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There is a need for Interior Design Community to bridge existing knowledge gap of the profession, says Jacqueline Aki

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The Managing Partner, James Cubitt Interiors, Mrs. Jacqueline Aki who has over 20 years of experience in the built environment, alongside her team which consists of designers, architects and strategists, the firm offers various interior architectural and design services to commercial, retail, and high-end residential clients.

First a building technologist, who went on to obtain her certification in interior design whilst under the tutelage of RIBA Certified Architect Alan Davies, MD of James Cubitt Architects, Aki told newsmen in an interview in Lagos recently that her belief in the value Nigerian designers offer in the industry drives her promotion of capacity building for local talents and designers in aligning with global standards. Excerpts:

What’s has your experience been as an interior design professional in the last two decades?

Practising Interior architecture, has been quite an interesting journey. I have learned a lot about the Nigerian market, and how different it is from other African countries where we have handled projects.
Ten years ago, there were hardly any professional interior designers or architects, I have watched the industry expand to the point where, there are over 60 registered interior design companies, with a very few of these companies offering professional design services. A major challenge experienced in our industry is the lack of an institution setting or developing standards and policies to guide the interior design industry.

Although, every designer category plays its role in the successful delivery of an interior design project, a major fall out is a misrepresentation of capacities and designer categories in our industry, as such it is imperative that we recognise each others’ strengths and leverage on our collective knowledge base and efforts in order to value our various inputs.

For example, what a professional interior architect or designer does is quite technical and can be compared to what the architects do. Outside understanding structures, space planning and optimisation, advising technical specifications of fittings, fixtures and finishes, professional interior designers and architects deploy principles that address space psychology, sustainability and the wellness of building occupants and end-users. Principles of wellness for example cover methodologies to reduce stress, improve air quality, address acoustics and even elimination of harmful emissions from material finishes deployed on projects. The Professional interior designers/ architects design for safety, functionality and aesthetics.

More importantly, an architectural degree and license is required to practice as an interior architect.
Whereas the decorator’s strength is less technical and majorly lies in the aesthetics such as choosing colors, finishes fittings and furniture styles.

 

You spoke about the uniqueness of the Nigerian market. What exactly do you mean?

The first thing that stands out for me is how the Nigerian market is yet to appreciate the importance and role of a professional interior architect or designer on projects.
A prominent trend is with individual clients, and this is synonymous with residential projects; whilst one must agree that the space in question belongs to the clients, considering they are the final occupants, we find that the client often neglects the need to give the autonomy required to guide the understanding of their needs in order to proffer the right design solutions. For example there are technical considerations that must be made when specifying floor finishes.

Bathroom tiles for example, especially walk in showers, must have a minimum slip resistance considered safe for wet areas. Some client’s choose to source directly, but this should always be guided by a certified designer. I believe the lack of recognition of the profession lies in our failure to constantly enlighten the market. We at James Cubitt play our part , by constantly acquainting our clients with, what our profession is and its importance on projects when handling workplace, retail, hospitality or residential design. The lack of awareness on the part of client’s and the market is a major challenge, so I believe as a community we must begin to bridge this gap.

How would you describe your design philosophy?

 

First I believe that Great spaces, begin with a well-rounded understanding of clients’ needs and expectations, as such every space must carry an ethos of functionality and ease.
I also believe that every space should improve the well being even as it positively impacts the end users’ , by aligning with their culture and brand , as is the case with workplace, retail or hospitality design and with their lifestyle with residential design.

What projects have you worked on?

We have worked on quite a number of projects. Since inception we have worked on over 100 projects with a number of commissions across West Africa. We have designed and executed projects for various multinationals as well as indigenous firms. A few of the brands we have serviced include Coca Cola, MTN, Ericsson, Nestle Foods, Payd, Dangote Industries, Diageo/ Guinness, International Flavours and Fragrances, International Finance corporation and (Diamond) Access Bank Plc.

 

 

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