Fit Out Focus | Steven Rosling, Element 17

Day-to-day work can be busy for Steve Rosling, especially when designing new and creative ways to enhance customer experience.

Rosling is the design director of Element 17, a fit-out company that specialises in the hospitality industry.

A Christchurch native, Rosling studied industrial design at the Wellington School of Design. After working in a few bars and restaurants overseas, he learnt what functionality is all about in hospitality and what can make a space tick behind the scenes and front of house for customers. During this time, Rosling discovered his love of furniture and fixtures.

The design process for Rosling is staggered, initially consulting with the client.

“We meet with the client to discuss their vision for the space, budget, timeline, and other requirements. We will then visit the site to assess the space, take measurements and evaluate any existing conditions that may impact the design. Based on the vision and our analysis, we will create a design concept that includes a mood board, sketches, and 3D renderings.”

From here, Rosling and his team develop a layout that optimises the flow of people and goods in the space. This includes determining the locations of food prep, counter, seating area, and other space features.

Materials are selected, and finishes aligned with the vision, budget, and functionality requirements are installed. This may include selecting flooring, wall coverings, lighting, furniture, and decor. Then it’s on to creating detailed drawings and specifications for the project. This includes floor plans, elevations, lighting plans, and material specifications.

If required, Rosling and his team prepare the necessary documentation to obtain consent from local authorities before managing the project from start to finish. This includes coordinating with contractors, suppliers, and other stakeholders to ensure the project is completed on time and within budget.

When sourcing ideas for his fit-out designs, Rosiling likes to see what is happening globally. This includes travelling to all corners of the world and collecting design ideas and inspiration along the way.

“A recent trip to Japan allowed me to see the fusion of Japanese interior design with some international brand spaces while also seeing traditional tea houses and Ramen bars. I also get to see the latest finishes, furniture and fittings with suppliers constantly calling our door. That little thing called the internet is also a great gateway to garner inspiration. Like most people, we can go down a rabbit hole looking for something that can end up with discovering something different for another project,” he said.

Rosling said that all his projects could be challenging for various reasons, ranging from tight budgets to fast turnaround times and the complexities of new compliance challenges.

“I was asked recently by a local authority about the flammability index on some faux greenery I had specified for a space. That was a real challenge to get through, but we did.”

Although he could not pick one specific project, Rosling said that one in specific was difficult purely because of its weight.

Rosling said all stages of designing a fit-out are essential, but communication is the golden rule.

“If you have clear communication flowing through all parties, then the best outcome can be reached through all stages of the design process. When a client comes to me with a vision of the end product but doesn’t know what it looks like but can verbalise the feeling and the experience they want to achieve, my creative and business brain kicks into overdrive as that opportunity to add value and create something special is a joy.”

He added that having a business brain can set designs apart from the rest, quickly undertaking negotiations of leasing a space, what a slippage of time can do to a budget, and what key elements need to remain in a project when letting go of unnecessary ideas.

Looking into the future, Rosling has a range of goals he wishes for the business, but one, in particular, is ensuring he makes it easy for his clients.

“I aim to do this by understanding what technologies can help in the design and fit-out process and what brings value to the project. If you are investing a chunk of cash into a business, you want to know it is right before you do it.”

He said that designing and fit-outs could be stressful activities, but through all the challenges involved, he is aware that they are aligned with what he enjoy’s doing.