It’s no easy task to hone a distinctive style within the world of modern design. But Tom Jarvis and Oliver Staiano of Room One Design believe they’ve hit upon a gap in an ever-more saturated market. A bold claim. But their backgrounds, motivations and ambitions suggest that these two are cut from a rather different cloth. One threaded with a combination of no-nonsense practicality and inspired aestheticism.

‘It’s about making stuff, man.’

Let’s start with Tom. The lovable, mop-haired everyman with a passion for good ale and clean craftsmanship. Nearly impossible to dislike, his warm smile and gangly charm make him every mother’s ideal son-in-law. Humble, open and blessed with a confident gentility that puts even the most anxious immediately at ease, he cheerfully describes his work with no hint of pretention.

‘It’s about making stuff, man.’

As a small boy he dreamed of designing cars but his attraction to automobiles had a more romantic basis than most. He was drawn to the resemblance headlights had with eyes, implying a connection between design and creator, man and machine. This realisation prompted a fascination with creation that has driven Tom until this very day.

‘But then I had a bit of a disappointment’, Tom explains, ‘when I found out that each section of modern cars were designed by different people.’

Even as a small boy, this corporate approach didn’t chime with him.

‘I wanted to design a complete product. The whole thing from start to finish. Being a cog in a bigger machine…’ Tom pauses a moment, ‘that just wasn’t going to work for me.’

So he took his auteur’s vision in another direction, gaining a place on Cardiff University’s art degree programme. But the fascination with industrial materials never left him.

‘For my final piece, I created a self-destructive machine. It would be switched on and function perfectly well for a couple of minutes before destroying itself. It was like most of modern product design. Created to give the impression of working successfully before tearing itself apart and forcing the buyer to replace it.’

Tom’s piece certainly stood out.

‘It was different to what my classmates were doing. Some of my tutors appreciated it. Others, not so much.’, he chuckles mischievously.

Tom’s philosophy hasn’t undergone much of a shift since then. But the parameters of his work have definitely moved. Back then, he was bringing industry to his art. Today he introduces artistry to industry, taking objects that people previously wanted to hide and making them the focal point of the room.

‘We have to stop hiding the things we need. Smoke alarms, heaters and so on. We have to celebrate necessity.’

First up, is the essential but often unsightly smoke alarm. An item present in every home but one that most would rather ignore.

‘Something like a smoke alarm should be celebrated.’, argues Tom, ‘It saves lives so why do we design them to be so unattractive? It should be an object people want to own, something they want to have in their home.’

Maybe it will be soon. The new design Tom and Oliver are developing will make their smoke alarm the pride of any homeowner. Sleek, curved and creative, safety’s never looked this good. It signals the overarching intent of Room One Design, to make the mundane magnificent.

For his part, Oliver Staiano has experience in this area. His prior work allowed him to witness the magic a designer can create from seemingly dull materials.

‘I had an internship with Lex Pott in Amsterdam’ says Oliver. ‘There were a few other offers here in England that would’ve paid better but I wanted to work somewhere that would give me the chance to develop as a designer.’

His development included a trip to a Belgian quarry. An excursion that hugely influenced his professional outlook.

‘We went to this place where they were mining Belgian bluestone and, later on, we used it as the base material in one of the designs. Following that journey, from the quarry to the finished piece was a really crucial part of my growth as a designer. Being there helped me understand the importance of process.’

‘We’ll source everything from within the M25. We know our providers and how they work, meaning we can stand by the quality of our materials.’

This pragmatic approach to refining his creativity is indicative of Oliver. If you’ve ever heard the expression ‘a still river that runs deep’ then you have a clear sense of his personality. Quiet, thoughtful and fresh-faced, he wouldn’t look out of place in a late-nineties boy band. But this pin-up appearance proves deceptive when Oliver speaks in detail about his creative philosophy.

‘We have to stop hiding the things we need. Smoke alarms, heaters and so on. We have to celebrate necessity.’

Some ask whether this outlook is too ambitious and if people are really ready to view the functional in a more aesthetic light. But neither of the pair are phased by such cynicism and believe that they can galvanise public opinion by sourcing locally.

‘Preferably, we’ll source everything from within the M25.’ says Tom. ‘That way we know our providers and how they work, meaning we can stand by the quality of our materials.’

Such stringent values about sourcing and development currently find favour in design circles. It marks a return to the roots of production and a challenge to the modern obsession with cost-effective, uninspired, factory-line offerings. Tom and Oliver extoll the virtues of batch-produced, carefully crafted and original creations. Not just in their words but in their actions too. This stands to set them apart from the pack. No small feat in the world of modern design.