Business / interior design

Career Profile: Mirjana Mikulec, internationally awarded interior designer

What events have been milestones in your career?

The first milestone was my first job – the first opportunity I got as an interior designer. To this day, I am grateful to a client who hired me at the time. We became friends throughout the process, and recently, we had the opportunity to work on her new apartment.

The second milestone is the show InDesign (Croatian: InDizajn), not because it exposed me to the media as an interior designer, but mostly because it brought our work closer to the public and ultimately popularised interior design. This year we are celebrating our 10th anniversary, and we are very proud of it, so our fans can watch us in the new season starting 26th of September.

The third milestone would be the Adult Education Institution, currently enrolling the third generation of Interior Stylists and the second generation of Interior Designers.

I’m glad that we managed to gather a fantastic team of lecturers and that we shape and prepare the younger generations and the older ones for the labour market. There’s room for new names in it, and I’m glad we’re part of their story and professional development.

The fourth would be our move to the now not-so-new office in Radnička Street. We finally have the office our company deserves. It’s a kind of showroom that allows us all to be under one roof: from studios for interior design, marketing and production to school and real estate agencies.

We grew organically, so we expanded in different locations, and I think it is crucial that we are all in one place and exchange ideas, develop and grow.

How did education at the National Design Academy UK shape the knowledge gained so far and the continuation of a career?

Any formal education, even if you learn things that you know, for the most part, is enrichment and a valuable new experience, a step forward, a good wind in the back. It is always an opportunity to confirm that you have done something well or could change and improve in approach to work, project development, and approach to clients.

In addition, be sure to deepen existing knowledge because by learning from great professors, you get new insights into technical knowledge and new ideas.

When I look back a year or two, I realise that the launch and the content of several large projects have been greatly influenced by this education, which is a confirmation that it always pays to invest in yourself in this way. And that it pays to take a risk, of course!

What does your workweek look like, how much time do you spend in the studio, in meetings or on the field and projects, and how often do you travel?

Sometimes I don’t know where my work week starts and where it ends, but it’s not a problem for me. I love my job, and I’m a workaholic. We shoot InDesign (Croatian: InDizajn) and Looking for Home with Mirjana Mikulec (Croatian: Tražimo dom s Mirjanom Mikulec) most of the year, only some periods are extremely active and I spend a lot of time outside the office, in different locations where we shoot, and some calmer.

In the breaks between shootings, I find time for meetings with clients and business partners, but I try to completely free up some days so that I can spend them entirely in the office, focused on the primary activity of interior design, but also to deal with the managerial part of running the company, and engage with other projects and ideas, my employees, partners and clients because these are the relationships I want to nurture.

Speaking of personal travel, I like to travel, so I could hardly wait for the normalisation of travelling again. My daughter will study in Paris so it will surely be a frequent destination in the future and I look forward to that.

What is the difference between projects you work with RTL and those you work directly with clients?

The projects we are working on with RTL are already a well-established story. We have known each other for a long time, we have been working with most of the team for years. With every new episode and every new story, there is no stagnation, we always go further and do something new and better. We have to stay competitive and interesting.

Every client who enters our studio is a story and a challenge for themselves – everyone needs to be approached differently and come up with a different solution because the whole story of the arrangement should incorporate the client himself: his wishes, needs and affinities.

On the other hand, both processes are dynamic, and we are never bored 🙂

Lately, and with the natural course of business development, you have also ventured into real estate waters. What services do you provide through that part of the business?

Most of the services are the same as any classic agency: real estate sales and rentals, but we try to expand it with real estate staging services or real estate management. We follow the client from the search for the real estate to the signing of the contract, and at the same time, we support them through legal-administrative tasks.

Of course, we can expand the service to interior design. I am very happy that we managed to combine this new real estate agency activity with TV production and interior design, so we launched the show Looking for Home (Croatian: Tražimo dom). We are preparing for the 3rd season on the 16th of October.

The School of Interior Design is an integral part of your brand. How is the curriculum organised, and what inspires and delights the participants the most?

The adult education institution is organised in two programs: Interior Stylist and Interior Designer. We educate stylists through 340 hours and designers through 325 hours in small groups. The Ministry of Science and Education recognises the program.

Stylists do not require prior professional knowledge. The program consists of eight subjects designed to prepare students to create functional and beautiful interiors to meet clients’ needs.

To achieve this, i.e. the design and interior design, it’s necessary to master computer and manual drawing, the principles of spatial design, interior development through history, decoration styles, as well as knowledge from other areas, such as safety at work.

Interior design is a more advanced program that requires prior knowledge. Participants gain additional knowledge and skills in designing a visual display and the presentation of attractive and functional spaces by choosing the right furniture, equipment, wall and floor coverings, partitions, lighting, colours, materials and space, all with the use of computer application 2D and 3D drawing programs.

Eight teaching units will prepare students for the labour market.

In addition to new skills in interior design, the curriculum Introduction to Founding a Company and The Importance of Marketing will enable students to be even more competitive in the labour market.

Our lecturers are architects and experts with rich experience, and we also have guest lecturers in our classrooms. We spend part of the time visiting various partners where we learn first hand about the specifics of, for example, materials for making custom furniture, ceramics, and exhibitions whose theme corresponds to the program.

In addition to all this, the students are happy that the classrooms are located within the studios to see everything they learn in theory first hand.

Where can those interested in interior design find and buy your books?

Many books have already been sold out, but they are available on our webshop together with our other products. They can also be found at some of our partners’ points of sale, such as the Školska knjiga.

InDizajn, the Festival of the Modern Home will be held in the spring of next year. How far in advance do you start with the organisation, and how is the project organised?

The festival has been preparing for some time. We only hope that next spring, given the COVID-19 situation, we will be able to open it. It’s a large and demanding project, and a lot of phases are intertwined.

First and foremost is to agree on the floor plan of the fair, agree with Arena Zagreb the exact dates and then move on: designing the layout of individual parts of the fair such as the Bazaar, children’s corner, lecture halls, marketing visuals, presentations and offers and agreements with exhibitors and partners.

Once that massive part of the work is done, another equally important and demanding one begins, considering our fair is one of the most productive in Croatia and neighbouring countries.

In an extremely short period of time, we are transforming the sports hall into a top-class exhibition space that exhibitors enrich with their solutions and assortment. We try to provide visitors with an overview of the latest trends and present exhibitors from all home furnishing segments. The festival will also feature creative workshops and babysitting corners.

We do all this in cooperation with our partner RTL, with which we organise the fair, so we are equally involved in all phases.

A consultation service is available on your website. What do you need to have ready for one such session?

Yes, it is an online consultation service ideal for those planning to freshen up a particular room at home and need some minor, simpler tips because they do not know where to start and how to create a beautiful and functional space.

The client needs to send a floor plan and inspirational photos in advance so that our architect has the frames and direction to advise.

Clients will get a number of interesting ideas; however, one should be aware that an online consultation does not involve anything complicated like drafting and elaboration, but it is undoubtedly of great help and will save a lot of time.

If you could give advice to your younger self at the beginning of your career, what advice would that be?

First of all, to be brave and not be afraid to take risks. Of course, you need to plan and think about every idea, but don’t let fear and indecision stop you. Also, it is essential to invest in yourself and be informed about trends in the industry, so you can easily find a niche in which to achieve good business and success. What is often crucial in starting any business is self-belief and perseverance. If you don’t believe your ideas have a chance, you’ll have difficulty convincing others.

Also, it is worth knocking on dozens of doors; you never know when some will open.

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