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Getting to know Meritxell Ribé
Interview by Marina Coy Vallès for the Jesuïtes de Gràcia School
Meritxell Ribé, co-founder and creative director of The Room Studio, studied interior design at the BAU University Design Center (Barcelona). He began his professional career in a prestigious architecture studio in Barcelona, specialized in high-end homes, hotels and restaurants. Her quick adaptation and motivation led her to take responsibility for a team of more than 15 professionals. In 2005 she became independent to open The Room Studio with her partner Josep Puigdomènech. They currently have a multidisciplinary team of architects, technical architects and interior designers that add up to a total of 16 professionals. Passionate, vital, versatile, with great concern for design and a lover of taking care of every last detail, Meritxell Ribé shares the soul of The Room Studio together with her partner Josep Puigdomènech.
For this week’s post we wanted to share a short interview to meet one of the founders of the Study in greater depth. Are you ready? Let’s start!
1- How and when did your interest in interior design begin?
Since I was little I really liked to imagine what spaces would be like. As my parents lived in a big house, I always liked to imagine how the distribution, the facilities, the kitchen would change … I always went a little beyond the simple fact of looking only at the colors, furniture or accessories, I liked it a lot more go to the bowels of the apartment, the basis of everything. This also happened to me when I went to a restaurant. I really liked the fact that I could change things, and with the change, I also saw that it made me feel better; In other words, if I went to a nice and well-lit restaurant, it made my perception of that space more comfortable, more friendly. And it is a theme that I liked, to be able to change people’s interior sensations by adapting the space to their needs or their way of doing things. It made me feel good and it made me feel good that others felt good in those specific spaces, in those spaces designed for them.
2- How and when did you start professionally in the world of design?
In the world of design I started with about 17 years working for an engineer. I studied and worked, they have never given me anything, and I am proud of it. Although it was very good, I realized that the factories and structures design part was not what I liked. Then I started working in an architecture studio that made luxury hotels, and I liked this base much more. I have been working on this studio for a few years. She was a person with many concerns, a very active person. I liked doing many things and decided to start my own company when I was 23 years old. I did not like being sent a lot, I have a strong character, sometimes I consider it complex, but it helps me in many decisions in my life and I feel brave. It was then that I started professionally and individually. Now I am 43, that is, a few years ago in this.
3- When you start a project commissioned by a client, what do you value the most?
I value a lot and I like clients who let you do it, who trust you, who tell you what they really need and once they have explained their needs to you, they tell you: I know your job, I know what you do, from there try to make my ideal home. I really like the type of client who puts himself in your hands and who relies a lot on the figure of the interior designer. Obviously there is always a budget that you have to accept and it is not always a blank check. A series of objectives must be met that are consistent with what they need, since each client has a way of doing, a way of thinking and a way of living totally different from another, and this must be kept in mind. Listening is essential.
The ease with which people put their home in your hands and trust is what I value the most. I understand what is most important to them and what their needs are. I always say that you have to do the home for the client, not for yourself. The client is the one who has to live and has totally different needs from yours, therefore, this is the most important thing, and there is also the challenge, otherwise it would be very boring. Then obviously there must be a set to accompany all this, the balance, the staging, that everything has a relationship, that everything has a coordination. From the beginning to the end it has to be an experience, the best of course! You have to be very clear about what that client wants, and do the best project for him and make him feel comfortable.
4- What does good design mean to you?
A good design is one that makes your life easy, comfortable and, in addition, you are at ease. It must have a whole conjunction that makes it possible for that design to work, that it is comfortable and that, without knowing why, makes you feel good. Surely you have ever gone to a restaurant and you have spent a long time and you have felt very comfortable. It is a set of things. Not only that the chair is comfortable or perhaps the space is beautiful, the space is well thought out in terms of lighting (which is very important) and, in addition, you eat well. All of these things make for a good design.
Lighting is very important to me, it always has been. I think that a well-lit space must be captured very well. When you enter a space you have to know how to differ in some way that everything has a process of balance. This balance, for me, makes for a good design. It must have the most important aspects, comfort, a good distribution and a good lighting environment.
5- Does the customer usually know exactly what they want?
They usually know how to express what they want. Our type of client has an educated eye because he knows what he likes, but many times he does not know how he can execute it. They are clients that you have to explain to them, you have to introduce them and you have to explain the story that will happen in their home. These customers when they see it say: that’s what I wanted. Accompaniment is key and as you also explain it, the staging of a project begins from minute one that you project and present it, the final culmination is the finished house. They have good taste, but when it comes to putting it in a shaker and doing a whole project, they don’t have this spatial or general vision, that’s what we are for and this is our goal.
