interview :: mary-ellen paul

Katie | January 18, 2012

Mary-Ellen Paul is a fellow klc student and writes design blog, House of Paul Interiors. I spoke to her about her mission to break into the interior design industry and become a full time junior interior designer.

What initially attracted you to interior design?

My dad was always redesigning and redecorating the family home, so I’ve always had the interiors bug. It wasn’t until I graduated from University having studied BA Advertising & Marketing Communications and started working full time that I realised the importance of doing what you love.

Mary-Ellen technical drawing on drawing board

What do you love about it now? Anything you hate?!

From those DIY days in the 80s growing up, I’ve always loved the way you could start with a completely empty room, which could be transformed from a blank canvas into something magical. I was definitely attracted to this aspect of interior design. I enjoy creating new and interesting floor layouts, and seeing what the possibilities are. And I enjoy playing with colour, texture, light and space and how these factors influence each other. One thing I find frustrating at times is how difficult it is to get into the industry, but I am completely loving the process of getting there.

Mary-Ellen concept board


Tell me a bit more about your quest to get into the interior design industry.

I was told by a designer that “Interior Design is like the Mafia; very difficult to get into but once you’re in, YOU’RE IN”! It has been a long but creative road and I’m still learning and finding my way. Having wanted to gain knowledge first, I embarked upon a Diploma in Interior Design (almost done) and I write HOP Interiors, my creative blog through which I am fortunate to be able share my thoughts, personal style and design aesthetic with my lovely readers. My aim this year though is to gain my first full time role as an Interior Designer either in London, Asia or the US.

Mary-Ellen sample board

What would make it easier for graduates to find their first job?

I think if the industry followed the same format as the US in terms of development that would be a great help. Student designers realise that interior design isn’t just fluffing cushions and slapping paint on the walls – a formal internship programme would give passionate interns the opportunity to gain hands-on experience. I do think interns sometimes get a rough ride, but if there was a set programme in place, at least they could get some great experience under their belts. There are loads of amazing interior studios out there. I’ve been extremely lucky in the internships I’ve taken part in thus far and have been blessed to have gained so much from them.

How has writing a blog contributed to your development as an interior designer?

Becoming an interiors blogger has contributed to my development immensely. I’d always attended trade shows and seminars, so blogging about them was a natural progression. I have met some amazingly talented people [like Jonathan Adler pictured with Mary-Ellen below] and have gained more of an insight into the interiors world. I’ve strengthened my relationships with designers and interior companies, which has been amazing. And I continue to get the opportunity to meet creative people who are just as passionate as me about the interiors world.

Mary-Ellen with Jonathan Adler

What advice would you give to other aspiring interior designers?

Interiors 101: Never give up! The road to interior design is long and sometimes hard, but as long as you have the passion and the determination you’ll get there. It sounds very cliched I know, but it’s true. Besides, if it’s going be a long road, you might as well enjoy it! Develop yourself – take every opportunity you can to learn more about design, not just interiors, but also product and furniture design. Learning CAD is a must. Take up an internship and absorb as much as you can while you’re there.

Who is your favourite interior designer?

My favourite interior designer is Kelly Hoppen MBE. I’m so lucky to have met her twice (eeeek!) through blogging. I admire Kelly for her continuous development. She’s like the Madonna of the interiors world. I love the way she has evolved her brand. From clothing to shutters to her interior design school and her latest TV series, she has strengthened her brand by staying true to who she is as a designer. The fact she’s created a design school tells me that she understands the plight of young, new designers.

What have you learnt from her?

I’ve learnt that you have to be true to, and believe in, your design… and yourself for that matter. You also have to have a real passion for design to succeed in the industry.

Mary-Ellen technical drawing

Desert island design time… which three items could you not live without?

Luckily I’m not too focused on personal products and gadgets, but I must admit the iPhone is my must-have. I can’t put it down. From Pinterest to Instagram to catching up with emails, it’s my staple.

Beyond that, I couldn’t live without my family, my true friends and a sense of humour!

And finally, what’s your favourite colour?!

Oh that’s an easy one! I love cobalt and navy blue. Forget the stereotype these colours might have; they’re classic, timeless and vibrant. I can’t get enough of them.

Further reading for the especially geeky:


Further Reading for the Especially Geeky ::

Founding Editor – Katie Treggiden

Having established confessions of a design geek in 2010, Katie Treggiden has gone on to a career in design journalism, writing for titles such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, Elle Decoration, Stylist, Design Milk and Ideal Home. In 2014, she launched Fiera, an independent magazine dedicated to discovering new talent at the world’s design fairs. Her second book, Makers of East London, was published in 2015.

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