Set up in January 1990 by Dan Menchions and Keith Rushbrook, II BY IV DESIGN is an award-winning design practice specialising in interior and product design works.
The practice has three offices – two in Toronto and one in New York – employing a team of around 40 members of staff and has more than 300 international design awards under its belt.
Impressive work; but not surprising really, especially when considering the fact that this is the studio that has worked on the likes of Trump International Hotel & Tower, the CN Tower in Toronto and C5 Royal Ontario Museum, to name but a few. In fact, since II BY IV DESIGN took on its very first job, the studio has continued to tackle projects which have varied in size and scale, demonstrating an ability to deliver a real mix of schemes.
So with 2015 marking the 25th year since II BY IV DESIGN first sharpened up its pencils, it seemed the perfect opportunity for Premier Hospitality to catch up with one of the studio’s partners and co-founders, Dan Menchions. During our discussion, Dan gave us an insight into what makes II BY IV DESIGN so successful and also shared his thoughts on what have been some of the studio’s most memorable projects.
How did II BY IV DESIGN get started?
“Both Keith and I graduated in the same year, but from two different design programmes. We had both worked for different companies, but the recession that took place here in 1989/1990 and saw both of these companies close their doors. A few years later I was doing some freelance work and I asked Keith to assist me with the project, and the partnership started there.
“We have been designing together for 25 years. When we first started out we were known as the hospitality designers – so it was nightclubs and restaurants – but then we moved into exhibit and retail works. From there we went into hotel and residential developments, commercial office spaces and then cruise ships.”
As the practice has developed, II BY IV DESIGN has moved with the times, taking on more and more interesting and varied projects; was this part of a grand plan or did you allow for the business to grow more organically?
“We knew we didn’t want to be slotted into any specific type of design role – we wanted to be as diverse as possible and we wanted to learn as much as possible from clients who would hire us.
“We never knew who we were going to be or what we were going to be, we just knew we didn’t want to be called Menchions Rushbrook, because we knew the company would eventually become bigger than just us.
“Over the past 25 years, II BY IV DESIGN has become a collective of designers, who work as a team with Keith and I. Everybody is responsible for the work and Keith and I are very fortunate as we get to work on every project.”
You have now grown to the point where you require three offices; but at what point did you realise that you needed more than just one office?
“We launched the New York office three years ago because of the continued growth of our US-based clients. We have clients in New York, LA and San Francisco so we really needed to have a US presence in order to maintain our US clientele. As for our second Toronto office, well we expanded our Toronto presence because we were expanding.
“We opened up a product development company in order to create a range of different products, from hand woven area carpets, light fixtures and furniture, to seating, tiles, flooring and so much more. We have been working for the past two and a half years on this aspect of the business, partnering with some truly fantastic companies who are of international status.
“We have taken our time to develop our product division because we really want longevity. Our design portfolio will always continue to grow, so creating the product development side of the business has been very exciting for us.”
You have mentioned that you’re very hands on with projects and of course you have worked with many high profile clients, so your existing clients must trust you.
“I’d say that 95% of our clients trust us. All of our work comes through referral and through clients who we have worked with in the past.
“Keith and I have marketed our company to the point where every day we get calls regarding new projects. We can’t take them all on – I wish we could – but there are certain demographics which we get to work with, and this is fantastic.”
Looking at a list of projects that you have been involved with – Trump International Hotel & Tower, Yankee Stadium, The Calvin to name but a few – what projects from the past 25 years have really stood out to you?
“At the time that we worked on it, Yankee Stadium was probably one of the biggest projects for our studio. We were the only interior designers on the project. The client had been working with an architectural firm who was responsible for the stadium and who were set to do all of the interior works, but we were asked to come in for an interview and within an hour we were hired to complete all of the premium hospitality spaces.
“Trump International Hotel & Tower here in Toronto, was a very interesting project. It had been on the board for about six years, not with us, but with another architectural practice and three other design firms. The owners of the hotel were not satisfied with any of the interiors, so they came to us. We were five to six years behind, so we had to catch up very quickly. I personally worked on that project for six years.
“Another memorable project was when Virgin were coming to Canada we designed their first office. That was 14 years ago and we are still continuing to work with them as they grow, completing their kiosks and their flagship locations – it has been phenomenal.
“Oh and then there is Crystal Cruise. We’re the only Canadians who design cruise ships and we just happen to work with the only six star cruise ships on the ocean – Crystal Cruise. We are very fortunate to have been responsible for these very high-end, luxury liners which cater to the world’s wealth.”
As this is your 25th anniversary year it is a time for reflection; so what are the biggest lessons that you have learnt over the past quarter century?
“I think really listening to a client is a great lesson and the key to success. Also, teaching those who you work with to show the same level of respect and responsibility to your clients is also very important. Understanding the client’s needs and not just their needs, but also the needs of the demographic that they are trying to attract, is one of the biggest lessons that anyone can learn.”
Looking ahead to the next 25 years, what direction do you see the business moving in and how do you see your success continuing?
“Although we have turned 25 years old, I feel like we have just started again, like this is a fresh new company. I feel more youthful; I think the people who we have brought into the studio have brought with them some fresh ideas; and I think we have been able to mentor some great long term designers along the way.
“We have been taking on a lot of international work and I see this continuing. In fact, at present we are doing some work in Mexico City for a fourth generation chocolate company for Turin, which is pretty exciting.
“At II BY IV DESIGN the work is so diverse and I think that has been the success of this company.”
For more information about II BY IV Design, please visit: www.iibyiv.com.