Behind the Scenes with Roselind Wilson 4th August 2020 | IN EXPERT INSIGHT | BY SBID

Roselind Wilson, owner and creative director of Roselind Wilson Design describes her unusual route into the interior design industry, sharing her valuable insight into running a successful design practice and commenting on key issues the profession faces through the rise of social media.

What is your current job?

I am the owner and creative director of Roselind Wilson Design Ltd. My main responsibility is to oversee the creative direction of the interiors we design to ensure we continue to deliver outstanding, luxurious homes to our clients that befit both themselves and their lifestyles. In addition, it is my responsibility to drive the strategic direction of the company to ensure continued growth and profitability.

Living room interior for The Bromptons residential design by Roselind Wilson

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

My desire was always to run my own design studio but the trajectory to realise this was by no means via a traditional route. On leaving school I spent several years in the marketing and publishing industries. I worked for a large and well-established publishing house in Cape Town where I had a small team of 4 people and was responsible for the subscriber retention for a portfolio of magazines. This was a lot of responsibility at a young age, however it taught me how to manage teams and meet deadlines. From there I was approached to assist in the start-up of a publishing subscriptions house in Cape Town and Johannesburg and I accepted this role with enthusiasm and an enormous sense of ambition at being involved in something from the very beginning. I them moved into the world of marketing as a marketing strategist for 7 brands and my experience gained in this role was invaluable in understanding the basis of delivering a service to an end consumer. Whilst gaining this experience, I decided to study a Bachelor of Commerce degree through correspondence to gain the fundamentals of business management. Towards the end of my degree I started my interior design diploma and renovated my own apartment. All of which was invaluable experience in setting me up for my career. Once qualified, I decided to make the leap into the industry and took a chance at freelancing. I offered my design services with great enthusiasm and quickly learned that I did not know how to charge or ask for payment. From there I was offered a job alongside an established interior designer and as the only employee, it was a ‘baptism by fire’. She taught me everything she knew and together we ran some incredible projects and I guess from there I carefully navigated my career so that I stand where I am today.

Contemporary kitchen design for Belsize Park by Roselind Wilson
Bathroom interior design for Belsize Park by Roselind Wilson
Carlton Hill reception room interior design by Roselind Wilson

Describe an average day in your job role..

An average day starts with an update zoom call with my team in which we review the deliverables for the week and discuss pending items for that day. We have several projects at various stages in the process and following this, I usually make some tea and review designs or drawing packages for feedback to my team. I like to take a break from the office around lunch to grab a coffee and get some fresh air with my sister who is also the CMO for the company. Afternoons are spent on client zoom calls and either reviewing company reports or in meetings to review various marketing initiatives and business strategies.

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

I am the kind of person who loves to expand my knowledge and learn as much as possible.

I feel extremely grateful to have chosen a profession where we get to design and deliver homes to our clients. I love to travel and experience different cultures. Our clients expose us to different cultures and for me they are windows to the world. Through their eyes we are able to enjoy and experience the diversity of their lives and transform their vision into the beautiful homes that reflect who they are. It is entirely a privilege to both have this experience and provide them with a home to call their sanctuary.

Carlton Hill master bathroom design by Roselind Wilson
interior design, Behind the Scenes with Roselind Wilson

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

We are currently working with a client who is lives in Beijing and New York. As a central base, they have just purchased a home in London and have appointed us to entirely remodel the interior space to reflect their unique style.

This is possibly the most exciting brief we have had in that they are open to anything. Their brief is to design something that we have never done before so that at the end of the project we know that we have pushed both our boundaries and theirs and have provided them with something completely unique. This is extremely exciting.

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

In the 20 years I have worked in the industry I have learned that to seamlessly deliver a project requires an enormous amount of planning and coordination but also reliance on both people and processes that are often out of your control. This can be challenging as problems do occur, whether it be a delay to a delivery or a damaged item, amongst others, and this requires constant troubleshooting. I always tell my team to think many steps ahead in the process to give careful thought and consideration to what could go wrong and try and avoid it by pre-empting the situation. This is challenging and requires so much more effort and time but in the end the result is worth it to experience the client’s joy and satisfaction at the end result.

The Bromptons master bathroom design by Roselind Wilson

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

I don’t think I entered this field with any preconceptions of what it had to offer other than I was fulfilling a life-long dream. That being said, you journey day-by-day, project-by-project and when you stop to reflect there are numerous realisations;

It’s not all glamorous – in this field you need to get your hands dirty. Design, and the ability to express your creativity in this process is fulfilling but is only a part of the process.

The seamless delivery of a project will test your ability to be assertive with suppliers and contractors on site, to communicate effectively to clients as well as suppliers and contractors, to troubleshoot within challenging parameters, to juggle hundreds of facts, arrangements, details at any one time and to have a handle on the financial aspect of the project at all times. You need to be an effective all-rounder so be patient with yourself, keep your eyes open, your ear to the ground and know that at first it will be challenging but you will successfully achieve it.

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

The great thing (and one for which I am extremely grateful) is that I have no regrets in my career path and the choices I have made along the way. These choices have not always been easy but what I would tell my younger self is to always go with your gut. Your instinct is always right and somehow knows what you need and is somehow always looking out for your best interests. If I’d learned this earlier, I would have saved myself some deliberation and the odd grey hair for sure.

Living room snug interior for Richmond residence by Roselind Wilson
Living room snug interior for Richmond residence by Roselind Wilson

What has been your favourite project to work on?

We have such a diversity of projects and clients that there is no one single project that can easily stand out as the favourite. We build such strong relationships with our clients and each provides us with a unique experience and journey with them in designing their homes.

When designing a home for a client your traverse their entire lifestyle to meet their brief. This journey teaches you so much about not only your client but also yourself. It is incredibly eye-opening and satisfying and once again I highlight what a privilege it is to be in this profession.

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

The ever-advancing network of social media platforms and other software platforms and technologies available provides consumers with a sense that they are designers themselves and has the potential to greatly undermine the value of interior design as a profession. It takes immense skill, experience, creativity and passion to run a full service interior design project and we have some way to go in terms of education around the fact that interior design as a profession is so much more than colour, cushions and fabric. It’s fantastic to see how Vanessa Brady (CEO) and the SBID are making great strides in elevating the role and significance of interior design within the industry.

Who do you admire the most in the industry and why?

The people that I most admire in the industry are those that do not conform to standards and who are happy to step away from the crowd and express their style without excuse and deliberation. My role models have and continue to be Rosita Missoni and Andrée Putman and more recently, I attended Maison Objet in Paris in January 2018 where I visited the studio of Hubert Le Gall. His passion, creativity, and self-expression together with an unguarded sense of humour was evident in his work. It is through these designers and influencers that true design can be expressed, and it is through people like this that design is carried forward and its boundaries expanded.

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