Off to Milan

New Zealand interior designer Kirsten Ford has won a trip to Milan to the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the ‘Oscars of Design’.

Ford was picked out as the New Zealand winner by a global design competition run by Schneider Electric, open to architects and designers with recently completed residential projects.

The win validates her decision to say farewell to the corporate world after a 15-year career to follow her dream and passion for all things interior design.

She has never looked back and admits she has never been happier after establishing boutique interior design studio Kirsten Ford Design on Auckland’s North Shore.

Specialising in new builds or full renovations, Ford works with busy clients, their architects, builders and trades from concept to completion of your finished home.

Tell us a bit about your change from corporate to interior design? How did you make such a leap of faith?

After a 15-year career in marketing and management positions in the corporate world in both Auckland and London, I was really keen to move into an industry that blended the business skills I’d learnt with the creative inspiration I had from the time spent living in Europe. Designing and building two family homes sparked a real passion for interior design and after completing the Diploma of Interior Design from New Zealand’s Interior Design Institute in 2015 I decided to follow my dream, launching my own business in 2016.  

How do you find balance with running your own business after being so entrenched in the corporate world?

As a mum of three children, I share my life between my passion for design and my family life with husband Andrew. I don’t think I’ll ever find the perfect balance as I always want to give 100 per cent to whatever I’m doing. But working for myself allows me the flexibility I love to be a mum and also the satisfaction of working on amazing projects for fabulous clients. And that combination is priceless.

You recently won a trip to Milan to the Salone Internazionale del Mobile, the ‘Oscars of Design’. What did you have to do to win?

This was a global design competition run by Schneider Electric, open to architects and designers with recently completed residential projects. There was one winner from each of the seven countries, selected by the international judging panel for Australia, Brazil, China, Mexico, New Zealand, Russian and Spain. I’m the New Zealand winner and am so excited that my interior design must have dazzled the judges.

Can you tell us about the home you entered in the competition?

I submitted my entry to the global competition with a recent high-end interior design project that I’m extremely proud of. The cliff-top new build designed by architects Studio John Irving, is a bold architectural statement and the interior design both complements and contrasts with the masculine concrete, steel and glass design.

You’ve effectively designed your way to Milan after only three years of setting up your own interior design company, you must be celebrating?

Dreams do come true!  I’m thrilled to have been selected by the judges to attend the event in Milan, it’s a dream for any interior designer and will be an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s fair to say the Champagne was definitely popped when I found out I’d won!

Sustainability is always a hot topic; how do you incorporate that into your interior design process?

From maximising the efficient use of space and planning for energy-efficient lighting, to using materials made in a socially responsible manner, I am very aware of the environment and of adopting a more sustainable design ethos. I’m also a big believer in buying less and buying well – choose beautiful pieces that you absolutely love that are well made and will last you a lifetime – and beyond. 

When are you off to the 58th annual Milan furniture fair and what do you hope to experience while you’re there?

Salone Internazionale del Mobile design exhibition runs from April 9 to 14, 2019 and Milan also hosts its annual design week at the same time. I’m looking forward to exploring the various exhibits and installations, experiencing first-hand the most beautiful and inspiring interiors, looking at what will be trending and discovering innovative new products from design superstars.

What advice would you give to someone reading this that feels stuck in a rut of corporate life and wanting to pursue their dreams?

Firstly, articulate your vision – what you’d actually love to be doing. Then talk to people with business smarts you really admire who know your skill set and can help you refine your dream.  In my case, the dream of being an interior designer was confirmed by a manager and mentor from many years ago. Once you’re certain of what you’re chasing, deliberately seek out and surround yourself with people who are going to help you make it happen. I was so lucky to hear about a business coach for interior designers – this amazing lady really was the difference between having a dream and making it a reality.  

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