Anastasia talks about becoming an interior designer then a small business owner. And how The Design Coach helped change her world for the better.
If you’ve attended one of our Masterclasses, Seminars or Events, you’ve probably met Anastasia Albino from Design Narratives. Since attending her first TDC Masterclass two years ago, Anastasia has demonstrated an incredible commitment to her professional development. We’ve seen her confidence, skills and expertise grow and were all cheering her on when she opened her business last year (with a friendly push from Andrew).
Her talent, commitment and quiet reserve, make her an asset to the design industry and we know her business is going to go from strength to strength in the coming years. We caught up with Anastasia via Zoom to talk about business ownership, lockdown life and the joy of finding your tribe.
TDC: Were you always fascinated by the world of design?
AA: As a child I would mentally transform spaces like waiting rooms and the rooms in my home. I grew up in Argentina where school was from 1pm to 5pm so I would spend the morning switching the furniture around in my bedroom to maximise the space or because I was getting bored with it.
I was always trying to innovate and it came quite naturally to me. I didn’t pay much attention to it, I just assumed all kids my age were doing the same thing. I was always interested in art, architecture and the world of design.
TDC: Can you tell us what led to establishing your interior design business, Design Narratives?
AA: It took me a really long time to realise that this is what I want to do for a living. I taught English as a second language for 20 years. When I arrived in Australia in 2006, I continued to teach but as my three kids got older I found myself with a bit more time on my hands. That’s when I decided to pay more attention to this interest of mine.
I did a degree in interior architecture at Monash University and split my placement between a lighting design company and an architecture firm. Both offered me a job and I worked for them for a year and a half. The architecture firm focussed mainly on government schools so there wasn’t a lot of scope for creativity. I’m naturally a bit restless and like exploring opportunities so I decided it was time to start my own business.
Design Narratives officially opened last year but in my head it started about four years ago. For a long time I felt like I was standing in front of an abyss. I knew what I wanted to do but I had no idea how. It felt super daunting but I started exploring online, sending messages out in a bottle. That’s when I met Andrew and he changed my world.
TDC: We’d love to hear more about that first meeting. How did it change your world?
AA: It was exactly two years ago and I was attending a Masterclass with the Head of Retail Design and Development for Aesop, Rowan Lodge. I was so nervous about going to an event with people I had never met before. I arrived and there was Andrew with a huge smile on his face. He said hello as if we were already friends. It was a magical moment for me.
The presentation was amazing, it opened my mind, helped me focus and reminded me that there was another aspect of design I had forgotten about. I came home and felt transformed. The event gave me a sense of direction and I couldn’t wait to see what Andrew had in store for us next.
TDC: You’ve attended a lot of TDC events over the years and have signed up for a few courses in our upcoming Business Bootcamp. How have the TDC courses and community helped you build a successful business?
AA: My uni training was very conceptual and we had little training in the day-to-day running of a design business. Through the masterclasses and other events, I saw how other people worked and learned all about the business side of things.
Getting involved with TDC was like entering a parallel universe filled with people who made me feel welcome and included. In the architectural world, there was a lot of competition and people weren’t keen to share things. In the world Andrew has created, it’s the opposite. Everyone is generous, open and willing to support you.
I’ll never forget when I was planning to launch my business and I kept saying, “When I launch my business, if I launch my business”, and Andrew said, “Ok, give us a date, when are you starting?” Without Andrew it would have taken me a lot longer to get started. Knowing someone has your best interests at heart, someone you can trust, confide in and seek advice from is so important.
The connections I have made through TDC are so valuable. A group of us have started catching up on Zoom for a few hours each day. We just turn our cameras on and get to work. Sometimes we just work in silence, sometimes we ask each other questions and go through the stuff we’ve learned at the TDC sessions. It helps keep us accountable in terms of organising our systems and procedures.
TDC: How are you coping with lockdown? Has it taught you anything about yourself as a business owner?
AA: I’ve been reading about stoicism, focussing on the things you can control and not on the things you can’t. Some days I lose it, but some days I feel like lockdown is a blessing in disguise. I’m focussed on making the most of my time by training more and organising my business better to prepare for the future. I like the security the learning and accreditation gives me to move forward.
