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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Ana Azevedo, founder of SBID Accredited Partner, Kassavello shares her insight into the interior design industry as a supplier of high-end brands and bespoke furniture solution to interior designers.
I head up Kassavello’s London office and manage sales and customer relations with particular focus on the interior design community. I founded Kassavello with my business partner Renata in 2015. We offer a selection of curated products from elite brands and bespoke furniture to interior designers, architects and end clients.
My previous career was in business management within the hospitality sector where I managed a number of high-profile restaurants and bars. I had always had a passion for design but having exposure to such a variety of prestigious venues ignited my interest and I enrolled in a series of interior design courses at the University of Arts in London. Moving from client-side within hospitality to client-management within design was a hugely rewarding transition where I was able to transfer and combine old and new skills whilst working in a creative industry that is constantly evolving and never fails to inspire me.
My business partner Renata is based in Portugal, the location of our key suppliers and manufacturers and it’s critical that we stay aligned at all times so that there’s a consistent and seamless workflow. Every day begins with a video conference call where we run through current priorities, project status and actions required. I then follow up client-side, more often than not this is with a UK based interior designer, on any decisions required for bespoke furniture production such as discussing design detailing or scheduled fabric deliveries. Whilst we often receive DWG drawings from our clients, we always produce detailed technical drawings for approval working closely with a team of dedicated craftspeople in Portugal who have decades of experience and can often propose sleek solutions to practical design problems. Most days also bring new enquiries which I follow up on often whilst juggling the logistics of overseeing white glove installation on site. I also dedicate time each week to keep abreast of industry trends and developments too as its critical that designers can trust us to be one step ahead of the game when it comes to innovation and evolution within the luxury design space.
We frequently use different artisans to deliver individual elements for one piece of furniture – for example an exquisite brass handle crafted by an exemplary metal artisan combined with beautifully inlaid veneer from our expert team of joiners. Facilitating a designer’s unique vision through our trusted network of craftspeople is always rewarding when you see the vision from conceptual drawings through to final installation.
We’re currently working on a proposal for a significant number of bespoke items for a project in Malta in collaboration with one of our favourite designers. She has a passion for bold design and colour and is always looking to push the boundaries in terms of shape and form which is thrilling for us and the team of experts that we work with. There’s nothing like a creative challenge!
Managing expectation versus budget is a familiar challenge to everyone in the industry and our sector is no exception. Our clients consistently want to deliver exceptional pieces but sometimes you have to set expectations and find the best solution in terms of materials or a design tweak that offer a very good result and one that also comes in on budget!
The logistics of delivery can also be very challenging. Whilst we work with outstanding white glove delivery teams, we can often be faced with logistical issues and dependencies on a 3rd party in terms of access or red tape, particularly in central London. Always surmountable but always a challenge!
How much attention to detail interior designers have. This is certainly not a criticism, in fact far from it – we work with some exceptional designers who can sometimes request a change of design equivalent to a few millimetres. When we first developed the business, we had no idea how particular clients could be but with the benefit of experience behind us we are now able to guide and collaborate on those decisions, knowing when they will and when they won’t matter to the stability or aesthetics of a piece.
Follow your gut feeling… if a project or a client does not feel right, it probably isn’t
We were very fortunate to be given the opportunity to work on an exceptional project in Kuwait with an end client who had no budget constraints and an appetite for luxurious finishes and styling. Having the opportunity to work alongside her and her family to furnish their beautiful villa was a design dream and allowed us to select hand-crafted pieces that are rarely accessible but are truly timeless heirloom items.
Conversely, we recently worked on a project in Chelsea with high client expectations but challenging budget constraints. We spent a lot of time with the designer developing solutions and alternatives that did not detract from the exceptional result that was required and ultimately delivered – hugely rewarding.
The access to information for end clients via social media has become overwhelming. It can make the decision- making process extremely drawn out when the client suddenly spots something new they love, or when they have seen a cheap copy of an atelier piece of furniture and fail to appreciate the value in the time and craftsmanship that is put into bespoke pieces. It’s something that the industry is working hard to address and a conversation that we are always happy to be a part of. With close and long-standing relationships with some of Europe’s finest artisans we absolutely appreciate the skill and dedication that goes into every piece of bespoke furniture.
