A Spotlight on Senior Interior Designer, Julia Dean – Winch Design

We recently had the opportunity to interview Julia Dean, Winch Design’s Senior Interior Designer, to find out about her experience working for one of the most highly regarded international design studios in the UHNW industry.

Continue on to find out about her exciting career and how she got where she is today. Julia also discusses yacht design trends of 2021/22 and shares her advice on how you could build your own career in the industry.

1. What does a day in life of a “Senior Interior Designer” look like?

Each day is different, and you can never predict what will come up! With regards to the interior design process, it starts with a look at the client brief, and each designer is allocated a space. A theme is then decided on and palettes and materials are selected. A material mood board is then photographed.

We communicate closely with the client and client team throughout the process and are adaptive to all of their ideas and comments. Each person brings something unique and it’s a joy to work with people who have completely different backgrounds as they provide a constant source of not only conversation, but also inspiration.

Each day there are multiple samples to evaluate within our interiors library, which has tens of thousands of amazing samples. We recently set up a sustainable interiors library and are consistently adding to it in order to further integrate sustainable practices within our designs.

A typical day usually includes various team meetings to access the progress of each project. We’ll also hold meetings with external suppliers such as contractors and a potential call with the client or client rep.

2.  How did you get into designing for the Superyacht industry?

I gained a degree in textiles and a master’s in interior design. I then proceeded to work in the hotel design industry followed by the high-end residential industry where I gained a breadth of experience.

After over 7 years in the high-end residentials sector, I was presented with an opportunity to transfer my skills to the superyacht industry by a friend who was already working at Winch Design. This was such a unique opportunity and a new challenge as it was the next level on from high end residential.

4 years later and the world of superyachts continues to surprise and challenge me each day. I’m incredibly grateful to be able to work within such a dynamic industry.

3. What would you say differentiates design for superyachts to other industries?

One of the key differentiations is that everything must be sea-fast. It is important that even in choppy seas, the interior remains intact and looks immaculate no matter how high the waves. The mechanism that makes any item sea-fast will always be cleverly hidden. Everything must be rodded and bolted. For example, a bed-side lamp will be screwed to the side table through a hidden bolt, and the wire will also be passed through the table, out of sight.

Another major consideration is fulfilling client requests. A client who is designing a 70m yacht may requests all of the facilities available on a 100m+ yacht and we must find ways to provide them. One way is to make spaces multi-functional, as can be seen on M/Y Cosmos, which is in build with Heesen and due for delivery in 2022. The helipad at the fore of the yacht doubles up as a cinema, with hidden speakers and comfy sofas that emerge out of the deck itself when the helipad is not in use.

It is crucial that all our projects are of ‘yacht quality’ – which means it has to be the best of the best. There is no room for compromise and everything needs to be perfected before it heads out to sea.

With regards to the design quality, each project is uniquely different. The majority of the FF&E design is bespoke and manufactured to the highest level. We work with many different craftspeople who produce the most beautiful bespoke crafted commissions. Founder Andrew has always had a love of craftsmanship and so this has been passed down within the company and has become a staple in each project.

4. What advice would you give to people aspiring to work for a company like Winch Design?

Ensure you put yourself out there within the industry. This can be done by attending talks and webinars or directly asking for internships. Even if there aren’t any current job opportunities, it is important to make yourself known. Then, when an opportunity comes along, you just might be the first person they call!

To me, it’s always impressive when a candidate has researched the studio and can explain what they like about our projects.

In the meantime, embrace any opportunity whilst searching for jobs or experience. The most interesting path is the one that is unexpected. Whilst it’s important to keep your goals in mind, enjoy the journey and remember that each step leads to the next.

5. What attracted you to the Superyacht industry?

The uniqueness of the industry. It is unlike any other industry and it brings a boatload (pun intended!) of perks that may not be found elsewhere. Our clientele is based all over the world, meaning we are privileged to get a detailed look into our clients’ lives. We also get to work closely with inspiring individuals and learn about their cultures.

One of the reasons I joined Winch Design is the fact that there is no house style. Each project is focused on the clients’ goals and aspirations. Thanks to this, we have access to incredible experiences, points of view and anecdotes from our clients.

Before the pandemic started, we would travel all over the world to bring our projects to life,. This is something I’m definitely looking forward to starting up again!

6. If you could give your younger self some advice, to get a head start in your career, what would it be?

Always seek work experience and take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way. Apprenticeships are great ways to learn. Andrew approached the late Jon Bannenberg for an apprenticeship and through all the knowledge and skills he gained, was able to found Winch Design.

Andrew was a student at Kingston College of Art and it is where he developed his impeccable talent for design. We’ve recently been working with undergraduates on various projects to help develop their knowledge of the design industry and look forward to our partnership continuing.

It is also important to pay attention to detail. It’s the small considerations and extra effort made that make a piece of work stand out. Also, look the part, it’s always better to be over-dressed then under!

7. What trends are you seeing in both exterior and interior design for 2021/2022?

Explorer yachts are continuing to gain popularity. Clients are wanting to be able to navigate around the globe for extended periods of time in a 7* environment. Therefore, it is essential that their yacht can thrive in any environment, no matter how harsh and inhospitable. These yachts have increased tender storage for maximum exploration, ice-class hulls and increased crew capacity to set out on longer expeditions

With regards to the interior, our clients are seeking more contemporary, open plan spaces, with huge expanses of glass allowing light to flood in and the guests to feel close to the natural world around them.

Some clients request more informal social spaces, stepping away from the formal dining and entertainment styles which are traditionally found on-board older yachts.

These trends show a true desire to switch off when at sea – rather than continuing with formal, business-led entertainment. We are also noticing a continuous step back from the traditional shiny and ornate interiors that have adorned the waters for years. As such, we’re seeing a preference of more natural dressing briefs, pared back with warm interiors. The use light woods, stones and materials that result in clean and fresh spaces.

8. What opportunities does somebody have to grow and develop at Winch Design?

Each individual brings a whole new way of looking at things. We are truly a creative team and therefore provide the perfect opportunity to develop your skills based on the knowledge of your colleagues.

Just walking into the office fuels creativity thanks to the amazing work being produced around you. Winch Design is the perfect place to grow and develop due to the variety of projects we work on, each with their own unique challenges which need to be overcome.

All ideas are welcome – even if they don’t hit the mark, a great conversation can come off the back of it. Each designer at Winch Design develops their skillset more and more after each project. There is also a companywide desire to share knowledge. We also have bi-weekly company team meetings where various teams share insightful information. We even have individuals running courses on different design programmes.

9. How does Winch Design set themselves apart as an employer in this space?

Winch Design strives to be one of the greatest workplaces in design by investing in the development and wellbeing of the team.

We recently started a Mental Wellbeing drive – sending volunteers on Mental Health First Aid training, including several members of the Senior Leadership team.

We invest in in-house and external training: skill-related workshops, innovation days, management development or sponsoring educational qualifications. A big step Winch has recently taken has been rolling out an Employee Benefit Trust, which now holds a significant share of the business. It rewards long-standing employees by allowing them to partake in the financial success of the company.

In terms of the social aspects, each year Winch hosts an away day where we learn more about the company. Sometimes we’ll invite a speaker, but it will always be followed by some team drinks! For example, in 2019, Tim Smit from the Eden Project gave us an inspiring talk, followed by a session of working with various craftspeople making sculptures and leather wallets. We also have multiples parties each year, monthly team drinks and foodie Fridays!

To find out more about Winch Design and their latest projects please visit their website.