12th May 2020 | IN EXPERT INSIGHT | BY SBID ShareTweetPinterestLinkedIn SBID Accredited Designer and head of interior design at Knights of Beaconsfield, Gill Surman shares her journey into the interior design profession, and the importance of having a strong understanding of business from the outset. What is your current job? I am Head of Interior Design at Knights of Beaconsfield which is one of the largest Interior Design and Retail Showrooms outside of London. I lead an expert team, specialising in luxury residences and developments in the UK and Europe. What is your background and how did you get into interior design? I have an entrepreneurial background having had several of my own businesses in the past, but have always had a love and flair for design. My experience in all elements of business has been invaluable. I joined a luxury construction company to focus on their marketing and got side lined to the design of their show houses. I have been fortunate that my experience was very ‘hands on’ at the top end of the design market and have had roles as Senior Designer and now Head of Design over the past 14 years. Describe an average day in your job role.. I am usually in the office by 7.30am as it provides quiet time for me answer emails, review the projects that we are working on and work on the administrative/financial side of my role. No two days are ever the same. On an average day I will discuss with the team our ongoing or upcoming projects, meet with furnishing or fabric suppliers, source new products for particular projects, meet with clients and try and find time to design! I rarely take a lunch break and usually finish my day by 5.30/6.00pm, although I am always available to my clients in the evenings if necessary. Which elements of your profession do you enjoy the most and/or find the most rewarding? For me, I really enjoy taking on an inspiring project that I can visualise immediately, a project that the client and I connect on at every level. Good design is about the relationship with the client and also the property, particularly in Residential design. It is also about the client having realistic expectations, particularly when you are working with fixed elements of an existing building or furnishings that the client wants to keep. The reward is the end result and exceeding the client’s expectations. Is there anything new you are excited to be working on? We have taken on a property in St-Legier-La Chiesaz in Switzerland that is set overlooking Lake Geneva. It is a beautiful location! What do you find the most challenging aspects of your job? Managing multiple projects can be tricky. Projects often have issues as install dates are constantly moving and people let you down which has a knock on effect on everything else, resulting in pressure from clients. I am tough but fair with my suppliers, always professional and I have earned their respect over the years because of this. The trick is to use tried and tested trades that are used to overcoming issues on site and are familiar with the way our team work. You need to be good at managing stress! What do you wish you knew before working in the field? Thankfully I had a good understanding of business before I entered the industry, which you wouldn’t automatically think was necessary. The job is a lot more physical than people perceive and time for design can sometimes be limited! What would you tell your younger self if you had the chance? Have confidence in yourself and be prepared to keep learning – you can never know enough. Don’t expect to be good at everything, but excel at the things you are. Set yourself goals and strive to achieve them. Don’t assume that people know more than you do. A design degree is a good starting point but not always necessary. Experience, a good eye for colour and communication is everything. What has been your favourite project to work on? A recent whole house residential project in Buckinghamshire – it was a delightful project for a delightful family! What do you think is the biggest problem the interior design industry faces? Interior Design is a hugely undervalued profession and the perception is that it’s an easy career. It would help if the public were educated about the knowledge, skill and business acumen needed to design an interior space professionally and cost effectively. It is refreshing to see that Interior Design is becoming more regulated. Who do you admire the most in the industry and why? I admire longevity in this industry as it requires commitment, drive, passion and resilience. Anyone that survives the constant change in market trends and economic pressures deserve the success they have. If you were inspired by Gill’s story, click here to learn more about the role of an interior designer. Want to become SBID Accredited? Click here for more information.