After entering the construction industry, Chris Barnes realised his passion lay within Interior Design, leading Chris on a journey involving night school, public speaking engagements, and life in Dubai. Chris took some time out from running his design studio to tell us about his work.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I started my career in construction, majoring in civil engineering, but I always had an eye for interior design. After completing an interior design course at night school whilst working as a Project Manager, I moved to Dubai to broaden my horizons.
I started Broadway in 1999, initially as a fit-out company, but I soon realised my experience with construction meant my design ideas were original and intelligent in terms of the build, and we soon won commissions to create innovative design and build projects. We now do more design consultancy than any other discipline, and I am proud to have won local and international recognition for our projects.
What kind of work does your role involve?
Each day is different in my role, dependent upon the type or stage of projects I am working on, which I love.
On the design side, I can be meeting new clients to discuss their space or upgrading their existing office, or perhaps presenting a design concept to help them understand my ideas and inspiration. On other days I can be found brainstorming with my team, developing budgets and tenders, checking visuals and design drawings, managing design implementation on-site, or walking my clients through their newly finished project. I spend time with my team to manage the business, attend industry events - which I sometimes present at -and research ideas and new developments in the industry!
What gets you excited about your industry?
The ability to continually mould and evolve the design vernacular in the architectural landscape of the world today. I love a client's reaction when they see their initial visuals or finished project for the first time! Experiencing their absolute delight of seeing their vision come to life - absolutely nothing beats this part of my job; it is the best feeling in the world when you know they love it! I also enjoy spending time with my peers, discussing ways to work together, support each other, and exchange ideas.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Embrace failure and enjoy success!
Every failure is a chance to learn and build upon, and I believe that where some doors close, new ones open, and you have to remain true to your passion and keep confidence in your ability to succeed. Personal reward for me is measured not in monetary terms but in the commitment afforded; the more you put in, the higher the satisfaction from your achievements. I am a known workaholic, but I have such a passion for what I do that I throw everything into each and every project, it's the only way I work!
What, or who inspires you?
The architectural world we live in provides inspiration in many ways, from the simple visual connection of something you encounter and the association to recreate it. Sometimes this is in its current form; however, often, it inspires an idea to design into a new context.
My inspiration often stems from the street, culture, and urbanisation. They fuel me with many new ideas and intelligent ways to refresh the design, pushing boundaries in original, innovative ways.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
With the current global conditions, digital and social media have become the primary forum to keep up with new trends and business. I read all the local industry magazines such as Commercial Interior Design, Design ME and Identity, and design websites such as Love That Design.
Whilst it has presented challenges in many ways, post-pandemic, we will be able to revert to a mix of these mediums. With the ability to travel and enjoy life once again, we can research and experience new venues and places in person. These experiences can never be underestimated in terms of their visual stimulation to a design professional.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
Heading a design studio, a variety of challenges manifest themselves constantly. Often, it's not the design-associated challenges that pose the most difficulty, but scenarios that sit outside your own skillset where you have to rely on others to support and help you meet them. This is not easy for a designer that predominately has strong attention to detail and a propensity to self-fulfil their workload.
Personally, I was never comfortable with public speaking; however, the successes of my designs have come invitations to speak about them, and my wife has pushed me to deliver speeches and share my passion with others. It has taken me time, but I can honestly say that once you have overcome challenges such as this, it does act as a source of inward confidence to meet similar scenarios head-on in the future.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
I would never stop designing, I am not driven by money, but by a love and passion for what I do, and I would never give that up!
However, winning that kind of money would allow me to share it with 'my family' as they provide invaluable support to me every day. I would also like to reward my extended 'Broadway family' with a sizeable bonus. They work with such determination and diligence through the ups and downs of today's world but always remain loyal to our boutique family mantra.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
Owning a business means you rarely have the opportunity to switch off, and your days are long and your weekends short. When I know it is required, I try to disconnect or detach myself from the work environment, spending time away from the office and pre-pandemic sometimes out of Dubai. This gives me a clearer mind and focused thought to assess and get inspiration to recharge my batteries.
I also exercise regularly, which has undoubtedly improved my fitness, and I have a love of House music, so listening to this relaxes me. I also switch off from work mode before going to bed by watching a bit of tv.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
After 30 years in the industry, I have seen companies come and go and markets rise and fall. I highly value honesty and integrity and would like to see more of this across the industry and additional peer-to-peer support and collaboration. We are in a very competitive industry, and working together and exchanging ideas can only benefit us all.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
I don't read books, but if you are into House music, I recommend you download the UDM show, a dance music podcast to listen to whilst in the car, exercising or, of course, working!
How should people connect with you?
While using LinkedIn for many years as Chris (Fleckney) Barnes), I have finally embraced Instagram as @cbarnesdxb. I can also be contacted through our website www.broadwayinteriors.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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