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Interior Design (MA)

Phoebe Imogen Mendel

Phoebe Imogen Mendel is a London-based interior- and furniture designer from Munich whose practice is inspired by contrasting color combinations, bold use of geometries, and meaningful materialities. Her way of designing has been shaped by several graphic and media designers she has worked closely with during her studies as an interior designer and while working as a brand- and exhibition designer, giving her work a multidisciplinary approach. Phoebe’s curious and adventurous nature partnered with her passion for making led her to expand her knowledge on a multitude of workshop skills experimenting with screenprinting, creating steel sculptures and chairs, building wooden furniture as well as carving and casting jewelry.

She believes that as designers are exposed to an entire cross-section of society they are uniquely positioned to identify and facilitate opportunities for social good. Designers are trained to notice things that are often unseen, suggest innovative ideas for improvement, and are often best placed to encourage partnerships with those who have the resources to make a meaningful change for societies' most vulnerable by manifesting the changes into spatial experiences.

Exhibitions, collaborations and publications:

  • Goethe Institut x Royal College of Art (2022) - collaboration between MA Interior Design and PhD Architecture resulting in a final exhibition
  • Royal Academy of Arts (2022) - 'John Hejduk: London Masque' exhibition
  • DDS Magazine (Feb 2020) - publication of Akari, a table design
Black and white image of the designer on a self designed chair.

Coming home – to the place where we can relax, where we are safe, where we can let our guards down and finally be completely ourselves. But what happens when the supposed safe space turns into the biggest danger in your life? Every third day a woman in the UK is killed by her partner and every eight women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime. To these women coming home does not mean returning to a safe haven, coming home stands for insults, fights, and ultimately is a threat to their life. This issue is bigger than design- it is political, it is economic, it is financial and it is social. But as designers, we can make a change, we have the power to suggest ideas and facilitate opportunities for social good, making a meaningful difference.

In her master thesis NO EXCUSE for abuse Phoebe explores the idea of a visible and accessible respite for women affected by domestic abuse located in the heart of a newly developing community in Woolwich. It challenges the preconception of a shelter only being safe when hidden and concealed and understands the importance of visibility to raise awareness of this ignored issue in society. The main focus of the project is to provide the space to affected women that they need to feel safe and valued, putting their well-being at the heart of the respite. 


Domestic abuse is not a personal matter but rather a societal problem enabled by secluding the affected from the community. Case studies from the Netherlands show that shelters for the abused in visible and accessible settings, located in city centres reduce the likelihood of the abused going back to the abuser by half, compared to regular shelters. (Approximately 40% return to their abusers from centres that are concealed compared to 19% from centres that are more visible)

Having an open and accessible space included in society to turn to for help has several benefits: it raises the communities awareness of the problem, which thereby helps break the taboo around the topic, and it makes ‚help‘ more accessible and thus less intimidating. It allows the abused to stay close to their environment and social network, which is crucial for the healing process.

every third day a woman is killed in the uk by her partner. 3279 women are affected by domestic abuse in the borough of greenwic
3279 cases of domestic abuse a year in woolwich.
art installation made of two concrete slabs that are crushing an ice cube. This installation is a depiction of domestic abuse
concrete abuse - abstract sculpture visualizing the femicide of tania.
picture of a dark alleyway to access help in woolwich.
where tania would have turned to find help.
picture of a dark alleyway to access help in woolwich.
is this really an accessible place to find help after abuse?
gif highlighting the pros of a visible and accessible setting for shelter homes.
shelters for abused in a visible and accessible setting reduce the likelihood to return to the abuser by half.


The design is divided into three intertwining parts, awareness, healing, and respite, that aim to target a different part of the rehabilitation process. The respite is used as a safe space to live for the female survivors. It contains of 3 floors, each of which provides a shared kitchen, shared living room, and six en suite bedrooms. Located in the heart of the building the shelter makes a statement: we are not looking away, domestic abuse exists and we are here to help. Furthermore, every floor has a different communal area for shared space: a gym, a creative space, and child care. The space for healing incorporates a neutral ground to welcome family and friends as well as an emergency night stay and therapy for the residents. Raising awareness is the main aim of the café, but it also provides jobs to the residents to ensure financial independence, one of the main reasons of abuse returning to the abuser. It is located at the top of the building, cantilevering over the existing making the bold cafe stand out and visible.

gif showing the spatial plan for the respite
a respite is merging a respite, a healing place and a space to raise awareness.


