The decision to make a career U-turn — whether that’s entering into a new profession or changing the direction of a business — is one that nobody can afford to take lightly. So why are we seeing so many professional pivots in the world of interior design? Lori Pinkerton-Rolet is a past-president of BIID and director of Park Grove Design. Since embracing her directorial role in 1993, Lori has pivoted Park Grove Design from a practice with a residential client base to an award-winning hospitality and healthcare interior design business. Her work has been featured in Hospitality, idFX, The Times, Metro, The Sunday Telegraph and House & Garden, as well on television and in several book titles.

As a respected design industry speaker, and someone with first-hand experience of successfully transitioning an interiors brand from one market to another, we’ve invited Lori to share the story of her business pivot with our Inside Knowledge conference audience on June 8. Ahead of the conference, we spoke to the Brighton-based designer about improving people’s quality of life, the next BIID president and how public speaking has changed her as a creative professional.

Star & Garter by Park Grove Designs. Architecture and Interior Photography by Jim Stephenson

Lori, as past-president of BIID and an interior designer industry stalwart, why do you think it is important for the interiors world to have its own conference? 

Our industry is unique. We sit between several other disciplines such as architecture and M&E and as such our challenges are unlike that of other professions in the built environment. The BIID annual conference is therefore an important event in which we can learn from one another.

Can you tell us a little more about what Park Grove does and how marketing and branding (two topics being focused on at this year’s conference) shapes your business strategy?

We tried separating our Hotel Design brand for a few years but it didn’t work for us. We’ve put all of our focus into the one Park Grove Design brand and have simplified this even further in 2017 into one clear statement: Park Grove Design — Unique Interiors. It’s all there really!

Your Brighton-based practice is driven by the philosophy that “great design has the capacity to enhance the quality of peoples lives”. How has design enhanced your own life?

Our environment has such an impact on emotional wellbeing. Nowhere is this more evident than in our work in the care, retirement and dementia design sectors, but it’s also something which affects our office design and that of my own home. For a long time I’ve believed that the best designers are visual “sponges”. We can discern great value, balance and materials, and as such this appreciation for skills and fine work enters into all aspects of my own life and interests.

Your session will see you talking about your business pivot from residential to commercial design, can you give us a little insight into what we can expect to hear?

The two sectors are really quite different, but with similar skill sets. In my talk I will be setting out the key differences in approach between the two, and the sort of structure and mindset a designer is likely to require to transition from one sphere to the other.

You are a widely recognised speaker and have become a voice of the interior design community, why is this important to you? How has public speaking impacted your professional perspective?

Preparing to speak forces me to articulate thoughts which have been previously been more intuitive. When these ideas are more fully formed I can research and develop them further.  This has been very important to my development as a designer.

You moved your business from a residential to commercial market, but how has the industry itself changed since you became a director at Park Grove Design in 1993?

The internet changed the way in which the residential market in particular does business. I think this has been a positive change as users of design services are learning to value us more for design skills than supply. With CID’14 and the other contracts we publish with RIBA, the structure of our fees is now transparent… another plus! Television programmes have in some cases simply challenged, in other instances they have demonstrated the important impact the creative side of a designer’s skill set brings to each project.

Park Grove Design is an award winning business with impressive press coverage, how do you go about making your work and brand visible to award-givers and the press?

Awards have been really exciting for us in the past few years and they always assist with getting us into print. Park Grove won “Best Hotel Suite in Europe” in 2015 and this year we’re up for “Best Restaurant Within a Hotel” in the International Hotel and Property Awards. In the care sector we had a double-hit with a care project which won both the Pinder’s Award and the Dementia Care award for best interior. Bucket list ticks across the board! The award organisers are very good at promotion as it assists them for the following year but we send e-mail notifications of awards and other developments to our databases as well as responding quickly to press enquiries (which seem to always have a three hour turnaround).

What do you hope the audience takes away from your talk at the conference? 

I hope people listening to my talk will take away key points which can assist them in a practical way with assessing whether or not a change of sector is appropriate for them.

As a past-president at BIID yourself, what do you hope president-elect Charles Leon will focus on or highlight in his upcoming year of presidency?

Charles is a great communicator as well as being a great designer. I have every faith that he will take a step back, review where we are as an institute and chart the next steps with ambition for our future and clarity as to the steps which will take us there.

Learn more about Lori’s session and book tickets for the BIID Inside Knowledge conference here.

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