Meet the Professionals: Sam Stokoe MCSD (Interior) Chartered Designer

Sam is Director and Design Lead at Newman Gauge. She spoke to us about her journey in the design industry.

Q: Please introduce yourself!

A: I am an eternal daydreamer and love problem solving – I always have! I am inspired by everything. I love nature, fantasy art and unusual textures. I regularly look at simple things like shells or seeds to appreciate the hidden patterns that we often fail to see with the naked eye.

Q: What made you choose this career?

A: I do recall the moment when I decided I wanted to be an interior designer. I was probably around 12 years old and taking a music exam in a very grand hall. After I had completed the tasks, I mused over the beautiful room and the terrible use of the space. I doodled over my page how I felt the layout would work better.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing about what you do?

A: I truly love my job: every project is different. I enjoy understanding the different personalities who will use my space, and I carefully tailor the finishes, fixtures and the entire customer journey to suit their needs.

Q: What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

A: The biggest challenge when I started 20 years ago was being a female in a male-dominated industry. I really had to gather a lot of knowledge quickly to gain the respect of the professional team. I believe the construction industry is very different today and I am excited for the future of the young team we have at Newman Gauge.

Q: What do you think is the future of your sector?

A: Interior design remains a popular career choice and is often perceived as easy; however, there is a proven skill in honing briefs and creating a space that is perceived in the way the client intends.

I hope that commercial interior design gains greater recognition in the new build world. Many local authorities favour the use of architects to develop the interior design on new schools, hospitals and health centres. In my opinion, these often lack consideration for the emotion of the user.

Where I have been involved, I always feel that if we had had an opportunity to comment earlier we could have developed a much better environment. Simple details such as lowering window sills in schools for children to see can help the development and wellbeing of individuals.

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: Right now I am really excited to be working with Hilton Hotels on their new Curio Hotel Brand in Kensington.

We are also evolving two new brands for Marstons Brewery, converting Studley Castle into a new hotel for Warner Leisure Hotels and developing retail units for Center Parcs new holiday village in Longford Forest, Ireland.

Q: What advice would you give to a new designer?

A: If I could give any advice to prospective interior designers, it would be to listen, observe and spend the first years of your career emulating your peers. Learn the vocabulary and present yourself like they do. Once you have the tools of knowledge you can impose your own personality.

Always ask questions, be interested and watch people to understand their psychology: why they sit where they do, why they walk across the grass when there is a path, why they buy unnecessary items in shops. This basic insight will help you formulate spaces that really do work.

Q: What was it like applying to become a Chartered Designer?

A: I found the process really rewarding: taking the time to stop and review previously completed projects helped me appreciate my achievements. I have been continually employed in the commercial construction sector for over 20 years, with an enviable reputation which I am immensely proud of.

I made the decision to apply for Chartered Designer as I was working on a large multi-million pound development, and the Form of Contract required the lead designer to be part of an industry recognised organisation.

Unlike architects, interior designers are not required by law to register or formally monitor their career progression – but I had always had the self-discipline to attend workshops or seminars to ensure I stayed up to date.

Whilst sometimes I felt that the Pathway to Chartered Designer was very time consuming and at times even found the questioning slightly patronising, I recognise that there are many practising interior designers who are not fully aware of health and safety requirements, design risks and building regulations.

The fact that I have to demonstrate to the CSD each year that I am attending CPD (Continued Professional Development) sessions offers assurance to my clients and the construction team that I have been authenticated by a professional body as a proficient interior designer.

Membership of the Chartered Society of Designers benefits my team at Newman Gauge, as the studio has adopted the expectations of the CSD by attending regular CPD workshops and everyone feels these are invaluable for their own career progression.

Newman Gauge’s projects

Bodelwyddan Castle

Bodelwyddan Castle Sam Stokoe

Newman Gauge worked on a glass extension within this listed building, bringing the outdoors inside and ensuring a relaxed atmosphere for the guests.

The Langton Arms

Langton Arms Sam Stokoe

This gastropub in Church Langton was designed with a botanical theme. The parlour and garden room are full of light and plants, and the pub has an open kitchen to display the quality of their food.