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In Profile:
LEICHT Contracts

In Profile:

LEICHT Contracts

Shortlisted: 2 Categories

The International Design & Architecture Awards 2024

Name: Sarah Edwards

Company: LEICHT Contracts

Position within company: Managing Director UK


Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)

I lead an award-winning team of contract kitchen designers specialising in volume build landmark projects, where I oversee and support the entire customer journey from initial sales enquiry and tender through to concept design and CAD, operations, installation, and project sign-off. As we design and present kitchens for the contracts sector, which can take anywhere up to 24 months to come to fruition, it’s vital to be able to pre-empt future market trends and building regulations to ensure consistency of supply. In fact, as a carbon neutral manufacturer, we pride ourselves on offering thoughtful and aspirational design that is able to stand-up in the marketplace for at least two years or more by continuing to offer the client innovation and value.

How would you describe your personal design style?

I strongly believe that open-plan living is evolving so that independent, intelligent spaces are now more important than ever, so this Is a big part of determining my personal style. I like to take a considered approach when designing, with a view to maintaining the property’s architecture at the same time as defining a signature style and layout.

With this in mind, I would describe my personal design style as inherently puristic where elementary forms come together to create a pure aesthetic driven by shape, materials, ergonomics, and subtle functionality. I have always been of the mindset to offer value for money, and so space-saving hardware, built-in appliances, and extremely durable surfaces (as a minimum) help to bolster my belief that ‘affordable luxury really is a matter of choice’.

Where does your design inspiration come from?

I was delighted to join Leicht Contracts in 2019, following leadership roles at Nicholas Anthony and Nobilia Projects. The past decade has been one of huge expansion for us, as we quickly became one of the leading providers of German engineered kitchen furniture to the UK new build and regeneration construction market.

With so much variety in the contracts market, I am always taking inspiration and design markers from each and every project we supply, and I get a massive buzz from delivering unique projects that genuinely make a difference to the built environment and future landscape of London. Our commissions can range from 30 high-end homes at £6 million per property through to development projects with 150 entry-level apartments for private rental, and Leicht furniture allows us to be flexible in our offer. Able to specify and create custom-made kitchen schemes using quality furniture, complementary surface solutions, appliances, sinks, taps and lighting, I am extremely proud that we can do all this on budget, and for the entire length of a contract.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?

Whether it’s emphasising the psychology of colour, carbon free living, home ergonomics or the art of spatial management, there are endless possibilities to explore in the world of design. In fact, we believe that the latest lifestyle-oriented interiors trends will combine with sustainable design practises to significantly influence how the built environment is designed and planned for moving forwards. Key drivers will include material sourcing and renewable resources, impact of design on health and wellbeing, ethical supply chains, future proof design and processes across all future building projects.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2024 and beyond.

  1. NATURAL SUSTAINABILITY: As Building Regulations evolve to promote a circular economy, selecting sustainable materials has become a prerequisite and we are seeing a new emphasis on nature-inspired finishes. The latest timber effect furniture is now being designed with architectural texture such as vertical grooves, which are helping to elevate the walls and door fronts while embracing the concept of biophilic design. In fact, vertical structures are now a foundational element of modern architecture, with designed-in details like the furniture and hardware all helping to shape the modern kitchen space.
  2. ILLUMINATION: Open storage will be enhanced with atmospheric 3D lighting, specially designed to evoke privacy and comfort in the kitchen and adjoining seating areas. Modern shelving systems being designed as gallery-style frame systems to display everything from glassware to fresh herbs, as well as discreet extractor units, wine storage and home bar accessories. As prospective home buyers seek customisable environments, illuminated shelving solutions are making it easy to curate a signature style in upscale kitchen environments.
  3. GOOD ERGONOMICS: Clever zoning is a primary feature of the blended living space, with space-making solutions and sensitive furniture design that promotes harmony and balance for the people that use it, dominating interior design right now. Leading to a departure from traditional design, improved ergonomics brings about innovation and today, the market is looking towards original design features to support special lifestyle requirements, e.g., the second kitchen or wash zone to accommodate workflow, integrated home bars and media units to entertain or relax at home, hybrid home offices or dedicated stations for baking, coffee-making and even laundry being concealed behind full-height doors and used when needed.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?

