Coffee Talk: Erika MacKay of Niche For Design

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I first met Erika MacKay at CoMotion 302 (then Platform 302) just over a year ago. Knowledgeable and well spoken, our brief conversation ended up being not-so brief. It lasted well over an hour. Erika’s company Niche For Design is unlike most interior design firms and I can’t quite put my finger on why. She’s been involved in so many projects throughout the city and beyond (checkout their portfolio) and I wanted to ask her about Niche. I wanted to know more. She’s a trendsetter, an amazing interior designer, and a pleasure to have coffee with. Niche For Design has a bright future ahead. Here’s what she had to say:

What got you into design?

I’ve always been into design. Ever since I was a kid I was drawing floor plans. Eventually I learned about interior design and realized that was the area I was most interested in. I ended up doing a degree in Interior Design at Algonquin College. It’s an industry where you always have to be learning and evolving as a designer and that’s something I’ve always loved.

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Tell me about your company, Niche for design.

I had worked for an architectural firm, for the government, a residential designer and a hotel designer, so I had a really broad range of skills. I really knew what kind of firm I wanted to work in and I felt there were ways to make the process better and more efficient. I wanted to offer services that some other firms weren’t really offering, so that’s when I decided to start Niche and that was in 2012. It was really small. It was just me. And now we are three people, plus lots of trades, contractors, and suppliers on a regular basis.

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What are some of your favourite projects so far?

All of our projects are so different and that’s why I love all of them. The coworking spaces that we worked on were definitely favourites, because they were close to our hearts, since coworking at Platform 302 helped us develop as a company. CoMotion and The Forge were definitely favourites. They were kind of cool. The last year we’ve been doing a lot of office projects. It’s really fascinating to get to know a company and their brand and tailoring the space to their needs as a business.

How do you get to know these companies?

We do a lot of research on their brand and how they want to be viewed. We interview them and go over the details of their space. We also do surveys with their staff too. Often we’ll survey all of the staff members to find out what they need functionally and to get additional ideas from them. For a company to have a space that is actually reflective of their branding and identity is a huge asset. It reinforces the culture they’re trying to build with their staff and it’s a great display for clients when they visit.

What’s the day-to-day life as an Interior Designer?

The programming and launch phases are big day-to-day projects, but they’re enjoyable. There are lots of spreadsheets for organizing the information of our clients. A big part of our time is construction drawings for our clients and ordering furniture. There’s always little glitches that come up, so problem solving and collaboration often happens day-to-day. It’s less glamorous, but I still enjoy it.

What are some of your influences in the design world?

Travel is a big influence for me. I love to observe new cultures and how they use space differently and  I love to learn about their traditional aesthetic. I like to see what’s trending in different areas too. We live in a globalized world, but there are always subtle differences in trends between cultures. It’s also important to pay attention to fashion. They’re pretty closely related. But I’d much rather shop for a sofa than clothing.

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What are some upcoming trends you see?

This neutral palate seems to be holding strong, but I’m seeing clients become bolder with their colours and patterns. Pattern tile is a really big trend that is coming through. So far it’s been neutral too, but we’re starting to see colour there. A lot more clients are looking at durable materials and wanting a better longevity in their products. They’re looking from a sustainable perspective and wanting things that last. Clients are becoming more environmentally conscious about their furniture choses.

What do you bring to the table that sets your apart from others?

I think having the team that I have in place is very important. They all have different skill sets and together we’re really strong. We try to be a lot more flexible. The tradition design process is really rigid, and it isn’t perfect. There has to be a better way, so we try and make the process smoother and easier for everyone. We are open to how the process could work.

Where do you see your firm in 5 years time?

I think we’ll probably have a showroom space. There will be some growth in the works. We’re already growing right now. I’d love to expand the team a bit more and focus on bigger projects that we are trying to obtain. We also want a warehouse space for faster distribution. There’s a lot of improvements that could happen within the process.

What is your favourite thing about Hamilton?

The people are very different. They’re very collaborative, open, and supportive. The architecture is amazing too. So many cool buildings in this city that are waiting for more creative uses. And the food scene in Hamilton is ridiculous. So amazing. There are so many great, unique independent restaurants throughout Hamilton. I don’t think I’ve been to a city where the food scene is like ours. There’s almost no chain restaurants downtown.

 

 

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