In terms of furniture design, Kelly Wearstler is a personal favourite of mine. Her curation of vintage, contemporary and architectural forms within her pieces is truly exceptional. She is always innovative, inspirational and evolutionary – outstanding traits in a designer that consistently pushes the boundaries and is a leading industry narrator. Architecturally it has to be Joseph Dirand, his eye for volume and space underpinned by classical proportion is unsurpassed – a true master of his craft.
Richard Angel, founder and managing director of SBID Accredited Design Practice, Angel O’Donnell reveals his unique perspective on managing an interior design studio. After making an award-winning comeback following a period of redundancy, he launched his own practice with co-founder and interior designer, Ed O’Donnell.
I’m founder and managing director of Angel O’Donnell, a London based design house that I founded with Ed O’Donnell in October 2018. My role is the business generator, together with the overall running and strategy that we adopt as a studio. As the initial customer point of contact for AOD, my role is incredibly client facing and whilst Ed takes over the client management once a project is in the studio, I really like to maintain the interface with our clients at all times, even if that is for a coffee and a chat to check in and see how things are!
I started life as a chartered surveyor but have always loved the creative industry. I was previously working for a major developer in London when I was asked to join an interior studio, whom I was a client of, and who were in the process of selling their business. The Private Equity buyers wanted to increase the firm’s presence in London and so were really looking for someone to spearhead that expansion. I joined as London MD which is where I met Ed and we got on fantastically well, and realised that our mindset was very much alike!
However, in April 2018, I was made redundant and after some soul searching and a lot of research, realised that I could offer a better, more commercially astute service within a crowded market – but needed a phenomenal designer to compliment my skillset. I approached Ed and in October 2018 the doors were open for business and we won our first commissions shortly thereafter. Then in October 2019, on our 1st anniversary, we won our award from the SBID International Design Awards. To be recognised globally by the industry professional body, with a hugely respected judging panel, as being one of the best at what we do, was a huge accolade and somewhat humbling, especially when we were up against competition from some of the industry greats internationally.
Well it’s slightly different now compared to prior to Covid-19. Before lockdown, it was always an early start! I like to kick start the day with a spin class or gym session, and then I’m on the train to make the commute from my cottage in West Sussex into our office in Soho. This is when I’m able to plough through my paperwork and emails that have come in overnight, together with catching up on my diary and to-do list! Once in London, I grab my regular flat white from Grind on Beak Street and have a catch up with Ed on projects, what’s happening and when, together with a creative review of designs that are in hand. From 12pm onwards, I’m out of the office, meeting new clients, catching up with existing ones and generating new business. Often, I’ll meet up with an old contact in the property industry for a light lunch. I tend to work a long day and will attend an evening event at least 3 times a week in London, networking or learning. I’m a member of Soho House and they put on some great professional talks which I find so interesting and inspiring, they’re not necessarily design related but do challenge the way I think!
However, since March my daily routine has changed somewhat! Now, it starts with a Joe Wicks exercise routine at 9am with my kids, catch up with Ed over Teams (which thankfully we’ve been using for about 18 months now so there is little change), updating our live blog (www.angelodonnell.com/blog) and then dealing with the tasks for the day, partaking in a number of webinars and coupled with some maths and English tutorials!! Quite a balancing act!!
We’ve had a big drive on social media recently, where we’ve been wanting to put our skills to use helping others, which has led to our ‘Wednesday Wisdom’ series on Instagram’s IGTV. The response to that has been great, helping our followers with a number of the burning design issues that they’ve been wanting to deal with, especially now that they’re spending so much time at home! I always, always finish each day with exercise and yoga or meditation, it’s so good to clear the mind and stay physically and mentally fit.
Lockdown has been an incredibly busy period for me, other than Angel O’Donnell, I co-own a hotel in Surrey which was obviously forced to shut, so that has been challenge unfortunately having to deal with the furloughing of all the staff and navigating a path in uncertain times. However, I always recognised that the hotel was not fit for purpose in its current form, even prior to the pandemic, and thankfully during lockdown, I’ve secured planning to convert part of the hotel into 18 residential units and another part that’s Grade II listed into a boutique restaurant with 12 bedrooms, which I have confidence will no doubt be hugely attractive in the future as we see an uptake in the ‘stay-cation’ market.
