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Interview with Matt Smith-Wood from Interior Design Masters

From designing flats for professionals to transforming a café, this season of Interior Design Masters with Michelle Ogundehin and Alan Carr has been an exciting journey for all the interior designers.

On Thursday 11th April, we were joined at our Cheltenham Showroom with quarter-finalist Matt Smith-Wood to answer your questions and to chat about his experience designing a range of exciting spaces, his signature style and how you can start your own interior designing career.

Keep reading or watch the full interview with exclusive questions here

How did you get into Interior Design?

M: So, it’s always been my thing. That's always where my head was at, what my passion was. Then, when I wanted to go to Uni, I didn't really know what I wanted to study. I didn't want to do all of Uni, because I thought if I want to make, I'll make it anyway and I really wanted to learn something. I've always had passion for interiors, 3D, and installations, and I looked at a couple of interior design courses, and I just fell in love with that, and I never looked back since.

For anybody out there who wants to get into interior design and who are looking to start that career, have you got any tips and tricks?

M: So, I think, if you don't have any interior design experience, I think what's really key is to figure out your style, figure out your own niche, and figure out what you like. So, I'd recommend for a complete beginner, research a lot, visit cool, trendy cafes and restaurants and hotels, and put a mood board together of things that you like and that'll help you get an idea of what your style is and where you're trying to go. I think from there, once you have more of a direction, it'll be easier to find work and start making steps towards that direction.

Now, on the topic of Interior Design Masters, how has your journey been so far?

M: The journey has been amazing. I loved it and each design was something that I haven't done before, and I found that really, really fun. The journey was so fun and having these challenges, being given a budget, it was an opportunity to really explore and to design stuff that you wouldn't get to do otherwise.

Where do you start with that small budget?

M: So, it is difficult working to the budget. But you have to really prioritise where you want to spend the money. and that depends, brief to brief. In certain briefs, you have to prioritise money to spend on things that are going to transform the space for the brief in that particular way. So prioritizing is how you do it. It was definitely a challenge working with the budget.

Has it been a learning curve for you as a designer to think about being smart with how you're spending money and working to a budget for a space?

M: Yeah, it's been, massively insightful and a huge learning curve because it's given me the opportunity to put these things into practice, and in real life, you'd never get a week or two to start a design, source and then finish a project. So, being able to fit in that much practice and in that much of a short time, of course, is going to be a massive learning curve. I think my style has evolved quite a lot since the first episode, and it kind of changes even more each episode because, you know, each design, you learn something new.

How has it been for you to be challenged in that way and have to think more about how you're going to use spaces?

M: I absolutely loved it because like I mentioned before, coming from an art background, I loved just making things. Being creative and into design is the biggest creative outlet because you're doing so many different types of things like, painting, upholstery, carpentry and even video editing afterwards and things like that. It's an amazing creative outlet.

How have you found getting into upholstery and using it in your spaces?

M: I think I've been quite tactical with my upholstery because I've only ever done rectangle shapes, which are really, really easy to do. If I were to do a chair or something like that, I would not know where to start. In the last episode, flats, that headboard, the reason why I did it that big and wrap around is because it was really easy to make, but you can have a really big impact. So, as opposed to doing something fiddly and with more intricate details, it may not be as impressive as a floor-to-ceiling headboard, but it takes more skill to make.

Have you got any tips and tricks for anybody who’s thinking about doing headboards or upholstery?

M:. So obviously number one choose an easy shape. You could start off with a rectangle and pick a forgiving fabric.

What has your favourite challenge been so far on Interior Design Masters?

M: So, I've genuinely enjoyed all of them. But I think if I had to pick a favourite, it would be cafes, purely because it's more in the direction that I'm trying to go. Commercial design, and hospitality, so it's a step in the right direction. It was also really fun working with another designer that had a different style because I feel like that's how it would be in the real world.

Was there anything in that space that you particularly thought ‘that was my favourite bit’?

M: My favourite bit would be the corner in the back. I just love that, and it felt like home because we put in that the floor standing lamp, the herbs, tiles and then the cladding coming over it. So, it was a locked-in, cosy space and out of sight. But it was also quite cool because of the mirrors on the wall. You could see the till, so if you a question and you have it to get up for another coffee, you can just see how busy it is.

