The designer behind some of the North East’s best known bars is to grow his team in the New Year, after picking up two top awards for his work.
Until recently, Simon McIlwraith has operated Collective Design single-handedly, injecting his creative flair in numerous bars and restaurants, including Newcastle’s Hop and Cleaver, Lady Greys and the Coop Chicken House.
Founded five years ago, his company designs bespoke interiors for bars, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, hotels, retail and for private and residential schemes.
The last month has seen him take on one other member of staff, but his rapidly growing order book has sparked plans to recruit more at the Newcastle firm in 2015.
Mr McIlwraith’s design talents have seen him work with some of the biggest names in leisure in the North East, including Tokyo industries and Ladhar Leisure, and they have now been recognised for a third year at the Northern Design Awards.
He collected the coveted Northern Interior Designer of the Year trophy for the third year running, and also picked up the award for best bar and restaurant design for the Hop and Cleaver, owned by Ladhar leisure, situated on Newcastle’s regenerated Quayside.
The Northern Design awards bring together designers, retailers and property developers in a glittering celebration of style and design in a catchment area which includes the whole North of England and Scotland.
The glamorous awards ceremony, held at Devonshire Dome in Derbyshire and hosted by big industry names including Linda Barker and Wayne Hemingway, heard how judges selected Mr McIlwraith as their winner after seeing his impressive portfolio, which included Lady Greys, the Coop Chicken House and Sunderland’s Liquor Emporium Dr Feelgoods.
Mr McIlwraith said: “It’s been a fantastic year and to win designer of the year for a third year running really has been the cherry on the cake.”
Collective Design was set up five years ago after Mr McIlwraith took the plunge to set up his own business after many years working as a designer with Fluid Bars.
“I worked for Fluid as their lead designer for eight years until I left to set up on my own and I’ve been building up a portfolio of clients since then. I do commercial design and it has just exploded in the last year.
“At the moment, I have 20 live projects and another 15 will be started in the New Year, so I should take on more people – the business is growing at a fast rate.
“Newcastle is a great place to be at the moment. Until now, it has been Leeds and Manchester leading the way, but we are now seeing a lot of national brands wanting to get into the area.
“The unique thing about Newcastle is the number of independent leisure firms we have who are all rising to the challenge.
“I always said that at the five-year stage I wanted to move into the city centre and look to grow, and I’ve recently moved into Pilgrim Street in Newcastle – and everything is going to plan.”
As well as Lady Greys and Hop & Cleaver, Mr McIlwraith is also responsible for Pleased to Meet You gin palace on High Bridge, Capology shop which was also shortlisted for Interior Retail environment of the year, Boiler House hair and beauty salon in Jesmond, which won interior design of the year 2012, and Jules B, also in Jesmond.
He also designed the pie and ale venue Redhouse which helped kick start the recent renascence of Newcastle’s Quayside.
Next year, Collective design is set to create yet more fabulous interiors such as the brand new End Clothing store, in the unit vacated by Reiss in Grainger Street, and at the £2.5m redevelopment of White Hart Yard for Ladhar Leisure.
He added: “Times are exciting and it’s great to design projects which are being recognised and rewarded for their concept and interior design. It’s been a very successful year and 2015 is set to be even more so.”