With a background in architectural design and build, Felix Milns understands the requirements of interior designers when it comes to commissioning bespoke joinery
How did HUX come about? I began my career as a travel journalist reviewing some of the most luxurious hotels in the world and found being exposed to the many incredible and varied locations ignited a lifelong passion in me for exceptional spaces and good design; understanding the power of how it can transform and inspire. This led me to thinking about setting up my own architectural, design and build company and I founded Zulufish in 2005.
The business grew very much by word of mouth and as it grew, there was a demand to expand it further by adding the interior design consultancy service, which my wife and business partner Caroline set up when she joined in 2010. With the business now operating as a fully comprehensive design service from concept to completion, we were additionally working on many bespoke and handcrafted elements of joinery and kitchens. This began to become my main focus and quickly and organically a large part of our work and we set up a small workshop in 2013.
The joinery side of the business grew to the extent that we took the decision to launch this service as its own standalone brand in 2017. Moving from being an in-house joinery division to a fully independent specialist joinery provider, HUX was born. Since that time HUX has gone from strength to strength, opening a 12,000 sq ft workshop in West London as well as working across a wealth of exciting and varied products for discerning design professionals and private clients.
Can you describe the ethos behind the company? Innovation and detail are at the heart of everything we do. With each of our clients it’s very much a journey, from the initial conversations, through to concept, materials and planning, it is all focused on developing a carefully crafted design that will stand the test of time. Drawing on our interiors and architectural background we are first and foremost problem solvers and this is layered with creative flair and manufacturing expertise to create something totally unique; fulfilling our client’s needs and perfectly tailoring our work to their aesthetic and lifestyle.
Does the fact that you started at, and still own, design and build company Zulufish give you a useful insight into the requirements of interior designers? Yes absolutely. With a solid background in project management from my many years of experience within Zulufish, there is little that I can be surprised by now, especially in terms of the demands and timings of projects.
We work very closely with our trade clients to fully understand the breadth and scale of each project from the outset as that is so crucial to ensuring a smooth project. Our trade customers have a much better understanding of the process and understand the importance of getting all the details locked down during the design phase. In addition, our dedicated staff are always on hand to answer any questions that may arise. We are a small team of experienced designers, talented cabinet makers and professional installers so there is a wealth of experience at our client’s fingertips.
Can you talk me through the process of commissioning work from you? Absolutely. Often our interior design clients will have a pretty strong idea of what they are looking for, either in the form of a design intent sketch or a fully realised drawing. In these instances it more about understanding exactly what materials our design clients are considering, do they want integrated lighting etc.
Where the brief is not as detailed it begins with an initial phase of preliminary studies of the joinery required, finding out as much information as we can about the project as well as taking the time to understand the tastes and style of the client whom we are creating it for. Gathering a 360’ understanding of what is involved and what the expectations are, as well as sharing ideas and using our expertise to perhaps offer a different perspective that may not have been previously considered.
From that point we can then start to develop sketches which form the basis of a concept, representing the direction and overall plan and to help the client visualise the design. This initial stage is so key to ensuring that we are working in line with expectations and desires, allowing everyone to feed into the plan and curate and edit it before we move into detailed design.
Once the design is signed off and we have been able to survey the final space the job moves into production, which takes place in our west London workshop, a space which our clients are very welcome to come and visit and see their pieces coming together.
Once the production is complete, we move into install. Our expert installations team assemble and install the finished product, working with our client to ensure this is a seamless process and that the final finish is perfect.
What can bespoke joinery bring to a project? It is ultimately the perfect problem solver and the seemingly limitless options of how that piece is made – shape, size, colour and materiality etc – means each bespoke item can be unique, a crafted piece that serves its function. For me that is the very epitome of good design, the marriage of the practical and the aesthetic.
As well as bedrooms, home offices and media walls you are increasingly asked to create kitchens – might we see a separate HUX kitchens division in the future?
Our team is fully equipped to deal with complete kitchen projects, we typically make three to four bespoke kitchens a month, often as part of a whole house joinery package but also as standalone commissions. It’s a really exciting part of our work, in particular because there is such a wealth of innovative and timeless materials that come into play such as marble, liquid metal, glass and different stone and solid surface worktop options, each with their own inherent beauty.
We also love pushing the boundaries and creating new door designs. Our micro deco shaker door has been really popular recently and we produce all our liquid metal in-house. Presently our focus is very much on serving our trade customers so we are not interested in becoming a high street kitchen company, but HUX has always adapted to the needs of the market and responds in kind, if it feels like that is the right direction then one day maybe we would…
What is the most challenging piece you have ever been asked to create?
That’s the beauty of working with interior designers, we see so many great ideas and then it is up to us to work out how to make them work!
There’s a real trend for curves and reeded finishes at the moment and when those two collide it’s always a challenge. Two pieces spring to mind, the first was a home bar we created for a well-known pop star; it looks like a particularly funky armoire from the outside but opens up to reveal a full bar. The external finish is scalloped and curved in pastel colours and the doors are exceptionally heavy as inside the curve we designed bottle racks to hold the spirits. Opening up the doors the internal finish is coral pink high gloss.
We have also just designed a long run of wardrobes fronted in hand-made Gucci flamingo wallpaper framed in liquid metal frames. The doors are exceptionally tall and going into a wet area, so we had to ensure the doors were not too heavy, would not warp and would be moisture resistant without damaging the paper.