To guide you, first of all, I present an idea, a briefing of what it could be. So I give them a tour of when they enter their home for the first time and I tell them everything that is happening. It is a staging in detail. For example, we enter the hall, which is the entrance area so we continue for the rest of the room, and I explain the why of things because everything has a why. It is a journey that for them is very understandable and very enriching, sometimes you touch on topics that they do not know and there is the surprise effect. This is a fantastic thing because they think, oysters I didn’t imagine this could be done like this! In this way, they place great value on what you were explaining to them and realize how important it is to hire an interior designer in a project as important as one’s home and they can trust a professional who has this vision so clear and so close to their way of life. The result always exceeds expectations.
6- If ever a client asks you for a commission that you don’t like or don’t see as affordable, how do you deal with it?
I have been very lucky to be able to choose a large part of my work. But it may happen that an order is not feasible, because not only do you have to like it, but you also have to have an important affinity with the client, we are not talking about buying a bicycle, but it is a home! And this is not so easy to replace. Therefore, always before starting any project I have an interview with the client and we get to know each other and verify that there is a compatibility to be able to carry out one of the most important things in her life, her own home. From there, I have sometimes refused to do an assignment because I have not felt the necessary affinity to be able to achieve success. And for me the success of a project must be shared, otherwise it turns out that something has failed.
7- What do you think differentiates a good designer from a mediocre one?
He who does not listen will never be a good designer. Here you can see the difference. You must listen and understand the philosophy of life of the person in front of you, and then you have to do your best. The designer who does not listen is not a designer, because he will never have a final product according to the client’s reality, therefore the product is a failure, which is the same, a project fiasco. Needs are the most important thing in a project. The client tells you how he wants to live and, from there, I do what is best for him. He tells me how he wants his business and I will do the best business for him. For example, when I wake up I like to go to a kitchen that has natural light, I like my life to be more facing the south side than the north side, I like to sleep in a space that is very wide, I like I read a lot, I really like to cook … because all this is basic, therefore the most important thing is: You tell me how you want to live and then we will find the best design for you. In the end we make tailored suits.
8- In a good design, what percentage do you think is occupied by technique and what other is imagination?
Always half and half. Every creative process is very important, but there must be the second part that is to make it possible. You cannot design something that is unfeasible to execute, that is, there must be a perfect symbiosis. Everything must occupy the same percentage. Therefore, if I want to paint a wall pink with feathers, then this must be possible, that it lasts over time, that it can be something practical, comfortable and that does not give me problems in a short time. Technique and creativity go hand in hand, both are very important. If this were not the case, it would be a bad design, because it can be something visually very beautiful but very uncomfortable or very impractical.
9- Do you use a specific process when preparing a project?
The first thing I do is an initial meeting with the clients where we talk about the needs program, they tell me how they want to live, what they want to improve compared to what they have now and what they want to achieve with this new home. Then, from there, the first sketches are created where all these ideas must be reflected and see if it is possible to make one distribution or another. In the first place, we are dedicated to making a project of distribution of the space and, once carried out, it is important to discover how it is to be illuminated; then everything else such as: air conditioning, whether there will be radiant heating, whether there will be radiators, what the kitchen will be like and what elements there will be, etc … The most important thing is to make an initial approach with a distribution of the project and then that everything flows.
10- Is there a specific person who has influenced you when creating your own decorative style?
As an architect, I have always liked John Pawson a lot, the base of his interiors is pure and simple, his extreme minimalism makes him appealing to start from a blank canvas prepared for creativity, I love his way of connecting exterior and interior, how it deals with light, both interior and natural and the use of natural materials.
One of my references is the interior designer Sandra Tarruella. Its fresh, Mediterranean line and the treatment of natural materials, the care and treatment of light, is what has influenced me the most, it is something that I also incorporate a lot into my projects and that I feel identified with.
11- Do you have any advice you can give me to make my own home design?
It is like making a movie and writing a book. You have to create protagonists with different roles. Create characters as if they were your clients with a specific life and, from there, you adapt and make the best design for them. If you do this it will be more comfortable, because you know very well what role you have to look for in this project and you will have the basis of their needs.
Many thanks to Meritxell Ribé for her time and for sharing with us a little more about her career. Stay tuned because soon you will be able to learn more details about the co-founder of The Room Studio, Josep Puigdomènech. Happy week everyone!