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Interview with James Reed from Reed Harris

Posted by Karen on April 25, 2017


Describe the service that Reed Harris offers to Architects and Interior Designers?


Reed Harris offers a very detailed service for Architects and Interior Designers. We have a comprehensive samples library at our Studio in Bagleys Lane and we offer a next day sample delivery service. Urgent samples required in London are sent on our motorbike service and are delivered on the same day as requested. We understand that Architects and Designers work to very tight deadlines and the need for the delivery of prompt samples is of paramount importance. 


We also do individual project consultations which can be held at our Bagleys Lane studio or at Architects/Designers offices. It’s important for us to fully understand the project so we can put forward appropriate solutions from tiles with the appropriate slip resistance or technical performance, to the correct tile adhesive, underfloor heating, grout, movement joints and tile backing boards.


The installation of our tiles has become more technical and the range of ancillary items that can either solve problems on site behind the tiling or enhance the tiling has grown massively. It’s become really important for Architects and Designers to specify the correct products which can work together as a complete system and they need help from us to get this right.  We are even happy to provide all this information in a written specification which can be incorporated with the main information when the project goes out to tender.


Can you share an architectural style that appeals to you and why?


I really like the current commercial building design with lots of external glass, this allows for massive amounts of daylight which so important to everyone occupying modern buildings.   Projects like The Gherkin and The Shard are really pushing at the boundaries of what can be achieved – amazing steel frames which go up so quickly, with cores through for lift shafts and external glass cladding. The size and shape of modern glass allows for some incredible possibilities especially for Architects like Zaha Hadid who like to design curved buildings such as The Olympic Aquatic Centre. 


You've worked with some impressive brands and architects; can you share some of these projects with us?


One of our most interesting and demanding projects was working with Callison and Watches of Switzerland on their new flagship store in Regents Street. The project was incredibly prestigious and the need for us to deliver natural stone of the highest quality was of extreme importance. We arranged two visits for the designers and client to the manufacturers in Italy, so they could select the slabs that we were going to fabricate for the project and really ensure that they had a complete understanding of the three different stones that they selected.




The store has three floors and they wanted a different coloured stone for each level so the mood and look would be personal to each area. We also supplied bespoke treads and landings for an incredible circular stone staircase which links the three floors together. Each tread has stainless steel bars inlaid to provide interesting detailing as well as slip resistance. Callison specified hidden lighting under each tread and the finished staircase is one of the smartest in any West End store.






Another exciting project that we have recently completed is the new Selfridges Staff and visitors entrance in Wigmore Street. Selfridges is currently undergoing a very large refurbishment programme which is being masterminded by Gensler who are the world’s largest Architectural practice. We worked together with the Selfridges in house design team and Gensler to design a very intricate porcelain floor in 6 colours with tiles in three different sizes all of which we needed to supply to exacting dimensions to ensure that the floor modulated and the different tile sizes could all be installed with a consistent 3mm joint.


We worked with our suppliers to ensure that the 300x300mm tile in all the colours was identical in size and then waterjet cut the other two smaller formats from the larger tile and even ensured that a 1mm micro-bevel was added to all the cut pieces so that they matched with their 300x300mm factory produced counterparts. The tiling was carried out by Henny Contractors who worked on a 7-month programme to install all the tiles meticulously.


The new staff entrance official opened in November 2016 and the overall design including the tiling has been very well received.  The new entrance is now used by over 3000 Selfridges employees who traffic across the floor on their way to and from work every day.




In 2012, we worked with ORMS Architects on 40 Strand, a prestigious address in the heart of London’s West End which was being totally refurbished. A very hardwearing Indian grey Quartzite was selected by the Land Securities for the reception, lobbies and staircases. We again visited our Italian suppliers with the Architects, Main Contractor and Sub-Contractor to ensure that all parties had a complete understanding of the stone and to iron out any technical issues prior to fabrication.


We continued with Italian visits while the project progressed as the supply tolerances in terms of acceptable shade and finish for the stone were very tight, so we needed to ensure that our suppliers maintained their quality control throughout the entire project. 600x600x20mm honed tiles were used for all the floors, 20mm & 30mm thick slabs of the same stone were fabricated into staircase treads with an inlaid fumed oak & stainless steel detail, along with cladding to dwarf walls and reception desks. 





What new product/s should Architects be aware of?


Overall tile formats are getting larger – we now supply 3x1.5m porcelain panels that replicate marble so well, that it's hard to tell the difference from the real thing in some cases. With the use of digital technology our suppliers can copy the movement, veining and overall beauty of natural stone perfectly, even to the extent of book matching, however unlike natural stone the colour variation can be controlled to provide a porcelain product which is much more consistent in tone. 


These panels are amazing as they can be used to fabricate cut to size wall cladding, floor tiles, vanity units and kitchen worktops. They are only 6mm thick and weigh 17kgs per square metre so the logistics of moving them around site is not too onerous.   We have even clad two planters outside our new Studio with porcelain just to show the possibilities and how versatile this product can be.


The other amazing advancement is waterjet cutting. This allows us to cut tiles to any shape or size so the possibilities of bespoke design for Architects and Designers is unlimited. We’ve just completed supplying wall and floor tiles for seventy hotel bathrooms at the new Lalit boutique hotel in Tooley Street very near Tower Bridge.  Working with EPR Architects, their brief was for an elliptical bathroom floor mosaic in black and white porcelain. So, with the use of waterjet we fabricated a unique mosaic pattern and mounted each piece on a mesh backing for easy installation on site. We are also using waterjet to manufacture custom made swimming pool copings, cut to size porcelain stair treads and logos.


Technology is always evolving and the architectural sector is seeing some interesting tech developments, can you share with us what you're seeing happening in the sector.


The most interesting technical development is BIM – Building Information Modelling. This allows Architects to design in 3D and model a complete building prior to the project arriving on site. This gives a far greater visualisation of the project and allows for problems and issues with the overall design to be ironed out completely. The model can then be passed to the contractor for tendering, planning and eventually building. 


As a supplier, we will need to have all our products as BIM models so an Architect can easily slot our tiles into their 3D scheme. Our BIM models will have a wealth of technical information embedded so that interested parties can have a complete understanding of each product’s technical performance and characteristics.  This type of modelling is already widely adopted in the automotive and aeronautical industries so it makes logical sense that the construction industry needs to follow suit.


About Us

If 15 years plus in the tile industry teaches you one thing, it is that you never know it all! Having said that, I have picked up a lot over the years and I am hoping to share some of the more interesting and useful information with you through this blog.