In conversation with: Tara Rodrigues

Tara Rodrigues won The Big Interiors Battle on Channel 4 and now plans to build a business based on a holistic approach to interior design

When did you start your business and why? I launched my business, Tara Rodrigues Interiors in April 2023. Prior to that I had been doing freelance work for other interior designers and wanted more creative freedom to deliver my own unique offering directly to clients.

Much of my design process embodies biophilic principles and a holistic approach. It’s a culmination of what a client desires for the space and design that will enhance their lifestyle and wellbeing. Bringing continuity from the external elements enhances physiological and psychological health which is one of my business ethos. I create energising interiors with a positive impact, translating my clients’ wishes into beautiful, innovative and functional spaces.

Tara is not afraid to use bold colours (photo credit J Watson Media)

You champion ethical and ecological design, how do you demonstrate this in your projects? My ethical practice is reflected throughout my design process. One of my business aims is to demonstrate that interior design can enhance the way we live, interact with our environment and others. I am continuously learning how to refine my design process to put inclusivity at the forefront, so that I can accommodate all forms of physical ability and neurodiversity.

 My ecological approach is embedded within my biophilic design process. I draw a lot of inspiration from the configuration, shapes and colours found in the natural environment. I usually start the design process with an image of nature to conceptualise a colour palette and this may evolve in the final design scheme as a botanical wallpaper or leaf motif mural. Each project is different, but an example of indirect biophilic design is where I use colours and textures that reference nature such as rough plaster walls or green accent cushions.

Design by Tara Rodrigues
Tara brings the outside in through plants and themed wallpapers

The interior design industry has been slow to embrace diversity. As a person of colour, have you had to negotiate obstacles in your career?  I’ve certainly faced the ambivalence towards proactively making the interior design industry accessible and inclusive to black people and other ethnic minorities. Navigating the unconscious bias of others has been difficult but I have also been really encouraged to see so many designers taking a dedicated stance towards changing the face of the industry.

I would love to see if a multi-pronged approach was applied, tackling diversity at its grass roots, assimilating diversity within HR practices with the addition of internal and external accountability. For small studios inundated with projects, along with all the other things that come with running a business, this might be the catalyst for meaningful and lasting change.

Tara’s winning concept for The Big Interiors Battle (photo credit Remarkable TV)

You recently won The Big Interiors Battle on Channel 4. Why did you enter the competition and how has it impacted you and your business? I applied for The Big Interiors Battle in April 2022 (though it didn’t air until May 2023) and was a 37-year-old single mum of two, with rent and other financial responsibilities. I was looking for a new job at the time and had received a job offer for a junior design role offering a salary of 22K per year.  I was so deflated at the prospect of doing a poorly paid, junior role for another year with two children to support.

I received a message on Instagram about the show and the details of how to apply. I saw this opportunity as a ladder that fell across my path which had the potential to help me get where I wanted to be. I had always planned to start my own business as I have a niche offering as a designer and am also very passionate about doing non-profit work. The show was a great launchpad for my own company and I grew a lot both personally and as a professional designer throughout the process.

The number one impact has been the financial relief it has provided which ultimately means I am in a better position to give my kids the quality of life I have wanted for a long time!

What advice would you give to your younger self? Rise quicker from the hard falls, learning how to pivot quicker and use everything as an opportunity for growth.

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