Monday 19 Sep 2011


I'm with Niki Diamond, marketing coordinator for Ziba designs at Soho House, London, to find out how they have responded to winning the WAN Interiors + Design 2011 Furniture Awards and the quite extraordinary response to our feature announcing that JumpSeat had won the Awards.

Since announcing the winner, Ziba have been inundated with requests from architectural practices, developers and clientsworldwide, including a firm sourcing chairs for a 600-seat theatre in Auckland.

Diamond arrives bang on time having recently celebrated a family birthday and preparing to return to Ziba's headquarters in Portland, Oregon. "I love Portland, it's a beautiful place, it's in pacificNorth West, extremelyoutdoor living, we have a lot of rain, but the up side is that it's all very green and lush". Born in Hythe, Kent, Diamond studied at Newcastle University and has lived in New Jersey, Germany and London. She is clearly delighted to be working at Ziba referring to herself and her colleagues as "Zibites".

Ziba's new offices came with a 200- seat auditorium "Much of the work we do at Ziba is confidential so we have to be very careful about who we let into the building, so we wanted a space where we could open our doors and invite the local and design community in Portland. The auditorium was built with sliding doors making it a very flexible space and one of the doors opens right out onto the street, giving access to the auditorium without going through the main offices".

Ziba uses the auditorium for guest speakers as well as allowing other people to host events, it is also used by the ‘Zibites' for their monthly meetings and Diamond explains that they encourage ‘brown bag lunches' during which someone will show a film that inspires them, photos from a recent trip or present workshops on writing and photography. Niki goes on to say "we also screened the World Cup and the Royal Wedding, I made about 100 scones and served tea on traditional tea sets!"

One problem with the theatre was that is was outfitted with narrow concrete risers that didn't leave room for standard seating, so Ziba came up with it's own solution, as Niki explains "one of the great advantages of working for a product design firm is if you can't buy it, design it yourself"!

Taken on as an internal project, JumpSeat, so named because of it's similarity to flight attendant seats, was overseen by Ziba's president Sohrab Vossoughi along with three of Ziba's industrial designers as a design challenge. JumpSeat is made without traditional hinges or hardware: instead a cantilever structure of vertebrae-like slats of plywood allows it to support up to 600 pounds. A steel core is sandwiched between a layer of birch plywood on one side and removable padding on the other "it was important for us to work with local companies, the covers were produced by a local seamstress and can be removed for easy replacement and cleaning" Niki explains.

Ziba's PR agency suggested they entered the WAN Interiors + Design Furniture Awards. I asked if they were surprised at how many enquiries they had received "we were so surprised, we're still collecting all the emails, also as a result of the Awards we are still getting enquiries everyday through our website, to be honest we weren't expecting to receive this many enquiries". Niki goes on to explain that except for entering the WAN Awards, the only other marketing they have undertaken was the case study on their website. Niki says "we've hadfar greater responsefrom WAN than we anticipated, we may need to hire someone just to handle all the enquiries, our President is over the moon!"

Ziba's president Sohrab Vossoughi founded Ziba 26 years ago "as the company grows the president gets further and further removed from the design process and can't be as hands-on, even though he is extremely involved in every project still" Niki says "unusually he has been involved in every stage of the design of the ZIBA Chair, so this is really his baby, because it's given him an opportunity to go back to what he loves".

As Diamond leaves to head back to Portland she says again "it's been fantastic, we're overwhelmed with the response, we'll keep the INSIDE readers up date with the progress of our chair". Watch this space.