5 minutes with…Paul McAneary

paul mcaneary interview pic

Name: Paul McAneary
Company: Paul McAneary Architects Ltd
Position within company: Managing Director
Website: www.paulmcaneary.com












  • Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)

Paul McAneary was educated in architecture education at the Oxford School of Architecture. His first architectural position was under his former tutor Nigel Cowell. Whilst studying he won the Alan Barnes Travelling Scholarship, enabling him to take his practical training year in Hong Kong. The fast track environment of Hong Kong facilitated his rapid development; and he was appointed project architect on a wide variety of projects for the notable architect Mike Tonkin. Paul then moved to Japan and was employed by the leading Japanese Architect Shin Takamatsu and completed several published projects. Following his international experience, he completed his training in London at the Architectural Association, under a series of prominent architects including Ben van Berkel, Kevin Rhowbothan and David Green. He completed his professional studies at the AA, where he attained the highest level of architectural registration becoming a RIBA Chartered Architect. He later went on to become the Honorary Secretary of the AA Council.


  • How would you best describe your personal interior design style?

We treat each project individually so they usually grow to reflect the unique styles of those we design for. However we do have a  recognizable design philosophy at work in our designs, a kind of warmer minimalism. This warmer minimalism combines a strong focus on the use of natural, environmentally conscious materials with cutting-edge, contemporary design. Where does your design inspiration come from? Our idea of warmer minimalism grew from several places. My time in Japan exposed me to the ideas of Wabi-Sabi, which feed into the way I use materials to try and instil warmth and personality into the clean, simple lines of our designs. I would have to say my old boss John Pawson played a significant role in shaping my ideas of minimalism. Preconceptions that a minimalist living space is a cold white box are dated, our minimalism represents uncluttered living where every surface has personality or purpose.


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

People increasingly seem to desire a sense of clarity in their spaces. Many of the designs we produce at Paul McAneary Architects overcome issues such as electrical wiring and the clutter of modern life, achieving clean shapes and lines. People want to escape the constant stream of information they encounter without sacrificing its benefits. The demand is for design which balances those two forces. Design which is sympathetic to environmental issues is a key example. The greatest designs successfully balance innovation and style with these responsibilities, without making a sacrifice.


  • Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2013 and beyond.

Thinking ahead to the legacy of a design, at Paul McAneary Architects we aim to produce work that makes a positive contribution to future generations. In past projects we have purposefully used materials that strengthen, or gain beauty, as they evolve over time. For example the materials used for our Tortoise Enclosure project were chosen partly for the way they weather, it seemed important to find a material that echoed the timelessness of its inhabitants. So, sustainability and materiality. Clutter is also a recurring theme. How things can be kept simple and be balanced whilst offering choice. However the idea of themes seem counter-productive in some ways – design should be playful and fun. There is no right or wrong way to come at an idea.


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

Lighting. The smallest touches can have a vast effect on a space. Whether you make the most of the natural light or build an atmosphere with artificial lighting. It can make or break a room.


  • How important are The International Design and Architecture Awards as recognition of talent and achievement?

As they are chosen by peers, design et al readers and clients they offer an important perspective on the prevalent opinions in the design industry. It is an honour to be short listed alongside so many great teams.


  • What projects are you currently working on?

At the moment on projects that go as far and wide as California and Kazakhstan. We also have many new builds coming up in the UK, and some interesting residential projects. We also have the really exciting task of being our own clients as we design our central London office space. It will be great to get out of the basement and into daylight at last.


  • What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?

Hopefully we will be settled into our new office space and working on projects as interesting and challenging as we’ve had the  pleasure to over the past twelve.


  • Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
It has to be an afternoon spent sketching up new designs and working my way through solving their problems. It’s the greatest part of the job.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
I can’t imagine it any other way. I feel I do a lot that touches on design but includes so many other things, for example last week I had the blow torch out and spent a morning developing materials in our laboratory. But what keeps me in the office is that buzz of creating something new or making something which exists better. To date I’ve thankfully already had the opportunity to be appointed on a very wide range of projects from large new built buildings to urban design pieces, from very bespoke interiors, furniture design to graphic design including developing our own super minimal font – the list just keeps growing. If anyone can find something else we can project our design ideals onto though we would love to hear. I’ve already got through buildings, interior design, furniture, our font…the list just keeps growing.