I'm interviewing real-life designers about what it is like to run a design business in countries all over the world. As you'll see these designers have all different backgrounds and experiences, but I think you'll be surprised how similar we all are too.
About Anna Kovalchenko
Anna Kovalchenko moved from her home in Moscow, Russia to Marbella, Spain six months ago. She attended design school at KLC School of Design in London. But before starting in design 6 years ago, she was in hospitality and travel. She now works on medium-scale residences and has wonderful things to say about her new home.
The country is incredibly rich in terms of culture, art and architecture. People come here just to get inspired and generate new ideas! Whenever I need a creative push I just go to Barcelona and visit buildings of Gaudi or the house of Salvador Dali… But even ordinary villages are so cute and beautiful that you are constantly surrounded by aesthetic pleasure. I think for creative individuals it is very important.
Why did you become an interior designer?
I have always had a passion for beautiful interiors, home improvement, and art. I love to draw myself, combine colors and textures. This job is always interesting - each new project is different and it never becomes boring for me. In the past, I worked in the hospitality industry, but it never gave me so much opportunities to express my own creativity. I decided to get the second education at the age of 25 and since then drastically changed my career to interior design. I never regretted this move.
What are the requirements to be an interior designer in Spain?
You need to have a diploma in this field. Being a foreigner, I was also required to write a detailed business plan before I got residence and work permit as well as a permit to register my company.
What does a successful interior design business look like in Spain?
The area where I work is considered to be one of the most expensive and posh in Spain - you will find here some of the most luxurious villas and villages. Successful interior designers work only with luxury properties.
What is the biggest struggle you face as a designer in Spain?
I was working as an interior designer in Moscow, Russia and have recently moved to Spain (6 months ago) and just starting my business here. The biggest challenge so far is to find projects, reliable suppliers, and builders. The competition is quite high - there are many firms who have been here for many decades so for a new person on the market it is quite challenging. The legal norms for construction and interior design also differ from Russia, so I need to constantly educate myself.
What does it take to be a successful designer in Spain?
The city where I live is quite small - you can’t afford to have unhappy clients, this will cost too much for the reputation. Also, I need to constantly network and get out of my office to meet people - in the environment like that most of the deals you get through referrals. I can’t just quietly sit and wait when people start to call me, instead I go around and search for business and new projects.
How do you charge?
I charge flat fee. After meeting with a client on the site, I make an estimate based on the size of the project and hours I will spend on it. I usually add around 10% to the estimate to avoid undercharging. In the beginning of my career, I used to give free consultations, but then faced so many situations where people will just waste your time without any commitment. Nowadays I always charge for initial consultations as well.
What traits or talents have made you successful?
I am very persistent and hardworking. I think many of my successes are just related to the fact that I never give up and every day I do some activities to improve my business or grow as a professional, whether it is educating myself about current interior design trends or improving the design and content of my website.
Do you see any differences between design in the US and Spain?
I would say that style differs a lot. Here we have got lots of Mediterranean, oriental (Arabic) and Scandinavian influence. The American style is also very distinct and you can easily recognize it.
What is your ideal project?
When I have a good budget to work with and client trusts my opinion and aesthetic vision.
What is the design community/ design industry like in Spain?
Spain is one of the leading countries in Europe in terms of interior design. Many trends, ideas, products are born here. Barcelona and Bilbao trade fairs are significant events in the industry, which attract thousands of people from all over the world. People in Spain are very open and friendly, they are eager to collaborate and easy to approach.