So, from all of your designs so far that we've seen on Interior Design Masters, where have you found your inspiration?

M: So, it all depends. Brief to brief. So, I always start with the brief, the location, maybe a bit of local history, something like that to really kind of ground the design to the location, which I think is important. Then I'd work with the building to make sure that it fits, and it doesn't look like it’s kind of being covered up in a way. I think everything must feel nice and feel purposeful. Then design the space, the layout, and then you get into the fun bit. How do I want people to feel when you work in colour and texture and things like that afterwards?

Where did you get your inspiration from with the nuncells?

M: So, I started off by just looking at the room and with the things that I think didn't work. I didn't go into the style or colour or print or pattern or anything, that all came afterwards. I looked at what wasn't working in the room; I thought, okay, the window is not putting in this much light. So, I wanted to open that wall and make that brighter, so it feels less like a corridor. I wanted to make sure that the bed was on the shorter wall to make the room feel more boxy. So, by using mirrors and reflection, but recessing them as opposed to sticking them on the wall, it looks more like a doorway or like a passageway. So, when you walk in because the mirrors are recessed, it's like, oh, what's through there? Then when it came to styling it, I just wanted to do my signature stuff. And that's usually quite brutalist and earthy shapes. Hence the stone walls and the monochrome, blocky fabric that I got from you guys. and that's kind of where I started just working with the room, trying to manipulate it to kind of change the way it feels.

I really loved it when you did the textured wall. How did you come up with that?

M: So, that is again, going back to the signature style. So, I love texture. I like to address a room of texture. So, playing around with the different material options. I was looking at panels, texture panels, wall panels, but they're all too expensive, so I just thought I'll have to just make my own. I think putting it on, bringing it out and then brushing over, created that embossed effect as opposed to something coming out. It was embossed, which made it look like a concrete or stone slab.

Can you describe your style in three words:

M: Okay, it would have to be brutalist because I like brutalist stick shapes and confident shapes. Then I'd have to go for earthy because I love earthy tones. Terracotta, deep greens, taupe mushroom colours. I think it's important, it's natural and I think by nature those colours make us feel safe and then elegance. The brutalist, earthy look isn't necessarily the most sophisticated, but I think I do like my designs to feel sophisticated and elegant. So, brutalist, earthy, sophisticated.

What’s your favourite era of design?

M: I think it would have to be mid-century modern, maybe a bit boho because things were decorative then. But they were also modern and geometric as well as decorative and I think there was a nice balance that was struck in that era.

What is the scariest part of being on the show?

M: I think naturally it would have to be the moment before judging. I would have thought before I did it, the filming and being on camera would have been the scariest bit. But because you're so stressed and there's so much to do, you don't even think about the camera, that's secondary to what you're doing. It would have to be before judging, it is so tense and you just, you never know. You could have a feeling or an inkling, but you know some of the designs that I liked the least, the judges liked the most and the designs that I loved, the judges had more issues with.

How did you find and how did you source everything on time?

M: It was really, really difficult sourcing everything on time and it took a lot of planning and a lot of very quick decision-making. So, if you want to order something online and it has 3-to-5-day lead time, which is like most places and that's too late, it's either next day delivery or nothing at all. Unless you have the design nailed in your head that day, if you order something that could come in five days, it might not come in time. So, just a lot of planning, quick decision making and, yeah, a lot of stress.

Where do you start with redesigning and decorating a big, open space?

M:  So, I suppose height is going to be interesting. You want to tackle zoning and I'm not talking about zoning like colour-blocking areas. So, look at the floor plan and decide what you want. Mark out areas and then zone them. But you don't have to zone them like I said in like a colour-blocking way. It could be with a rug or paintings or some lighting or like a little kind of divider and just get the layout sorted because when you just look at a space and you kind of look at it as a whole space, yeah, it's a bit difficult. Break it down into areas and then work from there. So, zoning and that's part of the design process, what you're going to do in the place you kind of have and then just keep on going until you've got one that you like and then build off that.

To hear our full interview on Instagram, click here

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