The Designers' Advisor Asks: Milena Hutchings

Milena Hutchings

MDesign Interiors

Milena is the driving force behind MDesign Interiors, a business created from a passion for property, art and fashion. An accomplished property professional and interior designer, she aspires to deliver luxurious, expressive yet practical interiors with great attention to detail. Coming from a property surveying background, Milena has worked with some of the largest names in the property world, such as Cushman & Wakefield. She started her own venture in interiors after graduating from the KLC School of Design. MDesign extends to all aspects of design and incorporates projects of any budget that require flair, imagination and bespoke thinking, including residential and commercial spaces. Every project is like writing a story, creating personalized spaces to reflect the client’s taste, individuality and lifestyle. With intelligent planning and intuitive use of art, MDesign aims to elevate her client’s living space so they can enjoy their surroundings with sophisticated and liveable solutions.

Milena Hutchings

As an interior designer or brand, how has the pandemic affected your work?

I only founded MDesign Interiors a few years back and have been working hard to develop the brand, website and my business, aspiring to gain a balance between kids, home, personal life and work, as I am sure most of us do. I completed my latest project just before Christmas and was trying to decide between my next project and actually moving house when this pandemic broke out. So yes, my work has been affected; in fact, my whole life has been hit. I cannot do much of my work from home, nor can I win new projects or visit suppliers. Word of mouth, which had been sufficient so far for me in finding projects, is not going to be enough anymore. For me what lies ahead will be a real test and will ‘make or break’ my business.

Further to that, how have you responded to the challenges? What measures have you put in place to not only ensure safe practices but to safeguard your business?

I guess one’s professional response is primarily driven by whether we are overwhelmed by the situation or see it as a challenge or an opportunity to transform. More fundamentally, I see the first changes we need to make being more personal. To me, this means getting back to basics: be kind, understanding, inclusive and accommodating in your personal life and in your business. And, of course, wash your hands! On a more practical business note, unfortunately I fall within the group of self-employed businesses that have only two years of filed accounts and hence will receive no monetary help from the government. I believe there are many colleagues and other creative professions in the same situation. I don’t have a project that I will be restarting when all this is over either. For me, therefore, my priority is to survive through this time, but also to re-think my marketing strategy and be ready to take any opportunity that does come along. I’ll think about diversifying for example, perhaps going into hospitality or office design, or back to property development. In any event I will have to focus on improving my marketing skills and gathering as much advice as possible to reset my bearings. In this respect I count myself lucky to have met such a bright person as Polly Williams from Camberyard Collective – many thanks for your on-going support and presenting me with this opportunity to voice my humble opinion about the situation and what lies ahead.

We are all trying to find silver linings to this crisis. Some are finding more time to be creative – with or without children! – to think about issues in a different way, to explore a new skill or to improve an existing one. What has been your experience so far in terms of creative thinking and output?

I’m certainly trying to see this period as an opportunity – although it’s not always easy! And that opportunity comes in all walks of my life, including my kids, fitness, education and, yes, last but not least, my business. In terms of work, I’ve managed to get down to some long overdue admin, but also looked at other areas I can improve. I have signed up to a CAD course and another in graphic design and am reworking my marketing. In all areas though, I think it’s a great time to do things I’ve always wanted to do but just not had time, so I’m feeding some personal interests like NLP, yoga and meditation as well as helping with a charity in our local community. I also try to spend as much time as possible with my teenage children, having at least one or two meals a day together, so we can share out experiences from the day, the challenges we face and solutions that we have.

Trying to stay on a positive note, we’d love to hear about any benefits you may have discovered amidst the difficulties?

Spending more time with the kids is one of the greatest benefits, also speaking more with family and friends in general. I speak to my mum, for example, who is currently abroad on her own, every day. In fact, generally slowing down and spending more time to do the things I normally miss out on doing is definitely the silver lining out there! That includes more time to think about the business – what I should focus on, what my priorities should be and the best way to reach my goals. Improving my Instagram, LinkedIn, website and online marketing in general are a key part of that. For example, I have decided to put some ideas forward to social media over the next few weeks that focus on three essential items in the principal rooms of our homes, starting with the home office. I’ll be aiming to show there are different furniture options at different price points, but also that there are some great design ideas to make our houses more interesting and functional. I’m calling this experiment ‘three visions of three’ and have invited my followers to ask me what three key items I would suggest for any nominated room in their home. I think this will be a great way for me to engage with my audience and, whatever the outcome, at least I will have tried my best and possibly had some fun!

Looking ahead to the future, when this pandemic is behind us, we’ve been thinking about how this enforced shutdown might be an opportunity to do things – personally, professionally and as a society – a bit differently. We’re thus interested to know how, if at all, you might take your own business forward in a new way?

As the initial shock of this pandemic passes, possibly the greatest favour we could do for ourselves is to let our lives be defined by our vision for the future and not by a virus! Having said that we will all have to make adjustments to how we live and as an interior designer, one of the useful changes I would suggest would be creating safe and harmonious homes from where we can live and work. This means a greater focus on technology and sustainability to deliver a more natural, hygienic and functional environment. How will the design of our home influence us – the colour scheme, the lighting, atmosphere, comfort and functionality? All these aspects impact on the quality of our life – our productivity, focus, mood and wellbeing. Creating the right environment from which to live and work should be a priority. And, practically of course, we should not forget sustainability and focusing on mixing new and old, perhaps using more recycled/upcycled furniture and materials in our future designs.

Many thanks to Milena Hutchings

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