In this interview, Tomi Bamgbelu, Creative Director of SpazioIdeale, speaks on the interior design industry, its impact on the future of work, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also charges organisations to be intentional with their office spaces, to improve employee productivity.
1). What is your take on the current state of Nigeria’s interior design and space transformation industry?
The interior design and space transformation industry in Nigeria is evolving and has gained some momentum but it is not quite Uhuru. Compared to developed countries and the likes of South Africa on the continent skilled in interior design, Nigeria has a long way to go.
There is a growing awareness among Millennials, baby boomers, and even Gen Z about the need for interior designers able to create a contemporary ambience in their offices and homes. However, this interest is still low and prevalent in a few segments of society, such as the middle, upper class, and commercial segments of society.
One predominant raw material used in interior design is processed wood and laminated boards, and this, like other related materials, is still being imported. I believe there is room for much-needed growth in other segments of the industry, such as manufacturing, as it is closely related to the interior design industry.
These developments will significantly improve the interior design industry, create job opportunities, attract FDI via exports to other countries, and improve the nation’s economy.
2). How was the industry affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
I do not think the industry was significantly impacted by COVID-19, because though not at full capacity, things went on as usual. From my interaction with other interior designers, I gathered that many people had jobs during the pandemic, with existing and even new clients seizing the opportunity to design their home offices.
However, the impact was felt indirectly from related industries like manufacturing, where the lockdown, border closures, and the country’s general economic situation necessitated the steady increase in the cost of goods used for projects, as a result of FOREX concerns.
3) How did SpazioIdeale tweak its business model to navigate the effects of the pandemic?
We created client retention strategies to ensure we survived the pandemic, but we didn’t have to do much. We planned to pivot to manufacturing and to infiltrate a different market segment at some point but haven’t done this due to current project overload. We see the market for the freelancer or remote working population, as many people worked from home in 2020. And in conjunction with a sister company in Ijoko, we will tap into it and launch soon.
However, we targeted the healthcare industry because hospitals, HMO providers, and hospital equipment manufacturers and providers were doing well at the time. Our operational flexibility and proper strategy got us to pivot and focus promptly on that specific industry, and this ensured that we remained relevant at the height of the pandemic.
4). What distinguishes SpazioIdeale from other industry players?
The SpazioIdeale process sets us apart from other players. We have an airtight process that ensures that we deliver excellent quality to our clients; this has helped us retain repeat clients such as Paystack, SoFresh and many others.
All SpazioIdeale’s processes revolve around two key pillars; design and execution, which are delivered to clients over time. Project deliverables feature a distinctive trademark of creative design, experiential spaces, and excellent execution, as usual. Our slogan is “connecting people to spaces”, so all projects are designed with an experiential feature to enable clients to create memories through their interaction and flow with people within the space”
5. What are some of the challenges facing Nigeria’s interior design industry?
The biggest challenge is probably the vulnerability of the manufacturing industry and its correlatedness with the interior industry. Though some of the items we use can be made locally, we are mostly import-dependent due to different concerns.
Again, the quality of vendors and artisans and the absence of professional associations to monitor interior design are other issues. Many people think interior design is purely aesthetic; have a good eye for colours, and voila! you can be an interior designer. There are many things involved in designing spaces for people. Form follows function, and designers must communicate the vision of the company in its space.
In many industries in more advanced climes, companies cluster together geographically for joint advantage. In the United States, for instance, carpet makers can be found in Dalton, Georgia; furniture makers in High Point, North Carolina; automakers in Detroit; film and TV in Hollywood, diamond sellers on 47th Street in New York and so on in Silicon Valley, Madison Avenue etc. This is similar with watchmakers in Geneva, or manufacturers of ski boots in Montebelluna of ceramic tile makers in Sassuolo, Italy, or even a Ladipo, in Lagos for vehicle spare parts. Nigeria’s design industry needs such a cluster, that improves collective efficiency, allows them trade within themselves, and make the right investments to move the industry forward.
6. What are key lessons Nigeria can learn from developed markets in space transformation?
I think Nigeria needs to create structure and an enabling environment for design. We need to develop the manufacturing sector and other sectors that impact interior design and the industry at large, encourage co-creation and collaboration, etc. Also, we should learn why space transformation is important, and how it affects/improves lives, etc.
7. What is your outlook for the interior design sector in Nigeria?
I believe there will be more growth over the next few years. We have been evolving over the years and will continue to do so, not just in Nigeria but in most parts of Africa. Asides from South Africa, Nigeria is the next largest industry in interior design on the continent. With more commercial, enterprise, and startup activity, we expect to see more office designers, especially from Nigeria, expanding to other African countries with lesssophisticated interior design industries.