When Zach Pulman and James Engel proved unobtainable for most of the day after they won the Crash competition to design temporary cold- weather shelters, it was tempting to think that the celebratory party had left them too spaced out. But Pulman, the younger of the two partners in the evidently non-eponymous furniture and architectural practice Spaced Out, says that was only because the doorbell to their combined studio and shop on the edge of London's Clerkenwell didn't work. The evening itself was pretty restrained. 'We had 20 tickets each, and we took our clients,' he said. 'It might have been different if we had gone with 200 mates.'
The shop itself, displaying the practice's furniture, is open less than anticipated since, says Pulman, they found they spent too long selling single pieces to passers-by. Instead, they have been signing major contracts with furniture manufacturers in Europe and the us. In Europe, a selection of chairs and storage systems will be made by upmarket company Authentics, whereas in the us largely similar products will be sold for the mass teenage market, with the cool quality materials replaced by orange fluffy and fake leopardskin fabrics. 'We enjoy the idea that we are ripping ourselves off,' says Pulman. 'Everybody gets copied sooner or later.'
Pulman, now 28, studied interior architecture at High Wycombe and the Royal College of Art. Engel, six years older, qualified as an architect at the Bartlett. They have known each other since Pulman was two, and Engel was his big brother's best friend. Their professional collaboration started in 1993 and since then they have designed several house refurbishments ('all more or less in Hampstead'), two restaurants for the Japanese Canteen, a couple of lofts and some warehousing.
Pulman enjoyed the social-conscience element of the work for Crash, combined with a feeling of practices working without too much rivalry. 'It was nice to win,' he said, 'but everybody was pleased to offer ideas as a group.'
But this encounter with the less-privileged side of life has not dented his confidence. 'The next step for us is being commissioned to design furniture,' he said. 'The key thing is the distribution aspect. You may design something, then you have to market it. We are very good at designing, and we would like to carry on just designing.'
For the future, Pulman envisages both sides of the business continuing, but possibly in separate companies. Oh, and the shop will be open every Sunday until Christmas, targeting the present market. There will even be an 'open' sign on the door.