Behind the Scenes with Design Studio Manager, James Ashfield 2nd April 2020 | IN EXPERT INSIGHT | BY SBID

Interior design studio manager of SBID Accredited Design Practice, Rigby & Rigby, James Ashfield highlights what he believes to be the two biggest challenges the interior industry faces today, and tells us how he forged his successful career in interior design.

What is your current job?

I manage the interior design studio at Rigby & Rigby, overseeing all interior design projects and the creative vision for the studio.

What is your background and how did you get into interior design?

I always had a passion for art and technology, so architecture and interior design was a great fit for my creative and practical interests, which led me to study Interior Architecture.

I now have 15 years industry experience. My first role was for a small architecture, interior and development practice and I’ve since held positions at leading London architecture and interior design practices including the Harrods Interior Design Studio.

Interior design by Rigby & Rigby for dining room of city apartment

Describe an average day in your job role..

A typical day consists of multiple client meetings and presentations with our team across many disciplines. There might be a site visit to a Prime Central London site to inspect progress or a coordination meeting for a landmark residence Rigby & Rigby are developing in Knightsbridge.

Sometimes my job takes me overseas if clients are based outside of the UK. For example, I worked in the Middle East for two and a half years where I acted as a client advisor on all architecture, interior and development projects for an UHNWI who was based there.

Which elements of your profession do you enjoy the most and/or find the most rewarding?

The most rewarding element is the design journey with the client, whose lifestyle we try to facilitate through the delivery of creative solutions and beautiful interiors.

I also have the pleasure to work on some of the finest and most incredible homes, with the multi-disciplinary support from our architectural, construction and marketing teams and a young and energetic interior design team. It’s always exciting to see a project come to life.

Is there anything new you are excited to be working on?

I love the scope of what I do and where it can take me. Currently I am working on a 17,000 sq ft landmark private residence in Knightsbridge, a 50,000 sq ft private development in Asia, and a 300sq ft Chairman’s office in Central London.

Interior design by Rigby & Rigby
Interior design by Rigby & Rigby
Interior design by Rigby & Rigby

What do you find the most challenging aspects of your job?

The most challenging aspects of my job are the logistics. Our suppliers come from all over the world, and sometimes there are unavoidable delays which can create challenges caused by anything from the weather to an international event. To combat this, we have to create contingency plans.

What do you wish you knew before working in the field?

I think it’s useful to know that success can be found in all ways, not necessarily the obvious routes. I think it’s important to also have an understanding of growth opportunities in your chosen career, and evaluate these against your skills and values.

What would you tell your younger self if you had the chance?

That working hard and putting in the hours does pay off.

What has been your favourite project to work on?

The landmark residence in Knightsbridge and a modern ski chalet on a remote island in Japan.

Interior design by Rigby & Rigby
Interior design by Rigby & Rigby

What do you think is the biggest problem the interior design industry faces?

I think the two biggest issues are sustainability and quality. We are very conscious of our impact to the environment and should make sure our materials are sustainably-sourced as much as possible.

There are many re-purposed materials that can be used in interior design. I think designers need to look at alternatives very carefully while ensuring they are giving the best to their clients, particularly when there are trade-offs to consider.

As for quality, our construction team are often asked to turnaround another contractor or designer’s project that has not been satisfactorily completed. I find it very reassuring to be part of a design and construction business where you can fully rely on the project team.

Which people do you admire the most in the industry and why?

As a practice we admire the French interior designer Jean Louis Deniot who delivers elegant, minimal and sophisticated interiors. We are also fans of the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma with whom we’ve had the pleasure of collaborating together on two overseas projects.

If you were inspired by James’ story, click here to learn more about the role of an interior designer.

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