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We’ve been chatting with Helen Ewart, Interior Designer at M1NT STUDIO.

Claire: So first things first tell us a little more about M1NT Studio…

Helen: We are an interior design studio made up of 5 designers; Helen Ewart, Janet Steer, Louise Grimes, Ewa Sydor and Steph Taylor. We all worked together in an architect firm in Manchester up until July when we were made redundant due to CV-19. We were only 3 days into redundancy when we met and founded the company and started working with our very first client on the same day. Since then we have worked hard developing our brand, reaching out to existing and new clients. The most rewarding aspects so far have been learning about business start up, having full creative freedom to create something unique with the rest of the team and all the amazing support along the way.  It really has been an absolute positive in an otherwise testing time.

Claire: What sort of projects do you undertake?

Helen: We cover retail, residential, commercial and hospitality design. Pre M1NT Studio we worked on super fast retail roll outs alongside office designs and social housing. During the 5 months of M1NT Studio we have already undertaken 4 residential projects and we are currently starting a restaurant design and some more retail roll outs. We are excited about getting to know and meeting our new clients.  

Claire: Are you using any particular style/ trend requests from your clients?

Helen: Trends are continuing from the last few years in residential, industrial elements are still strong, crittal and dark finishes but also scandi/ boho textured design are popular. Terrazzo isn’t going away and tiles are a strong finish be it floors or walls across all sectors.

Office design is always evolving and we are seeing a bigger focus towards wellbeing and creating memorable people focused interiors to help attract new staff or improve staff retention. We see sustainability and British made as something that is becoming more important for clients and manufacturers/suppliers.

Claire: How’s it going and has it been difficult starting the business with the current situation / pandemic?

Helen: We are a social bunch so we miss the face to face networking we are used to. We love going out and meeting new clients or industry peers and really getting to know them. We also miss sitting round the same table and bouncing ideas around and comparing sketches or samples. Screen time can zap that creativity sometimes but like the rest of the world we are evolving and finding other ways to share ideas with each other and visually communicate ideas to our clients.

Claire: I really don’t want to talk too much about Covid as I’m pretty sure we’re all sick of hearing and talking about it now; but –  Think for you guys (and for us at DSN) – Covid has given us the opportunity for new things, What are your thoughts?

Helen: We have been forced into a situation that has given us the confidence to create a studio consisting of 5 dynamic, experienced and hardworking designers and every day we are doing something we love. I feel so lucky. The five of us are all so different and that gives us so much strength to take on each project with so much depth. It isn’t easy to set up in these challenging times as the world isn’t ticking along in the same way so it is a massive leap of faith.

I think companies/people should step out their comfort zones and see what wonderful businesses have been created during this time and use them over other more established companies. The independent start ups/small businesses that didn’t see this coming, forced into taking that leap of faith are the ones putting their heart and soul into every project/product-you can spot them a mile off. These are the people you want to work with.

M1NT Studio is such a wonderful creation off the back of utter chaos and we create purposeful spaces. We carefully listen, collaborate and develop clients brief into truly engaging experiential and productive environments. Clients user needs are everything. If the client can’t use the space as it is intended then you haven’t achieved your goal, even if it looks good as a result.

Claire: Moving to a bit more of an ‘about you’ questions session …  

Where and What did you study?

Helen: I studied an art and design foundation course at Manchester Met followed by Interior Design at Leeds collage of art and design and was lucky to spend a term in a Belgian University in a small city called Mechelen.

Claire: When/ What made you decide to become an Interior designer?

Helen: My passion for space and form. From a very young age I wanted to do something to do with buildings. I worked in 2 different Manchester based architects practices for my work experience at school and I was always very creative. Be it internal or external, I had a fascination for buildings. I think my love for texture, surfaces and finishes pushed the decision to focus on Interior design over architecture in the end.

Claire: Who/What inspires you inside and out of the Interiors world?

Helen: Fashion is a big one. I think it follows similar trends. When 90s came back a lot of retro tiles and finishes came at a similar time. Neon arrived at similar time. Travel is a massive one. You can find the most beautiful inspiration from just walking around and seeing the world, I have missed that a lot this year. It will be interesting to see the trend forecast following the pandemic and what effect it has had on design, I wonder if we see more ‘local’ trends forming as a result of lack of travel.

Claire: What is the best professional lesson you’ve learnt?

Helen: Take your time. You hit deadlines easier if you breath. You can speed up by going slower. Be organised. We are very methodological. We have trackers and planners and processes. We need to often educate the client in this. You need to follow processes before reaching your design. It will be more considered and more functional this way much less likely to hit problems. It takes a lot of composure in stressful situations to achieve this. I feel I have mastered this more and more throughout my career.

Claire: If you had to pick one  – what would be your biggest career highlight to date?

Helen: Easy. Setting up M1NT Studio Ltd with the most amazing team. So proud. Everyday.

Claire: And finally just for fun…  

If you could be doing any other job that your current one, what would it be?

Helen: A florist would be lovely. I love flowers, It seems relaxing. Or in journalism, I like to learn about people.

Claire: Pineapple on Pizza – Yes or No?

Helen: 100% yes

Claire: Bleughhhh

Claire: If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your friends and family assume you had done?

Helen: I’m a goody two shoes so obviously they would never believe this. Not wanting to leave a dancefloor and having to be escorted off it or dancing on furniture. Trying to peer into a fancy house to look at the interior design. Trespassing to take a short cut, I am very inpatient.

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