Aug 2, 2023

Episode 112

Linda Boronkay


Born in Budapest, the London-based Linda Boronkay was inspired by her architect father and her journalist mother. Indeed, her interest in design was piqued from an early age with the former model winning Britain’s Best Emerging Interior Designer award during her second year of college. That led to jobs with Martin Brudnizki, Tara Bernerd, and Woods Bagot. From there, she landed at Soho House, where she spent four years as the company’s director of design. “Soho House opened my eyes to the fact that design is a highly emotional affair, and it’s an alchemy on many different disciplines,” she says.

In September 2020, at the height of the pandemic, she launched her own eponymous firm. With a team of 12, her studio has been enlisted to design the Thompson Rome and Sir Prague, adding to her growing portfolio. “I’m in love with the notion of giving people an unforgettable experience,” she says. “I want to give [people] that sense of excitement and fantasy—that primal, intuitive, and visceral feeling that you’re about to experience something special. I’m in love with that feeling.”


Stacy Shoemaker Rauen: Hi, I am here with Linda Boronkay of Linda Boronkay Design Studio. Thanks so much for joining me today. I’m so excited to have you here.

Linda Boronkay: Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be talking to you today.

SSR: Yes, it’s going to be fun. All right, so we always start the pod at the beginning. So where did you grow up?

LB: I grew up in Hungary, in Budapest. This is the capital of Hungary. I grew up there since I was born, and then I left when I was 17. But my family still lives there. My brother is still there. My mother is still there. So I try to go back at least once a year for a month, and sometimes I spent Christmas there as well as a special treat.

SSR: What were you like as a kid? Were you creative? Were you always into design?

LB: Yes, I think so. I was always very creative. I just remember me drawing every single surface I found. If you look at my school books, all the pages are highly decorated, and I have a very visual memory as well. So even when I had to sit an exam or prepare for an exam, I would color code every single word, and I just remember that that was a tremendous help for me in my academics. But Hungary has a very strict educational system, and my parents were very strict at the time, so I had to excel in every single area.

So I wasn’t really sure what my strengths are or where my passion lies. I didn’t have the luxury to search for that. And only until later when I was in my early teens, I realized that I just really, really just want to create. And at the time, I thought it was going to be fashion. I was obsessed with clothes, and I remember the supermodels of the ’90, and I just found some tremendous inspiration in that. And so I set up to start to prepare to be a fashion designer. I took extra lessons and I studied French, and I was determined to go to Paris and become a fashion designer.

SSR: I love it. Was there anyone else in your family who was creative or in the fashion world or it was just something you kind of found yourself drawn to?

LB: Well, yeah, I guess my mom had a huge inspiration on me. She had a fashion store. She was dealing with really high-end secondhand clothing, so she was always very stylish, and her hair style changed every few months. But in the same time, my father was an architect as well. And then after my mom stopped dealing with fashion, she started a design magazine, which then later won a Pulitzer Prize, so she was also a journalist. So yeah, I guess it had a huge effect on me, but just the fact that my mom has always been a very creative person and she loved to decorate, and she would drag me around to antique fairs around Hungary, like in Budapest or if we were in the countryside, we would visit every single vintage fair or antique store where we traveled through. So as a child, I really didn’t enjoy that at all, as you can imagine. It was a very boring experience for me, but it definitely had an effect, and it really paved the way for me as a designer.

SSR: Right. Oh my God. So wait, what was the magazine? That’s amazing.

LB: It’s called Octagon, and it’s a bilingual magazine that still exists, and it’s an architectural and design magazine. Yeah, so she’s still a communication director for that magazine, but she was instrumental in setting it up and founding it.

The Osborn House in Australia’s Southern Highlands, a collaboration with Sydney’s Mac Design Studio

SSR: Oh, amazing. So your dad was an architect. She was in fashion and doing all these very cool creative things. Was that at the dinner table? Did you get to immerse yourself in some of that as a younger kid?

LB: Well, I just lived in it, I guess I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but our house was filled with incredible pieces of vintage mixed with modern art. And my mom wasn’t formally trained as a decorator or an interior designer, but she was just very intuitive and was still in love with objects. And she’s a very material person. She’s a Taurus. She loves everything that blings, and she loves fashion, she loves art, she loves objects. And yeah she was very fortunate to have the liberty to express that. She had the financial liberty to go around and buy things that she loved, and she would maybe later sell them, or I just remember our attic being filled with vintage picture frames, for example. That was her thing, just to collect vintage picture frames. And then she spent the next decade of giving picture frames away.

