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03 Nov - Interviews

Life of an Interior Designer

with Amelia McNeil

Amelia McNeil Interior Design was founded in 2011 and has since completed a wide range of commercial and residential projects throughout London and the surrounding counties.

Over the last year Amelia has worked on a number of exciting projects; most recently of which is the full refurbishment of a town house in Pimlico and a 15 storey development of 39 apartments, overlooking Battersea Park.

Prior to launching her own studio, Amelia trained at KLC School of Design before beginning a four year tenure at London-based MGID.

What determined your passion for design? Tell us about the moment when you decided this is the way to go.

I have always been interested in design and how things look and feel but it was not until later on, when I was working in the film industry as a location scout that I really decided I wanted to be an interior designer. I loved spending time with the set designers and watching them transform the spaces to suit the film.

When I trained in interior design I thought of going back to film and set design but felt more drawn to creating real homes that stood the test of time.


Can you remember your first design project? Describe it a bit, whether it is a gizmo you worked at as a little kid or something that was sold at a large scale.

My first design project I remember loving was trying to re create a Giacometti sculpture in art class at school. I became slightly obsessed with it. It gave me great satisfaction when the insurer at home mistakenly insured it for £350!


What field of design are you most interested in? Do your works have anything to do with it? (We are asking this because not many designers do what they actually want)

I am particularly interested in lighting design. I remember considering becoming a lighting designer after a lecture at KLC school of design, where I trained. Until then I had not fully appreciated the importance of well thought out lighting and how much it can transform a space.

Chronologically describe what you are going through (feelings and thoughts) on your way to work.

On my way to work, I usually try to go through a mental checklist of all of the things I need to achieve that day. However, the reality is I have already spoken to a builder or my curtain maker before I get into the office, so there is not always a great deal of time to think!

My most creative time is late at night or on a Sunday afternoon, when I have no distractions.


What is your favourite book/magazine on design? How about your favourite site?

Recently, I have really been enjoying Cabana magazine and Architectural Digest.


What inspires you?

I am inspired by lots of things – my surrounding in general. I think it is important to travel and get away from routine. It is often in these times that I am inspired the most.


What makes you stand out among other designers?

I like simple lines and uncluttered spaced so that I feel calm when I walk into a space. A room does not need to be designed too symmetrically to feel balanced in my view. I don’t like a space I design to feel like a hotel; I want it to reflect the lives of the people living in the space.  I love elements of surprise in design and often mix old antiques into contemporary spaces. There is often an emphasis on the natural in my work. I love sisal rugs, vintage linens, textiles and antiques.

What is the most frustrating aspect of your job as a designer? And the most rewarding one?

The most frustrating aspect of my work is when things are out of stock or delayed! As interior designers we rely a lot on suppliers and the late arrival of things can have a real knock on effect on a project. The most rewarding part of my job is simply a happy client. I recently got invited to a client’s first dinner party in their new house, which was lovely.


How has the economy affected your work?

The economy has not really affected our work and we continue to be busy which is great. In London, I have noticed that some people who were looking to buy have ended up developing their current properties instead. Either way, there continues to be lots of building work going on.


What I really find interesting about interior designers is behind the visuals and focusing on how people actually live in spaces. How has that changed over the last few years for your clients? What are people living with now or wanting in their homes that wasn’t around five years ago? How are your clients’ lifestyles evolving and how are you serving that?

That is an interesting question. I think people are busier than ever so we try to keep that in mind in our approach.

I have found myself designing a lot of open plan living spaces that accommodate the lives and clutter of a family. Good storage to hide away toys easily when kids have gone to bed is really important so that parents can get their house back in order in the evening. Hide away desk/study areas under stairs for children or adults to work from have also been popular, so that parents can shut the door when dinner party guests arrive and there is no time to tidy up!! Formal dining rooms and sitting rooms are almost a thing of the past now.

Can you recommend a hotel you stayed in where the interior design really impressed and inspired you?

I was really impressed by Number Thirty Eight (Bristol) recently. The loft suite views were unbelievable over Bristol and I thought the room sizes were really generous. Hotel rooms can often feel very pinched I think.


If you had no limits (money, resources), what would you create?

I really want to work on a boutique hotel in Italy or Ibiza. This has been on my mind for some time and it is pretty much designed in my head! I love the idea of working somewhere where the outside is as important as the inside. Creating relaxing spaces really appeals to me and I would enjoy exploring and sourcing things locally.


Is there a space in London which you find yourself continuously drawn to because of the beautiful interior?

I really like ‘Farm Girl Cafe’ on Portobello Road. This is local to me and I love Beata Heuman’s approach to the design.

What advice do you have for young designers or architects reading this interview?

Find a mentor. Never underestimate the importance of chatting to someone who has done it all before, even if they have worked in another industry.


What do you think of Drummonds Bathrooms?

I love Drummonds bathrooms. Everything is so beautifully made and has such a timeless feel about it I think.


Who are your favourite designers currently working in the industry?

I am particularly loving the work of Rose Uniacke at the moment.


You can find more about Amelia McNeil on her website