Reconsidering space: Alasdair McNab on what's exciting in interior design right now

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Contact Alasdair McNab, Interior Design Senior Associate Director

Shopping is no longer the primary draw in retail, offices are no longer five days a week and for brands, physical spaces need to reflect the other-worldliness of digital experiences. Interior Design Senior Associate Director, Alasdair McNab, discusses the need to reconsider space and what’s exciting in interior design right now.

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What is your role at Benoy?

My role is a combination of design direction, team management and business development. It simultaneously requires micro-level attention to detail and a broad understanding of the team’s activities, the business’s targets and our projects’ status.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love the changing roles we have as designers; engaging different tools, processes, colleagues and collaborators to address different challenges. No two days are the same. The job requires a lot of mental and emotional engagement, which is simultaneously exhausting and rewarding.

Who or what inspired you to become a designer?

Design is somewhere between expression and engineering. Whilst there haven’t been any designers in my family, my grandfather could draw and passed that on to my mum – her and her friends’ strange painting, pottery and animations are my earliest memories of people sitting down to create something with their own hands. In Glasgow, like a lot of things, art is often visceral and a bit confrontational. The other half of my family probably represent the engineering influence – pragmatic and direct, with my dad’s love of music a creative counterpoint. I ended up somewhere in the middle.

Reconsidering Space Interior Design Article 2

What are you working on just now?

A few different things. We’re a growing team and that means we need to refine as new members join and we take on new projects. As everyone gels, we are discussing what we want to achieve in the coming months together and we’re setting out principles to help align the 30+ team members. With respect to projects, I’m working with retail brands, developers and universities in new developments, established city centres and in renovations – as before, no two days are the same and we’re extremely excited for the future of ID.

What’s exciting you in interior design just now?

We’re seeing a lot of clients reconsidering what to do with their spaces. Shopping is no longer the primary draw in retail, offices are no longer five days a week and for brands, physical spaces need to reflect the other-worldliness of digital experiences.

We’re not quite in the metaverse yet so the most immersive experiences remain offline and physical, engaging all of our sense in a way the digital world is yet to convincingly recreate. Long live reality, wooden furniture and paper.

What’s your creative process?

That varies. The common factor is understanding the context – site, building, client, operator, end-user, local complimentary and competing interests. Your decisions can then come from a place of understanding rather than assumption. We then consider what the end-user wants from the space and explore the opportunities available to us to achieve that. I don’t believe in having a house-style or signature other than in a consistent approach to solving problems empathetically and looking for each project’s point of difference.

Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?

We have been growing, as I mentioned, and that has meant reviewing a lot of portfolios and talking about design with creative people from all over the world. Listening to their experiences delivering work, undertaking their degree shows, dissertations and delivering personal projects has been very inspiring. I’m pleased to say that many of those people are now colleagues and are actively contributing to our team discourse.

Outside of the studio, there is also a lot going on. So far this year I loved the Mike Nelson and Magdalena Abakanowicz shows in the Hayward and Tate Modern but have also been enjoying playing with Midjourney and expanding my material library and furniture collection. Battersea is an interesting new retail offer, though I’d gravitate toward Coal Drops or the refreshed flagships on Regent St and around Old Bond St to see what the big luxury houses are up to (and we’ll see being emulated elsewhere).

Reconsidering Space Interior Design Article 2