Talking Design


Interview with Alicia Meireles, Associate Director of Interior Design at OWN LONDON

You studied civil engineering in Porto. How do you think that grounding in construction informed your approach to interior design?


It’s made me very methodical. My five years learning rules and calculating forces has enabled me to become razor focused with administrative tasks and project coordination. Understanding the physics behind the building is also really valuable; where to place columns, where not to remove a wall, how to plan the space. It doesn’t really inform the creative part, but as interior designers and architects we need to be able to follow some rules.



You are known at OWN LONDON for your eclectic style, fantastic instinct for colour combinations and eye for detail. What inspires those design signatures?


My eclecticism comes from being part of an eclectic studio; we are all from different countries and cultures and so bring that to our work. I like to bring a little bit of my own flair to a project and I blend that with the Client’s aspirations. Social media is a huge reference point for them, so we need to bring all those tastes into the mix. I like to include something from an antiques fair, something personal which adds character.

I was always creative but grew up in an area where you either became a civil engineer or doctor. My mum was always creative ­– she painted  and collected art. As a toddler, my parents had to tile the entrance hall as I kept covering the walls with artworks and doodles.

I discovered a love of 20th century architecture and art during my time at Soho House and have always been drawn to detail. Travel and architecture are important inspirations; nature provides the best colour palettes. Used in an interior, they can transport you to a special moment – like a sunset hike in a beautiful landscape.



You’ve worked on high-end projects across the globe. How does your international experience influence both your work and the culture at OWN LONDON?


Our Clients are very well travelled and have a cosmopolitan lifestyle so they need a design studio which can cater to that. Travelling widens your library of experiences; if you are stuck in one place you will only communicate that. More experiences mean more ideas.

I have worked in the Middle East, India and China and all of them have been such different experiences. They’ve taught me a great level of technicality – specifically the do’s and don’ts of design in different regions; frost-proof woods are a must in colder Northern countries, while hotter climates demand linens and cottons ­– it wouldn’t feel right to use velvets or bouclés in 40 degree heat.



Can you tell us why championing local craftsmanship and vintage pieces is important to you and how it affects your designs?


In a world where sustainability is so important, the more local you can go when you’re sourcing materials ­– including construction materials – the better. Using local materials and craftsmanship also helps tell the story of the area and brings a sense of place to projects.

Vintage pieces bring uniqueness to a project and always improve a space. They’re highly sustainable as they’ve already been around for a long time and each piece tells a story. They’re beautiful to look at and it’s interesting to adapt them into a new space ­– they make it feel alive.



How do you use your experience and skills to translate a client’s ambition into a finished project?


I have worked with all sorts of Clients and on all sorts of projects – from residential and large hotels to commercial in the Middle East, Northern and Southern Europe. I have learned to think in space; considering the proportion of light, knowing which colours to mix and patterns to use to ensure the finish project works.

As interior designers, we often play psychologist to the Client and become a kind of friend; we know intimate details and how they use their spaces. It’s vital to know how to communicate and listen well, and then to know what to do with that information so it can be translated into their interior design project.

Clients often refer to hotels and restaurants where they liked an element of the design, such as the kitchen counter, certain materials or construction, but aren’t sure exactly what they want. Having that broad experience enables me to offer a solution quickly.



How has OWN LONDON’s cross-disciplinary and collaborative approach helped you to shine as an interior designer?


With so much expertise and many different perspectives within the team, we are able to reach a solution which is almost bullet proof. We really come together to think about the detail and will mock-up and trial ideas. When it goes to site, this really reduces changes and rejects – and it showcases our work as interior designers in the best possible way.

I’m relatively new to OWN LONDON and took a leap of faith to join the team, but I know they are excited about what I can offer. I am excited about this completely new offering for the Client.