Rob Lessmann founded interior design consultancy Design’d Living in 2015. Here he talks about the challenges of working in both the UK and Dubai
What first drew you to a career in interior design? From a young age I was fortunate to be exposed to multiple cultures and was greatly influenced by the different design trends. I went to university, but I didn’t enjoy it as I wanted to get out and earn money. Whilst the core of my business today is design, I know how to install all the elements having frequently worked on sites to pick up a diverse skill set. This means I understand the trades I work with, making for a very cohesive programme as I respect the challenges experienced on site.
People interest me greatly, therefore meeting them daily to discuss their project aspirations is something I thoroughly enjoy. I am fortunate to continue to travel and my brain rarely settles as I constantly scan my surroundings.
Can you describe your style? I am all about functionality, what use is a beautiful space if you have zero storage or the lighting is so dim you can’t see the textures. Ultimately my job at Design’d Living is to translate a client’s vision into a style they can comfortably live and work in.
In the early days of setting up the business I followed the brief to the last letter. Now that I have been doing this for some time I am bolder in my choices and often steer clients away from their original vision. Working with local artisans is something I am passionate about. We are working in an industry that can be quite frivolous and unsustainable, I am always looking for ways to reduce site waste. I love bespoke joinery and layering of fabrics to create textures and depth.
You split your time between London and Dubai – how do the projects differ in the two countries? Dubai is fast paced, my recent project there was to ensure a return on investment for a client that was offering short term lets in a very tight timeframe. I find my time is mostly spent on site supervising the works and ensuring the standard of workmanship is exemplary.
In the UK, I am fortunate to work with teams of master craftspeople that deliver the most exceptional joinery and furnishings. I am exploring ways of replicating the skills we have in the UK over in our studio in Dubai, the local craftspeople are so obliging and are relishing the experience of trying new designs and I am enjoying seeing the journey progress.
Do you have design studios in both countries or are you primarily based in London? I am fortunate to have a base in both countries. I find the exposure to such diverse architecture, hugely inspiring and whilst I have only been in Dubai for a short time, I am feeling positive about the future out there for the business.
What challenges do you face working across two continents? The time difference is minimal so this works in our favour as a business. Because I am so hands on with all our projects, I have frequent catchups with our site teams to ensure things are on track, it can be a challenge not being on site in person but I am fortunate to have a great team that communicate effectively.
I was recently offered a slot at Clerkenwell Design Week but also had an offer for the same time in Dubai, that can be a challenge as I hate saying no to invitations to speak at events.
Did you always aspire to have an international clientele? Yes, my father is German and my mother is English, our house was always full of different nationalities and I love hearing about their life experiences. My clients love to travel and this always leads to some very exciting and eclectic design ideas.
Who or what inspires you? People always inspire me, every day I challenge myself to do better. I rarely sit still. In my early career I was fortunate to have a stint at McLaren Automotive, the precision and attention to detail is something I always look back on as a very inspirational time.
Prior to going to university, I worked for a branding agency and was fortunate to be involved in a major pitch to Rowntree’s. This greatly influenced my choice of career. Interior Design is so much more than pretty fabrics and my early career experiences have greatly influenced my lifestyle.
What is your favourite possession? I am profoundly dyslexic, my mind works a million miles an hour, therefore trying to capture my thoughts on paper can be challenging. During lockdown I purchased a Remarkable tablet, it has revolutionized the way I record my thoughts and sketch ideas.
I also love cars and watches. The mechanics always fascinate me and the workings encased in a beautiful design is something I will never tire of appreciating. Hats off to the creators of these highly competitive industries they inspire me to push boundaries daily in my designs.
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