When I get the itchy feeling that I want to go out, I remind myself that this too shall pass and there will be fun outside again.
As a business owner there have been a lot of benefits. People are more receptive to remote design work which opens up a lot of opportunities, like working with people interstate and overseas. I used to be scared of networking online, now it’s become second nature. Doing it consistently has really helped build my confidence.
TDC: Do you have any exciting plans for your business for the rest of 2020 and beyond?
AA: For some time I’ve been tossing up between being super selective about the kind of clients I work with or just embracing whatever comes my way and allowing my business to grow organically.
My main objective coming out of lockdown would be to make myself known and establish more connections and leads for work. During this quiet period, I’ve become much more centred. I’m more willing to see how things pan out without having a direction that is too definitive. I feel ready to network and build my business.
TDC: I know your business is very new but are there any projects you’ve worked on that your particularly proud of?
AA: I completed a styling job for an Airbnb that was really successful. It was a fun job and I had full liberty to be creative. The property had a four day minimum so it needed to feel like a home away from home. Not just a beautiful place but a welcoming place. I developed the design around a traveller and what their interests were. In my mind the traveller loved to cook so I made sure the kitchen was well equipped for that. I used bold wallpaper in the bedroom but kept the design simple and uncluttered. I included a homage to Melbourne in the prints on the wall that were of old buildings and a map.
I like the idea of designing something for a conceptual customer rather that a person who is going to live in the space permanently. I think there’s a little more room to play and be bold with your choices. Maybe that’s why I’m interested in retail, hospitality and stage design.
TDC: You say you “live for the art of spatial interaction”. Can you talk us through that philosophy and how you integrate it into your work?
AA: I recently listened to an interview with stage designer, Es Devlin and she said, “Spaces are like our friends”. It’s true and I think we tend to take them for granted. Whether it’s consciously or subconsciously, we are always interacting with the space and it causes a reaction in us.
I find it most interesting when a space tells a story. It’s not just a matter of putting together design elements like colours, shapes, textures and scale. Those are all important, but there has to be something that links them together.
TDC: If you think back on all the courses you’ve done with The Design Coach, what are three lessons that stand out?
AA: First it would be that community matters. The sense of community Andrew has created makes business ownership so much easier. I’ve learned so much through the courses and the generosity and support of other designers.
Second would be that you can never know too much. I have a passion for learning because just when you think you know all about something, someone comes along and shares their story and you think, hmm, I hadn’t thought of that.
Third would be that you need to be kind, to others and to yourself. Andrew places a lot of emphasis on kindness. He also encourages us to have fun. Last year we went on a wine tour to celebrate the end of the year and we looked at the design of the wineries but also had a lot of fun. In the creative field where you’re working to a brief there can be a lot of expectations, pressure and perfectionism so I think it’s important that we let our hair down, connect with our peers and see our profession in a more playful way.
We absolutely loved catching up with Anastasia and hearing about how TDC has helped her find her feet as a designer and business owner. If you’d like to be featured on the TDC blog, please get in touch.
If you’re keen to run a more efficient and profitable business, make sure you sign up for our Business Bootcamp. It’s a sure-fire way to accelerate your professional growth and transform the way you do business. Book your spot.
Time & Location
DesignLab : Business Bootcamp
Day 1 Wednesday 23/9/2020 - 4pm-6pm The Initial Consultation
Day 2 Thursday 24/9/2020 - 9.30am-4.30pm Systems For Success
Day 3 Friday 25/9/2020 - 9.30am-4.30pm Fees And Margins
Day 4 Saturday 26/9/2020 - 9.30am-4.30pm Kitchen Design (Basic & Advanced)
Day 5 Monday 28/9/2020 - 4pm-6pm 2 Hour Group Coaching
Already attended one of these sessions before? At checkout you can select which classes you'd like to attend instead. We encourage Members to take advantage of the 20% discount available when signing up for the Package which includes a BONUS 2 hour Group Coaching on Day 5.
Location: Live online seminar