Ask The Expert


How would you describe your design ethos?

I believe that design is very subjective and can never be a one-size-fits-all affair. I very strongly believe that just like peo- ple, spaces should have character and personality.

My aim when designing a space is to bring it to life and let it tell a story. I usually ask myself, if this space were a person what would they look, sound, feel and smell like? What would they say to you when you first meet them and what would you discover when you’ve spent some time together?

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My sources of inspiration vary widely. Cliché as it might sound, inspiration comes from all around, inside, behind and sometimes right in front of me. Just recently I had a Salvador Dali-type situa- tion where I literally jumped out of bed at 4am, grabbed a pencil and pad i keep on my night stand and sketched out a room I had seen in my dream.

I got a couple of odd looks in the studio later that day as I explained this wacky concept to my team, especially when I told them that I saw it while swimming in the belly of a whale.

But sometimes it’s not about being inspired by things I’ve seen or places I’ve been. Sometimes it is about what inspires my client and their brand; what they believe in, stand for and aspire to.

What has been your most memorable project to date?

Ironically, my most memorable project is one that never got built. A beautiful family home with a view of the Atlan- tic. I remember working on that project tirelessly for weeks. It was particularly exciting as they were my first Nigerian clients and I was keen to prove to them, and myself, that they’d made the right decision by choosing to work with this young, enthusiastic designer.

Sadly there were funding issues and the property was never developed. I still have all the presentation boards stored somewhere and had one of my sketches framed and hung up on a wall in my office. It’s a nostalgic reminder of how far I’ve come and why I am here in the first place.

How has the interior design industry evolved in Nigeria since you started out?

The transformation in the Nigerian interi- or design industry has been tremendous. I remember when it felt like such a lonely road. Not only were there less than a handful of professional interior design- ers, there were even fewer clients who actually understood our role or value to a project. It still isn’t a crowded street par- ty but certainly there has been increased appreciation for the profession. This is evident even from the number of young people who are choosing design as a first option and parents who are actually willing to pay for design school tuition! It is no longer just something you do after you’ve got a ‘real’ degree or a nice distraction for pampered house wives. No doubt, the industry is still very young and still evolving.

I still get called an interior decorator a lot and just the other day an MEP consultant asked if I would be able to read his drawings if he emailed me the CAD files. That was quite amusing.

What is the future of design in Nigeria, and Africa?

The prospects for the future of our design industry are so exciting, the thought literally gives me goose bumps! Africans and Nigerians have been designers of their spaces for centuries but not in the way we understand design in the world today.

We’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do but that is why it is so exciting. With the world fast becoming quite literally a Global village, we have access to so much more technology and a wider array of materials. We can reach out and be inspired and stimulated by great ideas and experiences from all over the world like never before.

What I do hope though, is that while we race to develop at 21st Century speed, we are able to build strong foundations, and do not give up innovation and creation for a ‘copy-and-paste’ culture. That we are able to develop home grown icons and Masters of design.

Omon Mordi
What advice would you give to a young person interested in getting into the industry?

I would say to them, “It’s not as glamorous as it looks!”. Honestly, someone should have said that to me 10 years ago when I decided to venture out as a fabulous interior designer. Or maybe someone did tell me but I was too excited about being creative and expressing myself that I didn’t listen and jumped in heart first.

I pictured myself swanning around my design studio dressed in all black of course, drinking tea all day and making spaces look fabulous by simply waving my magic wand slash HB pencil. I found that as a design professional, there’s not that much ‘swanning’ involved. Long hours are required, black doesn’t look or feel so great on a hot building site and some- times even the strongest cup of tea isn’t quite strong enough to get you through the day! So I would advice a young person interested in a career in design not to take it lightly.

Remember that design is not just about passion and flair, but also about hard work and dedication. If possible, get a few years work experience in a good professional design practice.

That’s absolutely invaluable; arguably even more so than your Diploma. You need to be able to don the designer black dress and heels one minute, the strategic business suit the next and the protective boots and hard hat the moment after that. I would say to them, it may not be so glamorous all the time but if you love it and you are willing to work hard and smart at it, the rewards can be fulfilling beyond measure. So gird your loins, gather the tools and skills you’ll need and come on board!

What are your thoughts on sustainable design solutions?

In simplistic terms, sustainability is about minimising waste and giving a thought to tomorrow. It is about enjoying your spaces today but not doing so at the cost of irreparable damage to the environment.

Do you incorporate themes of sustainability into your own practice?

We certainly do our bit. I wouldn’t say we are experts in sustainable design but I do believe that every little counts. At our studio we’ve adopted certain simple every day environmentally conscious cultures and practices and we try to be as sensitive to the environment as our projects and clients allow.

Should sustainable design be a priority in Nigeria?

Absolutely. This would require a major shift in mind set though, as for a lot of people the environment is so abstract that it would probably not make the list of top ten things to worry about.

Hopefully as we see more contextual design, we should develop more efficient design solutions.

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