and Building Biology.