Being born into art and Italian culture it has always been clear that Vera Sant Fournier would eventually be working in the design industry, her father having been an art connoisseur and her grandmother being an exquisite artist from Capri, Southern Italy.
It has been a long journey. From working at her family’s art gallery to travelling all around the world, picking up ideas and worldwide design as she went along.
Here is what she had to tell me about her life decisions, goals and the ups and downs of working in interior design.
What made you decide that it was interior design that you wanted to work in and not art or maybe a career to do with your Italian heritage?
I was always a daydreamer, a dedicated creative often coming up with ideas and jumping from one idea to another. I was always creating something, often out of nothing. My mother can vouch for that. I would often come home with my new clothes permanently destroyed after painting a room at my childhood friend’s house, now the managers of BETA paints!
After finishing my studies in Art and Design, I worked with one of Malta’s leading furniture suppliers. There, I learnt that I had a natural flair, people always trusted my instincts and my guidance towards manifesting their dream home. After two years, I needed to evolve so I moved into starting my own business. I did consider art restoration and of course, I also wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and eventually manage our family-run art gallery.
Having said that, I am still an avid lover of all things beautiful, artistic and Italian of course, including food. Interior design is an evolved passion based on everything I grew up with, based on what my eyes absorbed over the years.
Would you say that you have a signature style? If so, what style do you feel you represent?
I have often had this conversation with other designers and architects. How can one not impose their own taste and style on a client? Our job is actually to portray a representation of who the client is, what their lifestyle is and create a space that reflects them as individuals.
Of course, one would pick a designer based on their portfolio, if their work reflects what the client wants, then they would be the right designer for them. I feel I represent a style that is timeless, elegant, practical, simple and yet eclectic.
We hear you have recently had a little baby girl! Congratulations! Did pregnancy and being a mother affect your career?
Thank you!! Yes, I am a proud mum of two amazing girls. I continued to work, even on sites till the very end of my pregnancy, with my belly sometimes getting in the way. I must admit, at times I felt drained and needed my rest, but I did return to work in full swing when the baby was six months old.
What would you say is the most satisfying thing about being an interior designer?
Without a doubt the most satisfying thing about my job is making other people’s dreams come true. Simply seeing the clients’ faces when I present the design visuals gives me a great sense of satisfaction. I am happy that they are happy, it’s as simple as that.
Have you ever had to design a space that wasn’t to your liking because of a client’s specifications?
When one commissions an artist, an architect, a designer or anyone that needs to create, one must let that person or organisation create. We will have an objective in mind and the worst thing would be not to be allowed to deliver the concept we want to portray. I would not be able to present a design that would not be to my liking to a client. Luckily, I have never been in that position, but if ever I had to be, I would politely refuse the project. No project is created based on dislikes, all projects are born from a thorough understanding of the client’s wishes and creating a design concept that reflects them with our own touch.
How do you see yourself grow in the next five years?
Over the past four years, we have grown to be a team of three designers and the studio is already getting tight. So far, I have achieved everything I have dreamt of and that I am grateful for, people believe in us and love what we deliver.
I do envision delving into my father’s footsteps, eventually opening a home boutique and art gallery. Of course, I will not be able to be on sites forever, so I will lighten things up. Hopefully, my girls will join me in my venture, and who knows? Maybe my mother too.
What would you say is every interior designer’s curse?
Besides not being able to be allowed to be free with their vision, I feel the worst thing would be not to be on the same wave length as the client. I emphasise the importance of ‘clicking’ with your interior designer, you are ultimately trusting a stranger with your home or your commercial space. If there isn’t that initial chemistry and understanding, I feel it would not be a fruitful relationship.
What words of wisdom would you give any budding interior designer in Malta?
Test the waters, let your ideas soar, be innovative, conduct research, travel, meet and study people, absorb and analyse your surroundings. Imagine on behalf of others.