How To Balance Form & Function To Create A Beautiful Space

For any well-planned, well-styled, and balanced space, form and function must be carefully considered and structured to provide that perfect compliment. Excess is out, and modern, minimalist approaches are in.

James Veal and Christine Stucker have mastered this approach with their multidisciplinary architecture and interior design studio, Stewart-Schafer. As they balance their unique insight, holistic and collaborative approach to design, and deep understanding of each client’s perspective, their work emphasizes enduring value and a timeless feel. Below James shares how they see design, how they balance form and function, and their unique perspective on the interplay of positive and negative. Read on to find out more!

Tell us about Stewart-Schafer. How did you get started? What is your unique approach to design?

We started when Christine (wife and partner) was laid off from her job as creative director at a well-known fashion brand. We took time off, traveled, and started forming this idea for a creative design studio for fashion brands. We began our careers working for retail stores and doing everything from small, highly creative pop-ups to huge large-scale nationwide retail design concepts and roll-outs building brands brick and mortar identities. We started doing residential projects around seven years ago now and it’s become a big part of our business. Our approach to design is solving problems with love and passion and critique. We love what we do, and it’s this love and passion that pushes us to do our best work. We are also very critical and constantly question our designs and processes, refining them and learning. Every project is different and is a slightly different journey and our approach can vary from client to client, but on a fundamental level, our goal is solving problems and exceeding expectations on every level. 

How do you balance form and function when creating a space?

We start with function, as this is critical to the design. We dive deep into function and, through design, solve problems that clients might not even be aware of. You don’t notice good design when it comes to function, its just intuitive and works. You only really notice the bad design, for example, the trash is not close to the sink, or the fridge is across the room, or a mirror’s lighting is not diffused or front-facing in a dressing area. All these small details on their own will just be small noticeable inconveniences, but the sum of them makes for the perception of bad design. We dive deep into function and look at the root of it, and question everything! Then we intertwine the programming of the space and the function considerations when we put pen to paper.

What are the elements that you incorporate to achieve a timeless result?

Less is more. It’s that simple. You can be bold in design, but have have to learn when to put the brush down and when you have done enough strokes. Focus on the quality and details and constantly ask yourself ‘is this necessary? What is it doing to improve the design?

Why is the interplay between positive and negative so important and how does that inform the flow within a space?

Positive and negative are what the eye is drawn to on a base level. You use this interplay to create moments, or trick the brain on a subconscious level on the perception of space. Whenever we are dramatically changing a space, or doing ground up we will always do a space study, testing this interplay and finding a balance that meets our objectives. 

What is a current or recent project that you have completed that has really tested your creative strategy?

Every project. We approach every project with the same energy and passion, and always push to be better push our creativity. 

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