I love the excitement of bringing on a new client and turning an idea or a dream into a reality! I love people and being able to surround myself with great colleagues, and amazing clients is a dream! Many of our clients worry about not having the vision or are sometimes embarrassed to express their taste and style ideas and it’s incredibly rewarding when we’re able to find the thread that inspires them and to pull that into a design.
Furthermore, I love the creativity and drive of entrepreneurship, thinking of new ideas, testing them and making them happen! I’m so lucky to have Ed as a business partner, we get on fantastically and have completely complimentary skills, which makes for a brilliant fit and is incredibly rewarding!
Yes!!! We’ve just finished the tallest Build-to-Rent building in London for Canary Wharf Group, designing all their front of house and communal areas and the results are fantastic! We’re also on site on our second project for a particular client in Fitzrovia, having completed his first home in the summer of 2019 which he wanted to refurbish to sell. He’s now down-sizing into what will be the most fabulous pied-a-terre, so it’s great now bringing that to reality!
I’m also a little proud that Ed and I have managed to pitch for the work, secure the contract and design the most fabulous penthouse in a tower on the banks of the Thames in London, doing so entirely remotely during lockdown! This really will be the most phenomenal apartment and I can’t say much at this stage, other than it has a vast roof terrace with spectacular views of London, and we have plans for a sunken, outdoor lounge and a hot tub, it will be a pretty special place to sip champagne from when complete!!
Lack of time!! Time is such a precious commodity and being a still relatively new business, it’s still very much Ed and I doing everything which is great on the one hand but means I’m working incredibly long hours on the other!! Nick Jenkins, founder of MoonPig, talks about working smart and not hard and I’m trying to embrace that, employing others where I can so I can delegate and really using technology to help make my life easier but it also takes time to know what tech is best to suit our needs and then learning how to use it!
More recently, it’s been lack of human, physical interaction when trying to develop business but we’ve secured two jobs during lockdown, which whilst they’ve been a challenge, they have also been the most rewarding, as we’ve really had to think creatively in how to secure the work.
The secret to fee scales and how best to charge clients! If I knew that, then I’d be winning all the work I pitch for!!
Tenacity is critical. Learn your craft, have the strength of your convictions, and don’t take no for an answer, and success will follow. There is also no such word as can’t!!
To those that are reading this, I would say that the coming months, and possibly years, are going to be very difficult for many both in and out of the industry. Sadly, we will see a lot of redundancies and many businesses will not survive. However, for those that can show tenacity, resilience, and an incredible work ethic in the face of adversity, they will come out stronger than ever. It was only two years ago that I was made redundant; I had huge concerns as to how I was going to cope financially and what the future had in store for me but I spent time thinking about how to create a business and drive success, 18 months later I was celebrating my win at the SBID 2019 Awards! You just need to believe in yourself!
That is a tricky question, as they have all been great, with different challenges along the way but with fantastic results! However, if I had to choose one, it would be The Atlas Building penthouse in Shoreditch. The client had high expectations but was a dream to work for, we loved the collaboration between ourselves and our client, and the result was incredible!
I think it needs to be recognised as a professional body, much the same as RIBA or RICS for architects and surveyors alike. Furthermore, is the issue with fees, it’s been spoken about numerous times at SBID events and in the wider press on fees not being paid and the challenges being faced, particularly around the final payment. There are now several online escrow account businesses, where provided there are cast iron terms of business between the client and the customer, monies can be held in escrow before a payment is due or a dispute arises.
I really admire those that are multi-faceted in their business interests, the likes of Kit Kemp being both interior designer and hotel owner, Chloe Macintosh for her work on Made.com and then creativity at Soho House, and in the same vain Vicky Charles for the Soho House ‘look’ she has been so fundamental in achieving and that people want to emanate, and of course my friend Edo Mapelli Mozzi who has created both a successful design studio and real estate development business.
SBID Accredited Partner, Mark Taylor, managing director of Mark Taylor Design reveals his journey in the design profession, and shares the advice he would give his younger self before he began his career as a designer.
I’m the Managing Director of Mark Taylor Design, a British furniture design business, responsible for designing, manufacturing and fitting kitchens, bathrooms, studies, bedrooms, staircases and more.
The company was set up 20 years ago, because I was trained in both furniture production and management and was a keen designer. I also completed an MBA and wanted to apply all these skills to build a business doing something I loved in this industry.
