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Designer in Profile: Melanie Brown, Managing Director of Design Direction

Name: Melanie Brown_DSC0027
Company: Design Direction Ltd
Position within company: Managing Director
Website: Design Direction
Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)

Melanie Brown set up Design Direction Limited in 1999 after working in the design industry for many years. Since then Design Direction has carried out a vast amount of work in the residential and commercial area of interior design nationally and internationally. We offer a tailor-made interior design service helping at all times to understand, interpret and realise our clients’ aspirations.

How would you describe your personal design style?

I believe that every project is unique in character and it is my job to understand, interpret and help each client to achieve their own design aspirations. I like to think we help our clients to stand apart from the competition, creating luxurious and desirable properties with genuine personality.

Where does your design inspiration come from?

Travel is my inspiration; I feel uncomfortable if I don’t have a ticket booked to go somewhere new. Travel has taught me so much, and I always come back after a trip with a head full of ideas. Being a designer means you care about the details. Designers know that they’re surrounded by design, and they can’t stop their minds from wandering. Design is everywhere and in everything, I soak it up instinctively.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?

Less is more in the general sense. Storytelling is the heart of everything for me. I think people are looking for more meaningful design. The story behind a piece of furniture, a fabric or a painting make a room. These are the things which make a space intriguing, beyond just lovely to look at. I feel it’s important to design and commission bespoke furniture, fabrics and interior accessories to ensure each project has its own personality.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design, what would it be?

This is simple – set out to astonish and whatever you do it will be creative; there is no right point of view just a different one.

How important are The International Hotel and Property Awards as recognition of talent and achievement?

The International Hotel and Property Awards are without doubt one of the most prestigious awards of their kind in the world. It is crucial that the world’s great designs are highlighted in competitions like this in order that our profession continues to drive for the ultimate in excellence and innovation. It is an honour and a privilege to be shortlisted in these awards and the fantastic quality of the shortlisted projects is a fantastic endorsement of the superb work being done in the world today.

What projects are you currently working on? What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?

Borthwick Castle, Phase 2, Edinburgh, Scotland: One of the finest and best-preserved 15th Century keeps in Scotland (Grade A listed), and in 1567 a refuge for Mary, Queen of Scots.  A major refurbishment of a magnificent Grade II listed family home in London.
Working alongside a new development company on the conversion of an Italian Renaissance style Grade II listed bank built in 1890-91. And a landmark art deco synagogue built in 1914-15, to create large executive living spaces with design personalities

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself:

Your most treasured possession?
My 30-year-old leather-bound Filofax which holds a list of friends who love life, who I can call up and say, “Get dressed, we’re going on a venture, adventure or a misadventure…”

Your favourite holiday destination?
Vietnam: Flashpacking adventure
Northumberland coastline: Walking
Stockholm: Food
Switzerland: Skiing

Your favourite hotel / restaurant / bar?
Grand banks Oyster Bar in New York – an amazing place to eat oysters and drink Pouilly-Fuissé
Cecconi’s Restaurant, London – the lobster spaghetti is amazing any time
The Canny Man’s Pub, Edinburgh

Your favourite book / film / song?
I visited Goa in January and a new favourite is The Essence of Indian Design – an exploration of the timeless beauty of Indian design through 200 classic objects.
Desk book:  Whatever you think, I think the opposite by Paul Arden – it’s about having the confidence to roll the dice.
Coffee Table book: Cecil Beaton at Home – a chronicle of the life and times of Beaton in photos.
Film: Arsenic and Old Lace with Cary Grant (in fact anything staring Mr Grant).
Music: Amos Lee, the America folk singer songwriter and Melody Bardot, the blues and jazz singer.

Your favourite food and drink?
London: The Fumoir bar and Claridge’s vodka martini
Scotland: Borthwick Castle Lagavulin
And always a fresh watermelon martini anywhere you can find them.

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
A late morning with a cup of tea in bed and the Sunday newspapers and then an afternoon catch-up with friends.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
There was a time I loved the idea of being an architect. I was accepted to The Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow, but I deferred and took up a job designing champagne bars for Corney & Barrow in London … I never looked back.

What’s your greatest fear?
Falling off another mountain and breaking my knees again any time soon; not funny and not clever. I love the mountains and all things outdoors; I had an amazing break and made lifelong friends when I decided to have a gap 6 months and train to be a ski instructor in Switzerland.

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