Go for it! There are absolutely no limits to what you can achieve so trust in your talent and individual strengths as a designer. The interior design industry is built on a foundation of unique and creatively led mindsets and it is these special traits that will complement and enrich a client’s experience.

Ultimately, the kitchen and bathroom are practical environments, which are used every day and feature in every property. With this in mind, it’s easy for designers to relate to their customers and demonstrate an innate understanding of how these key rooms need to complement both home and variety of development. We are in the most practical and relatable field of interior design and so I actively encourage every designer to draw on their own life experience at every stage of planning to create a truly custom design scheme.

How important are The International Design & Architecture Awards?

We believe that when it comes to prestigious design awards, only the best in the industry can be shortlisted and judged by its peers. To receive such an accolade would be testament to our excellent track record of designing and supplying kitchens to a variety of home builders such as Berkeley Homes, St George, Octagon, Countryside Partnerships, City & Country and Purelake Homes. As specialists in all aspects of spatial, technical, and cosmetic kitchen design, winning The International Design & Architecture Award would become a natural part of our business story as we continue to serve the construction professional such as architects, interior designers, property developers and building contractors.

What projects are you currently working on?

We have an excellent track record of designing and supplying kitchens to a variety of home builders nationwide, working in partnership with major developers like Berkeley Homes, St George, Octagon, Countryside Partnerships, City & Country and Purelake Homes. Currently, LEICHT Contracts is working on a variety of large volume prime developments and high value boutique projects for the creative professional.

What was your favourite project to work on and why?

I absolutely loved designing our forever home in a 16th-19th century barn conversion and as both the designer and homeowner of this barn conversion, it was liberating to have full creative control across this entire project.

We started by redesigning the ground floor area, converting the former garage into a gym come utility room, which we access via a secret door from within our new kitchen space. As the need to balance professional and personal aspects of life continues to drive change in the home post-pandemic, it was also important to create a dedicated home office with integrated desk and storage. Making full use of the large welcome area, we have been able to create extra storage space and accommodate the fact that on occasion, working from home needs to co-exist with family life.

Presenting a strong foundation of wild oak furniture with black metal framework, the entire ground floor scheme is geared around flexible living, and this inspired an upscale, urban kitchen aesthetic with premium brands such as Leicht, Abode and Bora all helping to elevate the modern industrial form and function throughout. Added to this, creating a home environment which is future proof by design was a determining factor when selecting products and materials as they too bring their own range of rewards on a sustainable, financial, and conscious design level.

The barn itself is a large open space flooded with natural light, and so the dark colour-rich furniture balances the orientation of the property, helping to maintain a true finish all year around when exposed to daylight as well as artificial lighting. For me and my family, having room to breathe is the ultimate luxury and so ergonomic space planning met with practical, space-saving product solutions became the foundation of this barn refurb. To help realise a clean, free-flowing layout we knew we wanted furniture with minimalist lines, constructed from high-quality industrial inspired materials, which are reflected throughout the entire downstairs living space.

The “secret” room from the kitchen is a real point of difference, helping us to manage space efficiently and create a private area that is personal to just us. In fact, we absolutely love it! It has become a key feature of the kitchen, which we use every day as it has transformed a previously redundant area, the garage, into a fully equipped home gym and utility room. We also really appreciate the addition of a breakfast bar in the main kitchen, as it has allowed us to incorporate a social family area in an awkward space and create extra seating and informal dining in what is the most used room in our home.

What was your most challenging project to work on and why?