I will get in by 8.30am most days, contact clients throughout the day to ensure everybody is happy. I have a meeting most days with my teams on various projects. I might be designing or sketching, liaising with suppliers, costing projects, sourcing materials, working with my interior design team and, depending on the day, there’s usually a site visit or two.
Winning really exciting projects at one end, and seeing great work installed and happy clients at the other. I get a real sense of achievement out of a problem cleverly solved.
We are about to work on a swimming pool and gym construction which is exciting, as it’s a ‘start from scratch’ project, in a beautiful setting, with a client I’ve worked with a great deal in the past. This is the next phase of turning his home into his perfect home, which is always very satisfying.
Finding enough hours!
Don’t be afraid to be bold in your designs. Use interesting materials and play with shape and colour. As I’ve become more experienced, I’ve learnt that the braver designs are the ones that the client remembers and enjoys most – they have a talking point and so do we! When I was starting out, I always worried that my simple designs wouldn’t be noticed. I’ve learnt that the opposite is true; simpler is often bolder and more stunning than complicated. Finally, having conviction in your ideas.
Working alongside Interior Design, Charlotte Jackson of Nice Brew Design, we fitted out a very large basement extension, with a bar, bowling alley, wine cellar and entertaining space. It was a great project because the space was large but dark. The lighting and ambience of every element of this space was so crucial to it feeling comfortable and exciting. We worked with different textures, materials and even screens to bring the space to life.
I’m not sure. It feels healthy to us at the moment. The world is quite fragile though with Covid-19, and I guess it might be about whether people have the funds to afford interior design. Hopefully, the economic recovery will be relatively swift and people will continue to see the value of investing in their homes.
Small artisan craftsmen are still my greatest source of admiration because of the enormous love they have for what they produce, and for the techniques and skills that are so precious to us. Those who are teaching younger manufacturers and designers these traditional skills, and who are adapting them to today’s market are fantastic examples of how our industry will stay relevant and desirable.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We have taken on a property in St-Legier-La Chiesaz in Switzerland that is set overlooking Lake Geneva. It is a beautiful location!
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!
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.
A recent whole house residential project in Buckinghamshire – it was a delightful project for a delightful family!
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.
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.
SBID delved behind the scenes with SBID Accredited Designer, Katie Malik, founder and creative director of Katie Malik Interiors to find out about her journey in the interior design industry, and how proper training and experience helped her get there.
I’m a creative director at Katie Malik Interiors. I manage a small team of passionate, dedicated design experts, who help me bring our clients dreams to the reality.
My background is in linguistics, but as a daughter of a very talented furniture designer and maker, design has always been a big part of my life, My career in interior design started in 2011 when I decided to retrain. I have always wanted to run my own business, but I knew I needed to train first and gain hands-on knowledge and experience, so important in the design industry. After I gained my qualifications at Chelsea College of Art, I was lucky to have my first internship in a high-end interior design studio based in Mayfair. After that, the door to other interior design studios opened to me, and I was offered the second internship and then a position at 1508London, which specialises in high end residential and hospitality interiors. Then, I was ready to move on to work on residential projects under my own brand: Katie Malik Interiors.
I typically start my day with a good breakfast at home, and of course with an Instagram flick through and Inbox check for anything requiring urgency or priority. I typically arrive in the studio quite early, as I like to make a head start. Then it’s the order of the day, setting tasks, checking the order of priorities, communicating with my team, and depending on the day, it could be a lot of very focused designing, building schemes, client meetings, site meetings, procurement etc.
I love everything that being an interior designer encompasses, but there are two parts I enjoy the most, one of them being designing, coming up with design solutions to meet and exceed clients’ expectations, and the second one being the final project installation, when the designs become the reality and our clients’ dreams come true.
We are working on a number of exciting projects at the moment, and each of them being very different, provides a lot of creative stimulation, but I am also very excited about finalising my first book ‘Love your space’ which I have been collecting the material for for the last 4 years.
I would say the job itself is quite challenging, which I enjoy, but one of the most challenging aspects is managing procurement aspect of the job, ensuing everything arrives on time, in the right condition, and is installed correctly; there’s a lot of time involved in this part of the process, and however wonderfully rewarding, it’s also one of the most challenging aspects for someone who is a perfectionist.
That being an interior designer is so much more than the design, and that in order to run a business, one must also learn about how to become a businessman/businesswoman.
What would you tell your younger self if you had the chance?
