MEET THE MALTESE DESIGNER

Published: 31 Jan 2021

on the new series of INTERIOR DESIGN MASTERS

Peter Grech, is one of the ten interior designers chosen to take part in the second series of the popular design show in which designers compete for the chance to win a commercial contract…

What made you decide to enter Interior Design Masters?
I wanted to show the world how much I loved interior design and I also wanted to challenge myself to do more commercial spaces as my practice so far has been mainly residential. I was lucky enough to meet the series one contestants at an event I attended and they were all so lovely and encouraged me to do the show.

What was the audition process?
Some of it is classified as confidential but there were a series of interviews and mock briefs that we needed to do. One brief was to develop a mock scheme for a young couple that is vibrant and on-trend and with as much colour as possible. It had to be within a £2k budget and include upcycling their grandmother’s brocade wingback chair. 

Describe the experience? What was good and not so good? What was surprising?

It was a rollercoaster ride, full of highs and lows. The best bit was meeting and working alongside the other designers. Each of them has such a great back story, but we all love interior design which was great.
I found the filming schedule very rigorous, and I think I tried to run the projects on the show too much like I do a normal design process, but at the end of the day, it is a TV show made for entertainment purposes and not a factual representation about interior design or the process involved. There are a lot of compromises to design and quality that happen when making a show like this, and the extent to which I naively didn’t fully appreciate till I was on the show.

You trained as a doctor – what made you decide to switch to interior design?

My first love has always been interior design, but I did my medical degree as it seemed like the ‘right thing to do.’  Also at the time, I wasn’t aware of the interior design industry being the multi-billion dollar industry I know it is today. All the way during university, and working as a junior doctor (which is when I moved to the UK), I was always striving to be more creative and artistic. I realised, one year away from being a consultant, that I was not looking forward to it; I was saying to myself, ‘when I become a consultant I will leave medicine and do design’ but then I thought, ‘why then, and not now?’ So I did. I took some time out to properly assess my priorities as it was such a monumental decision – but in the end, I had to be true to myself and follow my passion. I remember in medical school as a break during studying, I would design houses – if that wasn’t a sign of what I should be doing, I don’t know what is.

How did you make the switch and how long did it take?

Before I enrolled in university, I had done an associate diploma in interior design, which I loved. I used this as a foundation to build my knowledge and expertise. As a designer, you need to have an eye for beauty, but also technical know-how, which you only gain from practice. The first few years of setting up my design firm I would do ad-hoc locum shifts as a doctor, to keep my toe in, and keep my mortgage paid. But now design work has really taken off which is great as I get to do what I love each and every single day.

Did you start your own business, The Spacemaker, straight away or did you work for someone else first?

I did start my own business straight away, which was a VERY steep learning curve, which I am still on. I would recommend to new starters to join another firm at least in the beginning, to help develop the tools, systems and appreciation for all the things that happen behind the scenes to keep a business running. I had to learn everything from scratch: SEO, PR, website management, social media, photography, brand development. I am sure that I didn’t do it the easy way.

How would you describe your design style?

I would probably say that I have a contemporary twist on classic interiors. I love creating spaces that are bold, curated and personal. It is so important that the rooms have conviction in their design statement, an edited collection of furniture and decor, and which reflect the history and aspirations of people living within that space.

What inspires you?

I am always inspired by great cities, such as Rome, Paris and London, where art is celebrated and design highly valued. But I am also very inspired by more understated and natural places, such as the colours of the sky and sea, or the time-worn step in a quiet sleepy village. 

What are the key elements that make a room?

Primarily a room needs to function, so get that right and you are 50 per cent of the way there. Getting the layout and proportion of things is so crucial to making a space feel balanced. Next, I work on mood and aesthetic, I normally pick one and run with it – choosing key fabrics and materials that tie in the scheme. I design in great detail, down to accessories and artwork to make sure that the space is fully considered and well put together.

How do you work between the UK and Malta?

As I work all over the UK, I am quite accustomed to having to consult on spaces remotely. So I work with clients based in Malta on that level, and I also link in with fellow design colleagues in Malta who help me out when I need it.

Do the different conditions such as light mean you have to treat rooms in a different way?

Yes! Colour is nothing without light, and the light in the UK is so much bluer and less intense than in Malta. This is something I only appreciated fully when I moved here. It’s like having a filter on, it is quite strange and I am very sensitive to it. This means that in the UK, you can probably be a bit wilder with colour as the light is less intense anyway, whereas in Malta, I would advise being very cautious, as the intensity of light can make colours scream when all you want is a gentle hum.

Talk us through a couple of your projects

The SpacetoGrow Project
A double-storey wrap around extension and loft conversion. The clients wanted a family-friendly space but needed help with spatial planning, aesthetic direction and lighting plans. The kitchen was styled with lots of rustic and natural elements to help the colour of the cabinets shine. This helped to make the space feel less squeaky new and give it a sense of permanence.
In the master en-suite, floor to ceiling teal tiles and warm metal accents such as brass and bronze create a moody backdrop. Natural wood tones help soften the space and create a ‘forest bathing’ experience that is proven to lower blood pressure and improve wellbeing.

[Image Credit https://www.amyharveyphoto.com/]

Modern Victoriana
This is the home and myself and my husband Samuel which I am so proud of. It was my first ever renovation. The family bathroom needed an aesthetic overhaul so we chose a light grey marble tile and installed a large walk-in shower while placing the roll top bath in the centre of the room facing out of the window overlooking the gardens. A chandelier and crystal wall lights flanking a vintage mirror add glamour. I also used my grandmother’s crochet doilies which I framed and placed above the fireplace.

[Image Credit – https://www.beautifulhomesinthenorth.co.uk/)

Georgian Townhouse
This project was for Maltese clients living in Cheshire! Their townhouse needed a ground-floor renovation so I worked with their architect to place the kitchen in the centre of the house to create a very sociable and open plan space. The living room has a mid-century vibe with bespoke cabinetry along with accents of gold and mustard to contrast the blue which is the primary colour running through the entire downstairs.

[Image credit https://www.jamiethomsonphotography.com/]

Malta Apartment
This is our summer home in Malta. We wanted to create a relaxing atmospheric space within a featureless Sixties apartment and used a mix of old and new to achieve this look. A vintage dresser houses the TV and displays vintage art and books. We went big on texture in this space as the colour palette is restrained and calming.

[Image Credit: The SpaceMaker Interiors]

Interior Design Masters begins on BBC 2 on February 2. Peter’s business can be found at www.thespacemaker.net

Postscript: Peter was eliminated after episode three in which he was asked to decorate a hotel bedroom in maximaliust style. ‘I was surprised when I had to leave, but all one can do is pick themselves up, dust themselves off and keep working on their dream,’ said Peter afterwards. ‘I have been working on a number of residential projects in the meantime all over the country and I look forward to showcasing them on my portfolio very soon. Making clients happy in their homes makes me happy!’