Designer in Profile: Ray Thompson, Director of Thompson + Baroni Architects

Name: Ray Thompson
Company: Thompson + Baroni Architects
Position within company:  Director

Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)
Studied in the UK and US and did my finals at the Architectural Association in London. I have worked in the United Staes and Middle East but spent probably twenty years now in London- working for a couple of design practices and then set up Thompson + Baroni with Carolina Baroni in 2001

How would you describe your personal interior design style?
I personally prefer a minimal approach. I really don’t like ornamentation or decoration and prefer to see and feel the space and the light of a room. I love good quality materials and finishes especially natural materials like stone and wood and also like hand finishes renders like marmorino or tedelacht.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
Any buildings / spaces either man made or naturally occurring that have an ability to introduce a sense of calm and peace. I think that living in one of the busiest cities in the world is both highly stimulating but also can leave you feeling overwhelmed with the traffic, meetings, telephones, social media appointments and responsibilities for yourself, your company and your family. As as result I think that finding a space for a moment of tranquility and contemplation is absolutely essential. This could be in the form of a panoramic view of nature, a sunset or a simple room or space that cuts out the rest of the world for even a moment to re ground your balance.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
I think that the era of bling and baroque is drawing to a close across the board but maybe a split between high end and designed homes for mere mortals. High end clients and designers are still seeking out the beautifully crafted finishes and furniture but maybe the ostentatious OTT expression of wealth has reached its zenith for now (thankfully). Now there is a much greater emphasis on unique or carefully crafted artisan products, natural earthly materials, interesting spaces but also a sense of homeliness. I notice that every other project has an exposed brick wall somewhere which must be an outward expression of getting back to basics or creating a sense of raw, unrefined materiality in lieu of decoration.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to interior design schemes, what would it be?
Make sure that the furniture fits and is actually in scale with the room. Otherwise you’ll be off down to Lots Road

How important are The International Design and Architecture Awards as recognition of talent and achievement?
A great opportunity to get your designs and practice out there into the big wide world and be put in front of the people who actually are seeking for the products and services featured.

What projects are you currently working on?
We are working on some interesting projects–a new build house of 750m2 in Dulwich, which is ultra-modern yet sits comfortably with its more traditional neighbours. This house encompasses large slabs of glass and honestly used raw materials such as handmade Danish bricks, Welsh slate tiles and natural stone and wood floors. It has a dramatic staircase connecting 3 floors and lower ground floor pool looking onto the garden. We have a mews house project in Belgravia that we are taking apart and putting back together again whilst incorporating a new basement and lift and dramatic floating staircase. We are also working for property developers on multi-unit schemes on various sites in London; we understand that the intense detailing of the private work is not as much a requirement on these projects so we use our creative energies to push the boundaries in terms of maximising the site whilst creating great spaces for living and working.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
Keep our existing clients happy, keep building amazing buildings and hopefully find some new clients and patrons that will entrust us with building their new home, office or designing them an amazing new development.

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself
Your most treasured possession?
This is tricky as I don’t really covet anything. Probably a beautiful Impressionist painting of a Provence landscape I bought for my wife for Christmas from Alfies Antique market about 15 years ago but that’s probably technically hers so otherwise it would be my house. At last we are doing some work on our own house using all of the knowledge we have gained over the years doing our client’s houses.

Your favourite holiday destination?
It has to be Tuscany for the sheer range of things to do such as the endless marvels of the renaissance art and architecture of Florence or the captivating timelessness of the hilltop towns such as Siena or San Gimignano. There’s also fantastic cycling, countryside and even pine tree-edged sandy beaches – all within a couple of hours of each other.

Your favourite hotel / restaurant / bar?
Hotel: Rambagh Palace, Jaipur- so evocative of times gone by and sitting out on the lawn in the evening watching the sun go down is a rare treat to be savoured

Restaurant: St John on St John’s Street in Clerkenwell. Absolutely perfect taste in both the setting, the staff, the design and the food

Bar:   Bar Boulud in Knightsbridge. Not for the design- the design of the bar is fine but the Vodka Martini’s are the best I’ve ever had

Your favourite book / film / song?
Book: Anything by Norman Mailer but especially Harlot’s Ghost and close second is The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir. Both epic in length but totally immersive. A lot of books I try to read nowadays just don’t grip me like some of the great sweeping tomes of the 20th C

Your favourite food and drink?
Either surf or turf- a freshly caught from the sea fish onto the grill with salt and lemon and an ice- cold glass of Pinot Grigio or a slab of steak shown the grill with some frites and a glass of Nero D’Avola

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
Doing something fun with the family- maybe whitewater rafting or mountain biking in the Dolimites. We’re all into outdoor sports and probably at our best when immersed in something physically challenging and stimulating.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
Probably a surgeon in another life or maybe a developer building skyscrapers.