Follow your path and what you love doing for hours without looking at the clock- that is your true calling.
I really don’t have a favourite one because all my projects make me genuinely proud and I enjoy working on all of them. However, if I had to chose one, I would say a redesign of a kitchen with dining and a conservatory which gained quite a lot of attention and landed its own editorial in the Ideal Home magazine in February 2016 and on Houzz in April 2017.
I also loved working on a costal redesign project, which was a refurbishment of the whole property located in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. The project received a UK Property Award 2019 for the Best Interior Design Residence in the South East.
I think there’s a lot of misconception about the profession and what interior design experts can do for homeowners and business owners. Also, I believe there’s a lot of potential issues that can arise in connection with products that interior designers specify from trusted trade sources and which homeowners can find online for less.
If you were inspired by Katie’s story, click here to learn more about the role of an interior designer.
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.
I manage the interior design studio at Rigby & Rigby, overseeing all interior design projects and the creative vision for the studio.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Want to become SBID Accredited? Click here to find out more.
We delved behind the scenes with SBID Accredited Interior Designer, Annette Frommer, Founder of Israeli-based design studio, Annette Frommer Interior Design. Serving an international client base and specialising in interior design in Jerusalem, Annette stresses the importance of staying inspired to keep designs fresh and original, and shares how essential our smart phones have become when it comes to doing business!
Can you describe your current job?
I am an interior designer based in Tel-Aviv, Israel. My clients are from abroad and looking to have a second home in Israel whether in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
I was born and raised in Belgium and have been living in Israel for the past 35 years. I am fluent in six languages which certainly helps when interacting with my international clients. I always knew that I was going to somehow be involved in a creative profession and admired beauty and design, whether in architecture, art, or fashion.
Luckily I do not need too many hours of sleep in order to function, and I can honestly say that I spend most of my day working. Yes, I am a workaholic. I get up very early, prepare my coffee and then straight to the computer. I receive many mails at every hour imaginable since my clients, and some suppliers, are located in many different time zones. I like to feel that I start the day with a relatively clean slate.
I then go to my office, another cup of coffee, and meet with the team. We go over projects and other matters at hand. Next is the field. I am a great believer in being hands on in every project, so I visit all my projects on a weekly basis meeting with the builder, other professionals, etc. There are days of course dedicated to “shopping” and “choosing” – those I love the most.
I usually return home at about 7pm and after a quick bite, it is back to work. Again I answer mails, go over plans and documents, gather samples, and prepare all that is necessary for the next day. I don’t know how we once worked without a computer and without a smart phone.
The world today moves at an incredible pace. We are bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information. I believe that most of us wish for homes that are serene, tranquil and that provide a sense of safety. Rewarding to me is seeing my clients happy with the result of my work – with the way I planned the space, chose the colour palette, textiles, lighting etc. Often times I am given ‘carte blanche’ and make all the decisions on behalf of the client. So it is definitely rewarding to see a big smile on their face.
No matter what the style, I always endeavor to achieve beauty, harmony and elegance. Elegance is key and it is achieved when there is cohesion, softness, subtlety, so that the final result appears to be effortless.
Yes. There is one project where I am planning and designing 5 apartments with the same layout for 5 siblings. It is a challenge designing each apartment unlike the other and making sure each sibling feels that his apartment is unique and designed especially for him!
Another project is a 1,000sq townhouse for a single family – with many bedrooms. The challenge here will be to make this vast space with so many bedrooms feel like a home, and not a hotel.
Coming across problems in the field, and coming up with solutions that are exceptional and actually make the space look even better.
What has been your favourite project to work on?
We were commissioned to review the plans and bring a halted project (a stunning mansion located in the suburbs of Jerusalem) to completion utilising the existing layout and partitions. The basement was especially problematic as the space was long, narrow, dreary and windowless with very low ceilings, and we had to transform it to be a prominent billiard room with facilities.
The final result includes an elegant billiard room, an inviting and relaxing bar/ lounge area complemented by an adjoining decorative wrought iron cellar door that leads to a state-of-the-art wine cellar, with walls covered in authentic old bricks and floors with reclaimed ancient stones.
The Italian woodwork is finely designed and crafted with onyx backlit ceiling panels cleverly disguising a maze of pipes and ducts; creating the illusion of height.
