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An interview with our Senior Designer, Ciara Neve

Key to our integrated approach is out in-house design team, who specialise in space planning, technical compliance, and manufacturing drawings. We have caught up with Senior Design, Ciara Neve, to understand more about DBSJ’s approach.

Wednesday, March 27th 2024

What brought you to fit-out as a career?

While I was at college studying Interior Design, I carried out work experience at a local interior design firm and loved it! They invited me back to work there two days a week while I finished my studies and then offered me a full-time job. Nearly a decade later, I’ve gained experience transforming interiors across the workspace, retail and hospitality sectors. 

It’s such a fast-paced industry and every project is different. I typically get a few weeks to turn a design around and can see multiple projects through from start to finish in a relatively short time frame. I love the variety this brings, as every client and project is different – no two days are the same! 

Can you explain what makes DBSJ unique?

DBSJ has been successful because of the strength of the client relationships with the team. Our leadership and delivery teams know each client intimately, their business goals and the way they like to work. There is a real trust there between client and supplier and it’s why we get repeat business and referrals. Our flexibility is also key; there are always unknowns with projects and the team handle the unexpected hiccups and challenges with a problem-solving mindset, there is never an issue that can’t be solved, and our clients rely on us to help overcome them. 

What do you think is essential to a successful high-quality fit-out?

Trust, honesty, and a clear understanding of the project brief. It’s important to understand the budget, exactly what the client wants and the way they work as a business from the outset. It’s also essential to be transparent about timelines from day one. It all helps to build trust that we will hit every milestone rather than over-promising and under-delivering. 

What are you passionate about in your role?

I’ve always loved creating spaces and problem-solving. It’s exciting to get a blank space and being entrusted with the task of bringing it to life. Being able to help clients achieve the perfect space and being involved in every step of the process, from start to finish, is truly one of the best parts of being a designer. 

I’m also passionate about the products I specify in a design. I build strong relationships with suppliers and keep up to date on the latest finishes and materials by attending events such as the Surface Design Show, Workplace Design Show and Clerkenwell Design Week. I make a conscious effort to select environmentally friendly products, as well as repurposing and upcycling pieces we’ve already got; whether that’s because it’s been removed from the existing space or another job. Through these sustainable practices, I aim to create space that not only fits the client’s needs but also contributes positively to the health of our planet. 

How do you build/benefit from partnerships in your role?

Partnerships are vital to my role, whether that’s with our suppliers, clients or our delivery team. It’s important that we trust one another. I need our suppliers to guarantee the products we specify will be available when they say they will, as our client is relying on us to deliver on time, on budget and on brand. 

We also have an in-house joinery workshop. Having that on-site expertise to test my conceptual designs, produce samples, and learn from each other makes our offer highly efficient and cost-effective. 

What are you most proud of in your career? (project, product, initiative, etc)

The one that really stands out is the first project I ran with by myself. It was incredibly rewarding to know that my director trusted me to deliver a high-end project in Mayfair for a client based in Dubai. The London clinic was the blueprint for future locations which were being rolled out so from a design perspective it was a fantastic opportunity. I collaborated with the client to create a unique customer experience through the space, from greeting to consultation and treatment. The project covered two floors and had a higher budget than what I’d previously worked with, which allowed me to gain experience and get to know different materials and fabrics as well as bespoke, high-end joinery. 

For young people considering a career in construction, would you have any advice?

I’d say hands-on experience is invaluable in the construction industry. Take on as much work experience as you can because getting out on-site and seeing a design come to life is something you can’t learn from a book! I’d also suggest getting as much training as you can and developing a good network of people in the industry. Contacts open doors for personal and professional growth. Lastly, if you’re considering a career in fit-out, be ready for a fast-paced environment. It’s an exciting field that offers dynamic and rewarding challenges, requiring adaptability and quick thinking.  

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