Interview with Sophie Mir, Interior Designer
At Raison d’Etre, we’re proud to work with many talented specialists on our spa and wellness projects. One interior designer we have a great admiration for is Sophie Mir from Sophie Mir Design which caters to the beau monde and sophisticated set of residential and hospitality clients across North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
We talk to Sophie about her business, favourite projects and current trends.
What attracted you to pursue a career in interior design?
It’s partly due to the fact that I grew up in a very creative family, especially my mother who is an architect and also because I have always had a strong interest in how things look and how you can combine different types of materials. It started with fashion and in the beginning I thought I would become a clothing designer but with time I realized it was more interesting with interior design as this is more complex and includes more aspects of the work. Designing a home or a hotel requires perfection not only from the combination of textiles but also harmony between furniture, floor and wall paintings, lighting, appliances, scent etc. To someone that has never worked with interior design at a professional level it might seem easy and ”you just chose a pillow case” but in order to create the perfect atmosphere that is in line with the client’s expectations it takes much more finesse and planning and especially expertise than that.
Another aspect and something that has kept me so fascinated by this job is how, with experience, you get a better commercial understanding of the client’s job. It can be everything from small details that, at first, might not have a great impact but to the client can have significant commercial importance. A good example is the size of a bar, it needs to be deep enough to give the bartender space to work and for the customer to have room to put their food or drink but at the same time it cannot be too deep so it is difficult for the bartender and customer to communicate or for the bartender to move around etc. It is also the understanding of using the client’s budget wisely. It is easy to spend money but you should only do that on the things that matter and that will be noticed and appreciated.
Do you specialise in any specific area of design?
I started with designing palaces in the Middle East and then continued with designing homes for UHNWIs but for the past 10 years I have focused on high-end luxury hotels.
What type of projects do you enjoy working on most? Can you tell us about one or two of your favourites?
I have the great benefit of working on so many fascinating projects that it is hard to choose. I truly love the opportunity to work with private individuals as it gives you the chance to make it so personal and perhaps go above and beyond ”the normal”. This enables you to take your creativity to new highs and the satisfaction when you see the pure joy in your client’s eyes when you have managed to translate their expectations into their dream home is something that is difficult to compete with.
Hotels on the other hand are so much more complex as a high-end luxury hotels need to accommodate so many different types and preferences. I have had the benefit to staying at many different hotels in my life and there are very few that achieve that special feeling of a “home-away”.
In recent years I have started to do more and more luxury yachts and private jets and, as I love new challenges, this is something that is currently close to my heart.
How important is the client brief and what are the main points you need to know?
It is very important! Normally when you get an RFP, especially if it is a client you haven’t worked with before, you will need to be provided with key information such as: who is the operator, what is the timeline of the project and budget. In addition, something that is often not included in the client brief and what we spend a considerable amount of time on ourselves instead is to understand: who are the client’s customers and what is the client’s competitors in this area (assuming the client is a hotel/commercial client). More details surrounding the project and the client’s preferences etc. is something that we will work on together during the project.
What new trends are you seeing being incorporated into interiors?
New trends that I see within the hotel industry is that clients are bringing in two interior designers with one responsible for F&B and one responsible for rooms.
A very interesting trend that I have seen lately is that Millennials are spending more money on travelling but they are looking more for lifestyle brands instead of pure luxury. Lifestyle brands focus on current trends e.g. pop-art, and the design life-cycle is considerably shorter compared to super-luxury.
As a result of the pandemic new resorts focus on private villas where you can spend more time and live more private than regular hotel rooms.
How important is wellness in the design process?
Wellness is very important and the trend is growing. Previously you had few hotels that focused on wellness but nowadays with more stress in our everyday most ultra-luxury hotels look at this as a necessity rather than a niche. The prevalence of hotels where you for example have to leave your electronics at the door is increasing. Also, as wellness is very individual, it is important to find a bespoke solution for each client. Luckily we have many strong designers with various types of expertise of this that ensure we always find what works best for our client.
What sustainability guidelines do you follow or is this bespoke to each project?
Sustainability is important and definitely something that is getting more attention but as every project is unique and clients often have very specific sustainability agenda we always tailor this for each project.
What advice would you give to a hotel operator who is looking to renew their interiors?
First of all, do the renovation step by step in order to not close down entirely during the renovation. Secondly, spend money wisely where quality really is visible, e.g. bathroom, furniture and lighting. As an example, there are few things more annoying in a hotel than if there is no master light switch and you have to run around in the room to find all the switches. Thirdly, choose an experienced designer who understands the complexity of the work and has the commercial understanding of your business – not everything needs to be gold plated in order to shine!
What’s next for Sophie Mir?
We are a global design firm with offices in Singapore, New York, London and Dubai and pleased to have recently opened our new office in Stockholm, close the headquarters of Raison d’Etre.