Beneath the Surfaces

Written By

Ana Teresa Cristobal, Fraser Maitland

13.10.2020 Thinking

We know that what we see isn’t the full story. 9/10ths is concealed beneath the surface finishes.

The shapes, textures and functionality of our interiors are all visible, usable, perceived. But, most of our interior design thinking and process is unseen, unanticipated, unknown.

We wanted to share with you a few hidden layers, to give an insight into where we find our interiors inspiration.

Our Campus Central project sits at the heart of the University of Stirling campus, nestled in the foothills of the Ochil Hills. The campus, with its loch and flora and fauna is often cited as among the most beautiful in the UK.



Bright, airy, bold and warm, Campus Central can be approached from any direction, becoming a space to stop, meet, share and display. Its location gives us the opportunity to maximise connection to and draw inspiration from the natural environment, with enhanced outlooks and use of natural materials.

The internal spaces are structured with markers to define their heights and edges. Formed in timber and rubber, in a muted colour palette, these markers are contrasted and unified by the stronger colours of the loose furniture, reminiscent of the heathery bens along the Forth Valley.

How people occupy urban environments also inspires us.

Unifying a new teaching lab and catered study space for the University of Edinburgh, 50 George Square and David Hume Tower have been reimagined not only for students but, also as practical, lettable space for external events.



The familiar dichotomy of Edinburgh city inspired our approach to layout and spatial arrangement. We explored how subject areas could both be intimate, like the Medieval closes and wynds of the Old Town, yet expansive to facilitate collaboration, like the generous leafy civic squares of Georgian New Town. The upper levels of the school are arranged as a series of city “villages”, creating different characters of teaching environment.

Subtle colour variation in furniture and finishes defines routes and orientation through the building, transitioning from cool colours to warm tones at each cardinal point.

Sometimes, a building’s contents directly influences our proposals

Impressively bold, the undulating geometries of the soffit and external walls immediately capture the eye at our gallery for the Great Tapestry of Scotland, where the artwork designed by Andrew Crummy to illustrate a narrative researched and written by Alistair Moffat, capturing Alexander McColl Smith’s grand vision, will be displayed in a new, purpose-built, permanent home in Galashiels.



But, the delicately hand-woven panels have become the subtle thread of inspiration running right through the interior design, from shape, to texture and colour.

Careful exploration of the fabric resulted in the selection of warm shades of white and deep aubergine, offset against a gradient of green hues, in a palette that borrows from the art while celebrating the rich textile heritage of the Borders,

Often, history and the stories of people and place can stoke the imagination. At Martyrs’ Kirk, our warm, sophisticated “re-furnishing” of the 1844 church nave-turned reading room, was enhanced by Bespoke Atelier’s exquisitely intricate hand-drawn back-lit bookcase end panels.



The university commissioned artwork was to represent St Andrews, combining elements and themes from around the institution and town.

The university commissioned artwork was to represent St Andrews, combining elements and themes from around the institution and town.

Delving into the university’s special collection archives and incorporating the university crest, Bespoke Atelier selected four scenes:

The ruins of the old cathedral, an iconic symbol of the town, along with birds, fairies and sunbeams inspired by Andrew Lang’s fairy books are depicted on the third panel. Text in the Cathedral buildings was taken from the Hours of Reading and Meditation.

On a second panel, the harbour, representative of the town’s coastal location, was included, with maps and nautical graphics was inspired by the illustrations of Sailing the Scottish Seas.

Representations of Martyrs’ Kirk fill a third panel, including a selection of interior details, were interlaced with delicate calligraphy from the collection and depictions of the old and new university crest.

Lastly, illustrations of St Salvator’s Chapel, considered the medieval heart of the university, were intertwined with foliage and flowers traced from the university’s archives and supplemented with sketches of poppies and bluebells found blooming in the North Street gardens.

These hidden layers and untold stories can change how we perceive and appreciate our interiors. The design and finish of internal spaces can reflect personality, familiarity, history and become an extension of identity. It’s often the 9/10ths that you don’t see, that create that connection.”

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