People Profile: Interior Designer Gillan El Sharnoubi on being able to work on a diverse portfolio of projects

Interior Designer Gillan El Sharnoubi joined Chapman Taylor in March 2018, and is playing a key role in our new and refocused Interiors team. In this profile, Gillan tells us about her very international background, why she joined Chapman Taylor and the new direction of the Chapman Taylor’s Interiors team.

Tell us a little about your background.

I was born in the UK and grew up in Cairo – my mother, who is half British herself, is a teacher and my father is a businessman. My secondary education was taught according to a British curriculum, so I did GCSEs and A-Levels though living in Egypt.  I had a particular love of art and design, and I was also very good at subjects like physics and maths – so architecture seemed to offer the perfect outlet for my combination of aptitudes when it came to career choices.

I studied architecture for four years at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. After graduating in 2012, I took a four-month internship at a small, start-up architectural firm in London, where I worked very closely with the owner and a couple of other interns. That was a very interesting experience for me because it meant taking a lot of responsibility early on.

I returned to Cairo and worked mostly on interior design projects at my next firm of architects, which I enjoyed, particularly the finer detail involved. That led me to pursue a Masters in Interior Design at the Florence Design Academy in Italy in 2014 – Florence is my favourite city in the world! I worked in Interior Design in Cairo for two more years before my move to London in February this year.

What led you to join Chapman Taylor?

I researched various firms when I came to London, and was really attracted to Chapman Taylor because of its size, its international scope and the range of opportunities it offered. I felt that Chapman Taylor would give me a chance to learn a lot and gain experience in a variety of sectors, and I really appreciate the way in which the various teams and international studios cooperate with each other.

The companies I had worked at previously were very small by comparison, and I worked mostly on residential projects, so Chapman Taylor represented a step-change in my career path – I have been exposed to more than 10, very diverse, projects in just five months.

Jersey Airport

What projects have you worked on since joining?

My first Chapman Taylor project was working on the interior design of Jersey Airport in conjunction with our Transport team. We worked on designs for the Arrivals area, where I was tasked with providing general interior designs for elements such as flooring. I am used to working on more detailed designs, so I had to adapt quite quickly! It’s this constant learning process which I very much enjoy.

Since then, I have worked on a number of interior designs for shopping centres. I have also been working on a very interesting F&B project with Jon (Grant – Director and Head of Interiors) – the recently unveiled Watergardens project at The Lowry Outlet Centre in Manchester. My role included adjusting the building model and producing new renders for it, which has sharpened my skills in design software such as SketchUp, Illustrator and Revit. I take part in Revit workshops at the studio twice a week, which is a very useful educational resource.

We are currently working on a new layout for Chapman Taylor’s London studio, which will be especially interesting given that I am helping design my own workplace. 

The Lowry Outlet Centre

What do you like about working in Chapman Taylor’s Interiors team right now?

It is a great time to be working in Interiors at Chapman Taylor. Jon’s vision for the future direction of our work is very exciting – the goal is that when people hear the name Chapman Taylor, they think of our interior design services as much as they think of our architectural and masterplanning offers.

Jon has an excellent understanding of the global interior design industry, having worked on projects across South-East Asia, the Middle East and Europe for 20 years. The new focus he has brought to the team will lead to us working on very interesting and diverse projects, especially in the UK, with more retail refurbishment projects and more cross-sector work such as workplace fit-outs, hospitality design and residential interiors (particularly in the evolving Build-to-Rent market).

The team is now very well-structured and collaborative, with weekly team meetings where we update each other on the work we have been doing, issues we have faced and so on.  This means that I always know what is going on or why we are taking a particular approach. I find it very helpful because I work better when I have a clear understanding of what is happening and where everyone else is at.

Have you embraced Chapman Taylor’s social side?

This is another really cool thing about working at Chapman Taylor – there was nothing like it at my previous workplaces. I’ve made a lot of friends here through the social activities which Chapman Taylor organises, and have taken part in a number of 5km runs as well as our summer softball games at Regent’s Park. I will also be part of the 21-mile South Wales Three Peaks Trial on 8 September, where colleagues from all our UK studios will be hill-hiking in support of the RIBA Future Architects Pledge. Even just the after-work meet-ups are great fun, and it’s nice to be a part it.

There is a great support structure in place at Chapman Taylor – if I have a problem or need information in relation to a particular part of my work, there is always somebody at hand who is happy to help. There is also great moral support on offer from my friends and colleagues here, so I never feel like I am on my own.

What would you like to do next?

I am looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities which the restructuring of the Interiors team has brought, which will help further my career development. Beyond that, I would eventually like to take on more responsibilities and become much more independent in how I work – but one step at a time!

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