As for the mansion: the result is characterised by ornate and neoclassical décor that is opulent and lavish. The rich woodwork, the gold and silver gilt-accented furniture, the layered textures in muted pinks, light blue and aqua hues define the formal ambience of this home. The grand entrance with refined marble flooring embodies elegance and romance.
I think that as a designer, it is extremely important to continuously be inspired, be creative, and to strive for quality and distinction. The biggest problem is when I see more of the same, when I see copy/paste designs. It is challenging to remain fresh, original and timeless.
There are a few which stand out to me! Andree Putman; a scion of her time, her projects are very classical and designed to perfection. India Mahdavi, for her creative use of colours and shapes; and lastly, Peter Marino whose work is fearless, bold and non-conformist!
If you were inspired by Annette’s story, click here to learn more about the role of an interior designer.
SBID Accredited Interior Designer, Ana Engelhorn of Ana Engelhorn Interior Design reveals how her interest in interior design evolved into a professional career after starting her journey with a background in business administration and hospitality. Now running her own design practice, she shares her thoughts on the challenges the industry faces when it comes to perception – and Pinterest!
I run an interior design studio in London, working on residential and commercial projects across the UK and Europe. Taking a ‘perfectly imperfect’ approach, we celebrate imperfections found in natural building materials, antiques or pieces of furniture, mixing old with new pieces to create a fresh, timeless look. We also love introducing art and colour into our clients’ interiors.
I grew up in Switzerland but with a Spanish mother and German father, I was influenced by many different cultures. My parents bought distinctive properties and turned them into hotels and restaurants, so I always surrounded by beautiful, unique interiors. Watching these transformations unfold, I valued, above everything else, the authenticity that came through. My father has always been very traditional style-wise. If something was originally designed or made to be in a certain style, he wanted it to remain that. Therefore, if previous owners had modernised a building, he restored it, returning it to its origins. One of the hotels they bought and redid had no heating, so in winter the pipes have to be drained (so they didn’t freeze) and the hotel closed – he really took ‘original features’ to the extreme!
I knew I wanted to run a business but wasn’t sure what, so I initially studied Business Administration and worked in hospitality. However, I was buying and refurbishing and redecorating houses on the side, even gaining critical acclaim in the industry for some of the work I did. Therefore, when I became pregnant with my second child, it felt like the right time to go back to school to become an interior designer and turn my passion into my profession.
My days constantly change depending on the projects I have on and the people I am working with. Interior design involves a lot of admin, but if you run your own business, there is even more. With a background in business administration, however, I actually enjoy looking after all aspects of the business, ensuring that what I am doing benefits the whole.
I love the process of discovery I go through with clients. It starts from the moment we meet, form impressions, create a rapport and go through their brief. For me, it’s important to make a real connection with clients and to be honest and open – keeping open lines of communication. I then go away and create an interior design that brings their vision to life. I live for that magic moment where I’ve presented my design to the client and (if all goes to plan!) I can see that I have understood what they want. That amazing feeling I get when they love how I’ve designed their space is what makes my job so rewarding!
Is there anything new you are excited to be working on?
I have a full house renovation planned in Chiswick. It is very exciting as it is my first full house project in the UK (the others have been mostly in Spain). The CDM, Fire and Environmental steps you have to take here are much more involved than where I’ve worked before, and it’s a great learning experience for me. I’ve realised I don’t always need to be the expert. It’s led me to work with some very talented people who have enriched my knowledge in a way I had never imagined.
The most challenging aspect for me has been to make myself known in the UK, getting the word of mouth recommendations rolling here. Even though I work as an interior designer internationally, I am interested in having clients close to home too – my dream project would be a period building in London. I sometimes find it hard to go out and actively draw a specific client towards me, instead of waiting for them to find me.
I believe we are who we are because of our experiences, so I hesitate whenever I’m asked what I wish I had known. It probably would have been ideal to study interior design at the innocent age of 19 at University, doing the full 4 years and then have the opportunity to cut my teeth at an interior design studio before launching my own. However, that would have meant I wouldn’t have studied Business Administration or worked in hospitality; running a restaurant and working at a hotel, and I wouldn’t want to have missed that. I think it has shaped what I’m doing now in a positive way.
Choose what you want to do and stick to it, regardless of what other people think. It’s best to pave your own way and make your own mistakes rather than listening to others and regretting lost time because of it.
