Interview with Malaysian Interior Designer, Nik A Ramli
We met with interior designer Nik A Ramli, who resides in England and has made a name for himself, both in Malaysia and in the UK. We couldn’t get enough of Nik’s charming personality and his enthusiasm for glamorous designs at affordable prices. If you’d like to find out how a creative interior designer makes a name for himself in this competitive industry, then learn from one of the very best here and take Nik’s advice if you’re thinking of following his footsteps!
Q: What is interior design?
N: Many people including interior designers are confused as to what interior design is. Interior design is all about knowing space, the human being movement, traffic movement and psychology which involves colours and textures. Interior design is also about understanding clients. Some of the other areas that interior designers need to be aware of are safety, rules and regulations of building, and furniture.
Q: Tell us how you got into interior design?
N: After my SPM, I joined a private college in Malaysia and did a Diploma in Interior Design. After graduation, I worked with an interior design and architectural company. After a while, I realised that having a Diploma alone was not enough. I needed to learn more and understand what interior design is all about. I enrolled myself at British Council to brush up my English, and then applied to various universities in the UK. I was offered a place in Bradford University and jumped on the opportunity because it was nice to go to the same place where my father furthered his education. I then went on to Leicester University to continue my degree and Masters. I met loads of friends along the way and of course, had a lot of fun.
Q: Are qualifications important to pursue a career in Interior Design?
N: Yes, they’re very important, but so is experience. You need a combination of both. During job interviews, people take you more seriously if you’ve got the right qualifications. In order to receive a promotion at work, experience helps but then again, qualifications are essential.
Q: What qualifications should students go for then? Diploma? Degree? Masters? Or even a PhD?
N: You only need a PhD if you want to go into education. In most cases, a degree or Masters is good enough. You learn different things on different levels. On a Diploma, you spend a lot of time sitting in the corner, drawing a vase, apple or flowers. It may be boring but you need to master the flow of drawing and seeing things. On a degree level, you’ll learn all about architecture and life figure drawings to get the movement of human figure. For Masters, you’ll do more research and analysis. Say you design a bar, you need to know the location that will sell your bar. Or if you designed an apartment, you need to consider if they’re sellable and take into account budgets and costs.
Q: What makes an interior designer special?
N: Every interior designer must have his own signature style. We’ve seen copy-cat designers, but they won’t go far. My style is laid-back glamour – I use high end furniture at moderate prices. I love using plants in design because they give a smooth feeling and I always go for a little ‘Oompah’. For example, I get inspiration from an existing artwork and use colours from the painting for furniture ideas. So if there’s a bit of yellow on the picture, I’d use that same colour for accessories like cushions or vases. And if the clients listen to Jazz every evening in the room, I’d throw in a little bit of traditional design classics like a Barcelona chair with loads of sophisticated furniture that are tall and streamlined. The older the pieces, the better! There’s inspiration in everything; from album covers to food and wallpaper. A creative interior designer finds inspiration around him.
Q: Your favourite project so far?
N: I designed a famous South Indian actor’s house. When I was first given the brief, my employer said the client will decide on whether to employ us based on my drawings. I thought – ‘The pressure is on!’ I came up with the perspectives, my company went to Mumbai to show them to the client and he fell in love with it straightaway. Another rewarding moment is when I went back to my client’s house in Belsize Park to see all my designs materialise in front of me! It was a lovely feeling when my client opened the door.
Q: Interior design sounds like hard work. What’s the most challenging bit?
N: Bringing out what the client wants is the tricky bit. We need to know clients very well. Whether you’re working with a company or a freelancer, you’re quite likely to compete with other designers for a project. For freelancers like myself, we rely on our website or word of mouth. It’s also important to create a strong rapport with clients so that you develop a closer relationship, allowing you to understand their style a little bit more.
Q: Any advice to students who wish to study interior design or hope to be one?
N: Try not to go freelance yet. First, get a job with a company to gain as much experience as you can, Work for companies or showrooms that represent beautiful products. Increase your product knowledge especially on furniture. Times are tough now. Do work placements on holidays as they’re the best way to learn about the business and a great place to pick the brains of some of the industry’s finest.
An aspiring journalist with a passion for investigative journalistic work. Also a self-declared masterchef.