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Tributes to Design House co-founder Tim May

'A decent, fiercely intelligent, creative, witty, colourful, loud and a deliciously irreverent, kind man'

06 June, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

Tim May

ONE of the founders of Design House, the practice of architects and graphic designers who worked out of an iconic building in Camden Town, has died aged 75.

Tim May was described as a “true lover of life” by his family.

He had set up the practice at the top of Parkway – the curved building is now used by the Foxton’s estate agency – in 1970, and it worked on developing brands for restaurants, pubs, bars and super­markets. It also worked on interior design.

John Larkin, Mr May’s business partner at the Design House for 30 years, said: “Tim and I were both resilent characters that liked to work hard and play hard. He had many clients who he would consult and look after and often had lunch with them. Tim was very knowledgeable of the brewery side of things and they all liked him a lot.”

The glass front building is seen in Whitney Houston’s 1985 music video for Saving All My Love For You.

The Design House building is now an estate agency

“He was a major presence in Camden,” said Susan Angoy, who married Mr May in 1997. They lived together in Murray Mews and Mr May was known to visit local businesses in and around Camden Town. He was a regular at Ossie’s Barber Shop in Parkway.

“He was somebody that loved helping people. He didn’t have to – but he always did,” said Susan.

They had met in the 1960s when Susan was working as a temp tea-lady for publisher Aldus Books, where Mr May worked at the time.

He later worked for brand consultancy Wolff Olins, where he met Mr Larkin before they both co-founded the Design House.

Tim May and Susan on their wedding day

He had an artistic eye, having trained at Chelsea Art School as a painter, and developed a critical eye for all things visual.

Susan, who is a writer and songwriter, said: “He was my biggest supporter and first round editor. Tim allowed me to be me, and to flourish. What more can one ever want from a partner?”

She added: “He adored art and music in all its forms. He went to all the gigs possible. He saw Bob Marley’s last concert in Pittsburgh in 1980. He went to see The Rolling Stones and classical music too. Music was his love.”

Tim May

Mr May continued to go to gigs even after falling ill with prostate cancer.

He refused to be defined by his illness and attended the 50-year anniversary of the Stax-Volt European, which saw soul artists like Otis Redding perform in the UK. Teens from the Stax Academy, a summer music school in Tennessee, were thrilled to discover that Mr May had attended the original 1967 concert in London.

“He loved people, good food and wine,” said Susan. “A decent, fiercely intelligent, creative, witty, colourful, loud and a deliciously irreverent, kind man. He was enthusiastic about so much and a true lover of life.”

Mr May died in April, leaving behind Susan and his family Rupert, Alexander and Stephen and two grandchildren, Izzie and Felix.

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