Talking Design


Interview with Grace Fotopoulou, Project and Procurement Manager at OWN LONDON

Your architectural training was gained in both the UK and in Greece. Did having degrees from two countries each with their own strong design heritage influence you as a designer?


Definitely. In Greece, I studied restoration – centuries of learning and technology being developed. My Father and Grandfather were both in construction and so design was always a natural progression for me. All of my siblings are in design; it’s been part of my life as long as I long as I can remember.

Here in the UK, I studied modern architecture which offered me the best of both worlds. My real love is classical aesthetics – think granny chic! I was first introduced to it about 15 years ago through my father-in-law, a photographer who has travelled the world and this is reflected in the properties he has developed and sold over the years. They have warmth and sense of place; I’m so glad it has come back as trend.



As the Project & Procurement Manager at OWN LONDON, your ability to build relationships with suppliers around the world is essential. Can you tell us more about this part of your job, and why relationships are so integral to delivering a project successfully?


Building relationships with suppliers is the most important aspect. The past year has been hugely challenging with the market shortages caused by the war in Russia; the timber we can’t get hold of, and the extra paperwork created by timber from Ukraine. Having a good relationship with suppliers is extremely important as they can try and help get over the hurdles.

The more we communicate, the better it is so we can manage client expectations. It’s frustrating when a supplier doesn’t share their knowledge or expertise and doesn’t put the time in; this leaves you open to open to mistakes and delays. Having a relationship with a supplier who will always look at your order, share their knowledge and advise if something is going wrong will always bring the best results.

Loyalty is key: I get the suppliers’ knowledge, they get our loyalty, and clients get personal touches and recommendations which really make the difference to a project.



What are your design and architecture inspirations, and how do they help OWN LONDON’s designs to stay current?


For classical aesthetics, I look to US designers for inspiration. I especially admire Mark D Sikes in California and Katie Rosenfeld in the Boston area. I like houses to feel like homes, that have warmth and a sense of a welcome. I want to feel like I can walk in it barefoot and relax on the sofa.

I have been with OWN LONDON for over four years and have seen it transition to an in-house design studio that delivers modern eclecticism and elements of classical aesthetics, which has been very exciting.



How do you work with other disciplines across the business?


Communication. My job is based on communication, there is no other way. It’s very important we understand one another and as a team we have great chemistry.



How does the collaborative culture at OWN LONDON set it apart from its competitors?


Alex and the Directors have invested heavily in every aspect of the team, bringing together the best of all the talents and disciplines; construction, design, FF&E, procurement – all working seamlessly together.

As a result, the Client sees a huge benefit. They have an expert on furniture, material sourcing, a construction expert, a dedicated project management team… It creates clarity and ease for the Client.



What excites you most about your role at OWN LONDON?


Communication and shopping! I’m on the phone all day; every project requires something different, from the finish of the electrical facias to the ironmongery, different timbers and floors to types of paint.

I really enjoy the collaborative nature of the studio, where we share knowledge and recommendations. As an old Greek proverb says, I get older but I am still learning. I share this philosophy.