Interview – Michael Sodeau, Michael Sodeau Studio

London-based designer Michael Sodeau’s reputation proceeds him. From collaborations with Japanese firms on stationary lines, to creating exhibition spaces for others to display their work, this founding member of Design Junction is well known for promoting a less is more aesthetic, ands yet consistently finds his fingers in more and more disciplines of the industry. Never a dull moment, then. 

Michael Sodeau, Michael Sodeau Studio

Michael Sodeau, Michael Sodeau Studio

We gave him a call in his Hoxton Street studio to find out a little more about one of his most recent projects, a new eating space for East London Liquor Company, a job that required equal measures of innovation and sensitivity, taking a bottle shop and distillery housed in a stunning Bow Wharf warehouse, and adding room for guests to savour the flavours of the first vodka, gin, and whisky production to take place in the UK capital’s traditional home of spirit production for more than 100 years. Truly in-keeping with his overall mantra, ingredients from around the world were used in the fit- including Turkish Ottoman-style tiles, Swedish glass, and Italian marble- but the finished product is a pared back drinking and dining haven.

East London Liquor Company, Michael Sodeau Studio

East London Liquor Company, Michael Sodeau Studio

Tell us a little about your practice

“We’re a multi-disciplinary design practice, we do hotel interiors, restaurants, bars. We also design furniture, sometimes for the projects we work on but also different manufacturers in Italy, Scandinavia, UK, a little bit in Japan.

“Then we also design exhibition spaces as well, structures and things like that. We are heavily involved in, and one of the founders of, Design Junction, which was set up in 2008. Also creative direction for Modus [furniture]. So a real myriad of things. Initially when we launched the practice 20 years ago this summer, in 1997, we were manufacturing our own products, but as things developed we did more and more restaurants, hotels, that kind of thing. Then at the same time furniture, lighting, rugs and other products.”

What was the initial brief for the East London Liquor Company?

“The project itself had to create a restaurant on the site of the bottle shop that they already had. So basically incorporate a dining space in there, but as an independent space. So it needed to be in keeping with and a similar language to what they had there, perhaps a little more refined aesthetic just because it’s a restaurant space.”

East London Liquor Company, Michael Sodeau Studio & Otto tiles

East London Liquor Company, Michael Sodeau Studio & Otto tiles

How did you approach the design?

“We did a little bit of experimentation with the building, taking back some of the brickwork, and we discovered it was London Brick, the old yellow bricks, which to my knowledge is not available anymore, so any that were used were all reclaimed. Then there was some really nice features on the door frames and things like that, all of which led to creating this pared back place.

East London Liquor Company, Michael Sodeau Studio & Otto tiles

“The ceiling was kept very dark, we removed a lot, so you’ve got the rafters, and soundproofed it as you have the kitchen upstairs, and then it was just a matter of having a very simple, traditional floor, which is when we worked with Otto Tiles on the flooring. So trying to soften the hexagonal shape of the black and white tiles in small squares by making them circular. It gives a slightly lighter feel.

“There’s a weird kink in the building where halfway down it slightly changes direction. This is where we split the floor to change the angle, almost creating a partition. But we wanted to make sure it was still read as a single space. Because of the clean aesthetic the floor becomes slightly independent to the walls and ceilings, but they are all, not natural, but naturally industrial if that makes sense. No rule of colour, the tiles are probably the only bit of decoration and even they were really pared back. The images being referenced were kind of old New York, Meat Packing District sort of thing.”

East London Liquor Company, Michael Sodeau Studio & Otto tiles East London Liquor Company, Michael Sodeau Studio & Otto tiles

What other projects have you got coming up?

“We’re working on some new furniture projects with a Swedish client that launches in February. We also launched some new pieces with Modus, in Milan, including the Quiet chair and Pac sofa, so variations on those. We’ve just finished designing a restaurant in Hackney, which is a kind of multi-purpose space- a restaurant, bar, but also additional elements of a patisserie-deli.

“We’re also working on a structure for an industrial client at the moment. So a very mixed bag. We created a stationary company, ANYTHING, with a Japanese client called Suikosha. That stopped production maybe two years ago, but we’re looking at the other company that has grown from that, with a view of expanding the range.”

East London Liquor Company, Michael Sodeau Studio & Otto tiles

Design Exchange will be speaking with Damla Turgut, founder and designer from the wonderful Otto Tiles about her lovely original work in our next printed edition. 

East London Liquor Company, Michael Sodeau Studio & Otto tiles

Damla Turgut, founder and designer at Otto Tiles during the East London Liquor Company recent re-opening.

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