A 16th century farmhouse in Spain. It was a project where we reused everything we could, bringing the house back to its origins. All new materials that were brought in were natural building materials. The project took two years in total – it was slow going, but an enriching and satisfying project.
On one hand, the industry needs to combat the old-fashioned view that interior design is the domain of the ‘bored housewife’ and can essentially be done well by anyone who takes an interest in it. It needs to educate the general public about the knowledge and skill that goes into designing an interior space professionally. And especially, in the internet age, to get across the point that professionals can improve (and save time and money!) on what people can find and source through Pinterest, Instagram or other online platforms, and that they can help when it comes to the project management side as well.
On the other hand, the industry itself needs to open up to best support and encourage new interior designers and really help them to be successful. It’s worth remembering that interior design is also an art. You have to be organised, you have to know how to do industry-specific admin and be familiar with certain concepts and ways of working, but you also have to have intuition and imagination, to be able to envision how pieces will fit, what colours might go together and how a space can be transformed. You have to see, for example, how two potentially opposing objects could put together and, finally, you have to have taste. All of the more intangible qualities to do with artistic vision can’t be taught – you either have it or you don’t. This artistic side should be respected.
There is no lack of potential clients out there – the challenge is to find and convince them that their interior can really be improved by a professional interior designer!
I admire people who have not only been interior designers but have also created a business, employed others and grown from their small beginning. I also admire interior designers who share their knowledge, wanting to help others start up on their own. One such person is Katherine Pooley. She has been in interior design for 30 years, has grown a large business and now, on top of her business, gives talks and helps designers pave their way.
If you were inspired by Ana’s story, click here to learn more about the role of an interior designer.
SBID interviewed Mark Robinson, the Managing Director of Alexander Joseph about his journey into the field of product design. We uncover how his brand of luxury lighting solutions came to life; how he got there and what he does to stay abreast of current industry challenges, whilst running a business!
As Managing Director of Alexander Joseph Lighting, my job is to develop the design ethic and culture in a way that establishes our young luxury brand. A significant part of this role is to ensure our designs are relevant to today’s interiors market by fostering collaborations with interior designers, artists, sculptors, and product designers to grow our range of cordless lighting products. I also take responsibility for the quality of the pieces we make and sell.
My background represents the antithesis of the normal road to working within the sector! I’ve spent most of my adult life inventing first-to-market technologies and products across many sectors. After discovering I couldn’t buy decorative cordless lamps, I decided to make my own, this journey brought me into contact with interior and product designers who exhibited a passion and enthusiasm I’d never really been exposed to. After a little research I realised the sector was likely to be the ideal place to launch products.
My natural inclination to be organised helps to moderate the ever-changing pressures associated with working on dozens of projects at the same time. In addition to curating and developing our permanent range, I also attend daily design meetings for commission pieces we are making for clients. Each project must be taken from a sketch to a CAD model to CGI, before it is made by hand in our workshops. Marketing, customer, planning and staff meetings take up the rest of the day. I generally leave administrative and financial matters until everyone else has left for the evening, I find it easier to concentrate then.
We are currently working on the launch of our first ever floor lamp and we have some marvellous collaborations to announce…
Everything we do must deliver the highest quality. So, keeping abreast of live projects and progress is time consuming and a constant challenge. Motivating myself to keep on top of admin would be a close second.
Pretty much everything I’ve learned over the last 12 months!
The most rewarding component of my job is creating finished pieces from scratch, I love problem solving so the more complex or challenging the design the more I tend to enjoy it.
I think it would be; decide what you want to do, then do it. Don’t procrastinate, it saps self confidence and tends to be an expensive lesson in futility. Spending time to-ing and fro-ing over decisions costs money – at the end of the day you are paying your rent, wages and other overheads whilst you introspectively analyse what you are doing.
Producing a lamp for a charity auction. It was a 1 metre tall table lamp in the charity’s colours, finished in sterling silver. It took over 100 hours to complete.
Engagement with other sectors and industries. As a creating sector it is clearly design led, but this can be at the expense of all else. Other sectors tend to spend more time looking at how they can borrow or adapt techniques in other markets, before it is critical to do so. This enables them to ‘design in’ what they are adapting. Rather than incur the cost associated with adopting something at project delivery stage.
I think this would have to be anyone who has spent more than 20 years as an interior designer. Being able to remain passionate and inspired over such a long time period is truly admirable.
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