I INTERVIEWED MINA STAPLES, A TALENTED INTERIOR DESIGNER WHO IS MAKING WAVES IN DESIGN WITH ETHICALLY SOURCED TEXTILES, HOMEWARES AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING COLLABORATIONS. DRAWING FROM HER EXTENSIVE TRAVELS AND LOVE OF HANDMADE PIECES, MINA DEFINES THE APPRECIATION OF QUALITY AND UNIQUENESS IN HOW WE LIVE.
LILLI : We're here today in Curl Curl, Sydney, with Mina Staples. Mina is a talented interior designer and we're visiting her in her beautiful Bali inspired studio, thank you for having us!
MINA : Welcome!
L : So what are you most excited about in your work right now?
M : I have a really exciting project coming up that I'm looking forward to getting started! It's going to challenge me, but the client is incredible and I'm collaborating with a really talented architect and land scape designer. The client is very open minded to what designs are possible, it's going to be a really beautiful result.
L : Can you tell us a little about being an interior designer? What does a day in the life of Mina look like?
M : I'm routine based, that's important to me, working for myself, to be in the right headspace. I usually start with a coffee and a workout, then I'm at my desk by 8am checking emails. I design a lot of the day, but it depends on which projects I have going on and which stage they're at. I might be out at site meetings, sourcing textiles, furniture pieces or fixtures, working with architects or tradesmen, or at clients houses for follow up meetings.
L : What did you study at Uni? Did you always want to be an interior designer?
M : Yes! I used to buy Vogue Living magazines with my pocket money! I always loved houses, I used to babysit so I could look at all the different houses! I didn't necessarily know I wanted to be an interior designer, I also love animals and I also wanted to be a vet, then a physiotherapist. But I've always been creative and I've always been obsessed with the way that people live. It was a curiosity to me how people dwell in a space. I love my home and I love to make it comfortable. I'm interested in the benefits physiologically to having a calm living space to come home to and retreat from the busy world. Formally, I studied Bachelor of Design at UTS majoring in Interiors with a sub major jewellery.
L : What was your first job out of uni?
M : When I first graduated, I worked as a stylist at House and Garden Magazine. It was an interesting learning curve; when you first get out of a creative degree at uni you think, any job as a creative is great, especially that it was in interiors. Looking back, it benchmarked me to be in the soft world, because of the path I chose. When you leave university, people don't necessarily tell you that that first job can really shape your career. When I left House and Garden, I went overseas travelling for inspiration, and when I came back, because I technically hadn't had industry experience in the 'hard' side of Interior Design, I had to fight my way into it! Even though I studied a Bachelor of Design in Interior Design at UTS, a four year degree, did everything I was meant to do, it's a really difficult industry to get into or to be given a chance to prove yourself. It's hard to even get work experience, for people to even give you a chance. It's a really challenging industry to break in to, and I'd say only about 20% of the people I studied with at university have become interior designers.
L : I remember one of mentors saying to me, whatever you think you are as a creative, that's just your hobby unless you're a businesswoman too. You've been running your own business now for just over 2 years, was it scary when you first took the lunge into your own business?
M : I've always said I would work for myself after working for a few amazing people.
L : Because you have to learn...
M : Exactly, you have to learn. I had a couple of really amazing women mentors, their passion for design and for what they do definitely carved my path. I respect and adore all the knowledge they've given me. But yes, starting out was terrifying! I've always helped people run their own businesses so I've always had an idea that the creative part is just a small part of it -predominantly it's more marketing, accounting, client, contractor + project management - sometimes I think you have to also be a bit of a psychologist! In residential, it's about deciphering how the client uses their space and what their needs are, and translate that into practical, beautiful design that's perfect for them. I'm a designer without an ego, I don't design for my portfolio, I design for my clients lifestyle.
L : Talk to us about the financial stuff, like how do you balance the cashflow of fees and deposits and everything that goes along with it.
M : The challenge in business, being self funded is definitely understanding cash flow. You can get a big project and get a lump sum of money to start work, but you may then have months without money coming in! Sometimes you sort of sit back and think, am I doing ok? But it's the challenge!
L : It's the flexibility, the give and take of the benefits of having your own business!
M : I wouldn't change it for the world now. I really feel like I'm my own creative, I'm coming in to my own being again because it's my own voice, everything that I create now is for me and my clients. You nurture the business and watch it grow.
L : It becomes your babies, you see these projects grow and develop.
M : Definitely, a lot of my friends have had babies, and I'm nurturing my business baby at the moment! It's just as intensive and just as many sleepless nights.
L : So Mina, you're so talented in many areas, but what's one thing you wish you knew how to do?
M : I wish I knew how to draw with confidence! I miss hand drawing and I haven't drawn in so long I find it hard to start again.
L : What are your favourite design trends at the moment?
M : Truth in material that a lot of designers are using now, going back to natural and getting away from the artificial. The use of brass, and there's some really beautiful curvy sofas out there.
L : What's your biggest pinch me moment in business so far?
M : I think getting my first client!
L : When we originally worked together in a design firm, you specialised in textiles. What has it been like now, starting your own business, being able to have creative freedom over all the aspects of the project?
M : My strength has always been sourcing unique textiles, specialising in that specific side of the industry for so long, I've had to make a conscious effort to re-develop those other skills now, doing all my planning, it's really nice to be able to use those skills again. Doing projects full circle is such a satisfying process, because you know where the project is going from beginning to end, there's no hand over, and your creative vision can keep focusing towards the end product, so in a lot of ways, it's easier.
L : Amazing! Thanks so much for having us in your beautiful studio!
M : Pleasure! Thank you for including me!