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    “The most successful interior designs don’t follow fads.” – Jane McConnell, Conrad Gargett principal

    Stephanie McDonald

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    Jane McConnell has recently been appointed principal and head of interior design at Conrad Gargett.

    She has over 15 years of interior design experience across the workplace, residential, retail and hospitality sectors.

    Architecture and Design spoke to McConnell about her recent appointment, trends in the interior design industry and why face-to-face contact is important.

    What are you hoping to achieve as head of interior at Conrad Gargett?

    I am honoured to be joining such a prestigious firm and I’m really looking forward to working on a range of exciting projects that are already in the pipeline. Conrad Gargett has such a range of typologies, this role will draw on all of my previous experience both in Australia and overseas, from healthcare, commercial, residential and retail.

    I am also looking forward to growing the ID presence in the market as the capacity of the firm is impressive, so the sky is the limit.

    You have over 15 years’ experience in interior design. What has been the biggest influence on your interior design work over the last 15 years?

    Without question, it has been my peers. Interior design is a profession that I always feel you can’t help but share your personal beliefs and points of view.

    I have been lucky to work with some amazing people in some great organisations that have shaped my design ethos. I have been nurtured and challenged along the way, and looking back at the highs and lows, I can’t help but recognise the lessons learnt that have helped me grow both professionally and personally.

    What is one interior design fad that you were happy that went away?

    Perhaps it’s indicative of not following fads, but I believe the most successful interior design projects are bespoke solutions that don’t follow fads. That said, there has definitely been an increase in the amount of detailing and accessories within commercial spaces that just didn’t happen 10 years ago. My clients are now really open and want those smaller, more personal objects in their working environments.

    What project are you most proud of?

    Most recently I have been working with several large organisations to develop strategic directions for their business and using the built form as a tool that communicates this to their employees and clients. This type of work is really challenging and something I find very fulfilling. It allows me to get to know my clients’ business intimately and they have shown me an incredible amount of trust in return. To hear the responses from their teams after a successful delivery makes it all worthwhile.

    Are there any overseas trends that you think could work well in Australia?

    I am constantly reading and researching articles on global trends, particularly in workspace and retail. Concepts like ‘Bleisure’ and being a ‘Flexecutive’ are currently challenging our ideas of what it means to work and play. I believe we are really only starting to see exactly what impact these types of concepts are having on the design of all our spaces, not just our workplace.

    Retail, residential and public spaces are evolving quite quickly and it is really exciting to be involved in the deign discussion/debate.

    What is the best piece of advice someone has given you?

    Pick up the phone or get face-to-face! With such a huge amount or work done via email we don’t spend enough time just talking to each other. There is just so much that is lost in an email and I am always encouraging my team to take the time to engage directly with peers, clients and consultants. You learn so much more when you are face-to-face with someone. It creates a better relationship which in the end brings better results.

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