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Interviews

When colour is so important it can change your career...

When Shanade McAllister-Fisher changed the colour of a corporate PDF she didn't know it would change her career trajectory altogether.

design story x eporta

Read Time 7 minutes

Shanade McAllister-Fisher, Founder of SMF Interior Design.
Residential Apartment in Kentish Town, London.
Shanade McAllister-Fisher, Founder of SMF Interior Design.
Residential Apartment in Kentish Town, London.

Tell us about Shanade McAllister-Fisher Interior Design?

Our approach to interior design is simple, we are freethinkers who love to challenge the norm. We push for the unconventional by playing with design ideas and products that are a little unusual. We also love to use colour, pattern, texture and have an extremely strong affinity with art. In fact, the majority of our inspiration stems from our client’s very own collection of artwork or from the pieces that we source for their project.

What made you want to become an interior designer?

My Father was a property developer so from an early age I was interested in the transformational aspect of a property. I basically grew up on building sites, where the format of buy, renovate, sell, repeat, became a constant state of normality. Years later and as a young woman, this drove me rebelliously in the opposite direction and into the corporate world. However, this clearly wasn't my vocation in life. I vividly remember while prepping for a presentation that I changed the colour of a PDF document, which wasn't within the company’s core colour palette. It literally blew their minds and I got into a lot of trouble for it. I handed my notice in the next day. I needed to do something far more creative so a career in fashion or design beckoned.

Dressing area in bedroom of Kentish Town apartment.
Dressing area in bedroom of Kentish Town apartment.

What's the best part of being a designer?

Delivering a dream from start to finish. There is nothing better than having a flash in the pan idea, selling it to the client, getting their buy-in, developing it, and then delivering it. The awesome reactions I get to see my client's make this the best job in the world!

It can be incredibly tough though, and I don't think anyone can warn you just how challenging interior design can be. The number of people and stakeholders you are dealing with, the constant need for solutions, and all the physical time that goes into the design can all take their strain. But when you finally get the scheme over the line it's just the best feeling, making it all so worthwhile.

Having just touched on this, what is the hardest part of the role for you?

If I'm being really honest it’s that I have incredibly high expectations. At SMF we are lucky enough to work with some of the best people in the industry meaning we can deliver some spectacular designs, but I always strive for perfection for my clients. I guess this is because I naturally grow incredibly attached to my schemes, living and breathing every part of them.

The other hard part is looking at a project as soon as it's finished. I often find that I need a day to separate from it emotionally before heading back to dress it, by the end of which I feel completely at peace with it and fall back in love with the design. I do love to go back when they've settled in to see how they've really made it their own.

Art wall within Kentish Town apartment.
Show-stopping art in entrance way of apartment in Little Venice, London.
Art wall within Kentish Town apartment.
Show-stopping art in entrance way of apartment in Little Venice, London.

What inspires your designs?

No set thing although artwork can be hugely helpful. To kick things off I take the client brief, and then something will just come to me, we have no set agenda at the beginning. The best thing is that we know they already like at least one element of what we do as that’s why they've hired us, so we'll pair the use of colour or pattern with something unique to them, something they love.

As you've said you like to use colour in your designs, why is this so important to you?

Colour is too often shied away from. We've all seen countless projects focused on neutrals, greys and golds, and that’s why we encourage our clients to be as bold as possible. 2019 is looking really exciting for us, and despite being a relatively new design studio we've secured a long list of projects where clients are placing colour at the epicentre of their ambitions. This is fantastic as we can go wild all-the-while knowing they will really embrace it.

Master bedroom in Little Venice apartment.
Living area in Little Venice apartment.
Master bedroom in Little Venice apartment.
Living area in Little Venice apartment.

Is this a more noticeable change in the industry?

Absolutely, clients are always looking to buck the beige, however, the majority of people are still, and always will be nervous of colour. It's only natural to stick to what you know, but that’s where we come in. I often roll in with my paintbrush saying, "Look at this!" And I get met with a few gasps. Yet if you want to really transform a room quickly and cost-effectively, then colour is the most powerful weapon to do the job. I've recently bought a little cottage in The Chilterns with my husband and it was awash with magnolia. So to create instant impact I painted our bedroom in a deep dark blue and all of a sudden the space was transformed, along with how we felt about it.

Every scheme is different we know that, but is there a Shanade McAllister-Fisher tell?

Everyone in the studio laughs because I'm always attracted to brass. As such, there is a sprinkling of brass in every project we do. I've also started to notice I use a lot of blue and green in schemes, so I must naturally veer towards that colour palette.

Kitchen in Little Venice Apartment.
Layers upon layers of texture within Little Venice Apartment.
Kitchen in Little Venice Apartment.
Layers upon layers of texture within Little Venice Apartment.

Why is design so important, why does it matter so much?

I think that interior design is personal, it all comes down to the individual, but a large factor is mental wellbeing. It’s all about creating an environment that suits that person down to a T and ultimately makes them happy. It doesn't matter if it's a home or a public space, good design makes people feel comfortable and creative. This, in turn, can have a huge impact on their life. For me, I like being in big, gorgeously designed bars and restaurants, I'm happy there and it brings me joy. I hope that we can do the same in people's homes.

What's your proudest design moment to date?

That's a tough one because it's been such an eventful journey so far, and it still feels so fresh. Every single project we take on we end up learning something new. For example, we're currently working on a project where we've done some awesome bathrooms in various beautiful marbles paired with my own unique bespoke joinery that it's been really fun to turn my hand to. We had another great client who was up for using really amazing materials, like a leopard print runner along their spiral staircase. But in reality I can’t pick a single moment, we've loved every project!

Terrace of Little Venice Apartment.
Terrace of Little Venice Apartment.

What would be an ideal project for you?

This is easy! I would love to design a boutique hotel – especially in Paris as they are so open to exciting new design ideas, they always love to use masses of colour and pattern – I would be in my element! Even budget boutique hotels can be incredibly striking.

A piece of advice for a designer just starting out?

Don't worry about what anyone else is doing, and don't follow the rules. There is too much emphasis on Pinterest and Instagram and a need to always fit in, I just don't think it matters. You are an individual, there will be clients who like your style of work because what we do as interior designers is so subjective. So, have a go and don't hold back.

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