For me personally, the most challenging project to work on was towards the end of a 10 Block private residential tower scheme in Southwest London. The initial challenge was project delivery due to the nationwide COVID-19 restrictions, and so it was imperative from the outset to avoid causing delays and maintain a high level of service for our discerning client, the developer. We were also faced with other challenges throughout this project like being able to effectively navigate the supply-chain crisis – from raw materials to order fulfilment – and keep pace with program demand such as bespoke detailing and specification.

Which products/services could you not live without when designing?

The latest instant hot water taps have become a real gamechanger within the UK kitchen space as end users enjoy the idea of convenient luxury that brings a range of green rewards like saving time and money. For instance, we all love to grab a quick morning coffee on-the-go and so being able to access steaming hot water in an instant will save precious time and energy waiting for the kettle to boil. Plus, with the rise in artisan coffee and infusion teas, installing a steaming hot water tap will ensure end users can dispense the water at the optimum temperature for their hot drink.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?

The last 5 years at LEICHT Contracts, has been one of huge expansion and so we want to encourage more design conversations where our brand is front and centre so we can continue to create and supply new design projects with boutique developers and national house builders. Not only that, but I am also a keen advocate of women in design and so I look forward to adding my voice to the continued diversification of the built environment.

LEICHT Contracts is located in SE1 London at The Leather Market, a beautifully restored period building not far from London Bridge. Home to the company’s state-of-the-art design studio and meeting space, LEICHT Contracts is supported by a team of qualified experts including its in-house Projects Design team, UK Operations team, Projects Management team and dedicated customer service department.

Multi-faceted by design, LEICHT furniture presents a comprehensive range of design solutions that help to characterise the architectural kitchen and create original interiors through a specially curated mix of luxury units and doors, worksurfaces, and wall solutions for the contemporary kitchen space.

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations:

Your most treasured possession?

My personal memories and life experiences are my most treasured possessions as I prefer to ‘live, do, create, and experience’, rather than possess physical items. This provides me with a greater sense of self, as well as form even more shared connections between myself and others.

Your favourite holiday destination?

I am a shark and ocean life enthusiast, so I am very fortunate to have visited the Maldives and swim with the world’s third largest population of Manta-rays.

Your favourite hotel, restaurant & bar?

My favourite hotel has to be the Pumba Safari Lodge in South Africa, which is known for being the ultimate destination for experiencing an authentic African Safari. My most favourite restaurant would have to be the Frog in Covent Garden, which is all about British food, inspired by London. And when it comes to my favourite bar, that’s anywhere that sells Jager bombs!

Your favourite book, film & song?

The first book I ever read was ‘The Lion, the witch, and the wardrobe’ which even as an adult, I still love to this day! I also have a significant amount of superhero knowledge as my son has become obsessed with Marvel movies. If I had to pick my favourite, then it would be Marvels fresh take on ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. When speaking of my favourite song, I would have to say anything with a good beat!

Your favourite food and drink?

I am a total foodie and am very lucky to have experienced a variety of authentic cuisines from around the world. One of my favourite culinary experiences would have to be Chef Matsuhisa’s multi-course tasting menu at Nobu in Park Lane, London, which is known for trendy Japanese fusion dishes like miso cod, and spicy tuna with crispy rice.

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?

I enjoy downtime with friends, especially when it involves lots of good food and drink… the more the better! In fact, I find catching up with my nearest and dearest almost therapeutic as it lets me unwind, create new memories, and ultimately enjoy life.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?

Put simply, design is my one true calling. I was initially drawn into the design industry following a previous role in sales and since then, I have never considered anything else as interior design is the perfect way to channel my creative energy. This is reiterated through my work at LEICHT Contracts, which is why I believe I have found my place here.

Anything else interesting?

– Family driven

– Love to travel

– Avid Skier

LEICHT Contracts has been shortlisted for 2 Categories in The International Design & Architecture Awards 2024.

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The International Design & Architecture Awards 2024
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