„Sometimes the bathroom was the only place to find some peace.“ - shelter resident

But why is this, why does the bathroom make us feel at ease? It may be the scale of the space. It may be the materials contrasting between hard and cold tiles and soft and warming towels. It may be the fact that it has a lock and is the only place in the context of the home that is normalized for being locked. Understanding the importance of this space for the affected women the shelter is inspired by the bathroom, using materials such as terry cloth, ceramic glazed tiles, and water pipes.

Each resident gets their own room with an en suite bathroom, which is the first thing you will see when entering the room, the bathroom – your safe space. The bed is located above the bathroom to gain a nice view of the outside as well as providing the bed to be as far away from the door as possible. Furthermore, the bathroom in a social environment is used as a retreat to let out emotions and to cry. To symbolize that the issue is shared and no one will have to cry alone a social area is created outside of the bedrooms with a sink for each woman, to share experiences and emotions, to empower. 

rendering of the shelter room when you enter
the first thing you see when entering your room is the bathroom - your safe space.
floorplan of the shelter bedroom.
Rendering of the shelter bedroom entrance.
entering your safe space through a bathroom.
rendering of the bed area
view to the outside from the bed.
Rendering of the shelter bedroom.
bathroom annotations are the running theme for the bedroom design.
rendering showing the hallway of the shelter
no one cries alone - a hallway empowering the women to share their stories.
section of the shelter space
section of the shelter bedroom and communal crying space.
rendering of the shelter kitchen.
communal kitchen.
rendering of the gym area
communal gym area in the shelter.
rendering of the outdoor entrance to the shelter.
entering the respite through an inconspicuous door.
material palette
material palette of the shelter.


A main issue that allows domestic abuse to take place in our society is that people simply do not know they are being abused. The Harts lost their mother to the abusive father and stated that they in fact were not aware that the father was dangerous as he had never gotten physically abusive. Yes, he was controlling, and yes he insulted her, but he never hit her. So how can we use design to educate? People do not like being lectured, so the aim of the café is to raise awareness of domestic abuse without being too obvious and lecturing. The café utilizes typical references to British homes such as wall moldings and bathroom identities in an abstract way to subtly imply the topic and set the scene. When entering the café the first thing that catches the eye is a wall mural consisting of 365 tiles, of which a third is broken - symbolizing every third day that a woman is killed by her partner in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, two different steel chairs were designed, one showcasing the safety and comfort of the bathroom by using terry cloth as the seating and tubular steel for the structure, the other made completely of cold and hard steel showcasing the uncomfortable truth. These chairs have been distributed in a ratio of 8:1 in the café showing that every eighth woman will be affected by domestic abuse in her lifetime.

rendering about the cafe area in the cafe
bar area with wall mural 365/122
rendering showing the cafe
a comfortable seating area and use of wall moldings.
rendering showing the different seating areas of the cafe
the safe chair next to the uncomfortable truth stool.
rendering showing the seating area.
the uncomfortable truth - every eighth chair.
rendering showing the sofa area
cafe seating area.
rendering showing the sofa area.
using the wall moldings to raise awareness.
rendering showing the view from the cafe
bar with a view over woolwich and the roof top terrace.
rendering showing the whole cafe
overview of the cafe.
rendering showing the cafe area
buy some coffee to support the funding of the shelter.
rendering showing where you enter the shelter
threshold to therapy and place to leave donations.
black and white picture of the halo chair.


This stool explores the combination of contrary geometric shapes in the form of a square and a circle and uses the tension in their design vocabulary to create an interesting art piece. While the square seat feels hard and uncomfortable the circular backrest seems to provide safety and protection. This mild steel stool has a profound focus on details such as a custom-designed perforated metal seating to match the overall design aesthetic.

image of the halo chair frontal.
image of the halo chair in use.
image of the halo chair and the halo vase.