Every time we would go to a birthday or a party, that would be her gift because she had so many of them. And she just loved tradition. We still have all our family photos dating back to my great-grandparents, and she would keep really precious objects from them. So she’s a real magpie, she’s a real collector. And only in hindsight, only looking back at it now, I realize how much influence that had on me. As a child, you’re trying to do everything opposite your parents do. So that’s why I think I found myself fashion because that wasn’t something that my parents necessarily did. But then I found myself back into design. You can’t escape your fate, I guess.

SSR: No, you can’t. So did you go to school for design? What were your next steps once you said you left the home at 17?

LB: Yeah, I had a very academic upbringing. I took literature as my specialty, and then when I was 17, I got discovered as a model and I was attending a fashion award, and I was in the audience and at the time, a very big fashion agency, model agency called Ford. They were in the audience and they invited me to work for them in Paris. And it really matched up with my plans of being a fashion designer. And I spoke French at the time, but I’ve never been to Paris. So I thought, why not if I can make some money on the side and explore Paris, and then that could be a great foundation for me to step into fashion design. And so I did a foundation course in Paris for design, and then I started doing a long distance study, but at the time, I decided fashion is not for me. So when I switched to interiors to design, I loved fashion. I still do and I still find a lot of inspiration in it, but I’m just too much of a sensitive soul for the fashion world. I think I just fully enjoyed the advantages that it brought me with traveling and the exposure I had to different cultures and countries and to meet so many different people. And I truly, truly enjoy that. And I think that was probably one of the main inspirations for me to start looking into more design and create these amazing experiences and spaces that I had the chance to live through it at such a young age.

SSR: Yeah. What were early days like modeling? Do you have any favorite memories or anything that you took away from it that it stays with you today?

LB: No, I just loved the traveling part. At 19, I lived in Tokyo and then I moved to Hong Kong. And to be honest, I used modeling as a passport, so I basically, I decided that I’m not going to stop modeling until I visited every single city and every single country where I can get to be modeling. Because that was my main inspiration behind it. And I’m an extroverted introvert. I love being around people, but I also very much enjoy my own time. And I just remember those early days as a young teen in the early twenties to be a very lonely few years. But at the same time, I got to meet some amazing people and got access to places I could have never gotten access to with my background and unless I was a model.

SSR: Amazing. So when you switched over into interiors, did you know what you wanted to do? Which discipline or was it just kind of dive in and figure it out?

LB: So when I switched over to interiors first, I was a bit hesitant whether I should do product or interiors, but I thought if I do interiors, then I can always do product as well rather than the other way around. Maybe it’s a more wider discipline. And I was just always fascinated about hospitality and creating experiences to people. That’s something that’s really inspires me, and that’s where my passion lays. So yeah, I always knew that I want to specialize in hospitality interiors.

SSR: Okay. So out of school, what was your first job?

LB: Actually, when I was at school, I got my first big break because I was second year in uni and I entered the competition and I won Britain’s Best Emerging Interior Designer award. It was really exciting as a Hungarian studying in London, and it was amazing. It opened a lot of doors for me. Tom Dixon was amongst the judges, and I was second year in uni, and my university was extremely supportive. They told me I can continue with my studies at a distance. So I managed to set up my own company at the time and I started to take on my own private projects, but then I quickly realized that actually there is a limit in how much I can learn from myself. So I really wanted to join a company and my first official job was at Tom Dixon straight out of uni.

SSR: Great. So what was it about him and his firm that attracted you?

LB: I was a huge fan of Tom Dixon. I still am, I think he’s such a embodiment of British design. At the time, he just came out with Mirror Ball collection and I actually used a lot of his products in my competition. I obviously, I didn’t know that he was one of the judges at the time, and I just loved his visual language and the fact that he’s combining interiors with product, it really much aligned with what I was going to do and the fact that he was one of the judges and he offered the position for me, it was just like a dream come true.

The Osborn House in Australia

SSR: Awesome. What was kind of your biggest takeaway from being there?

LB: I just love the overlap between product and interiors and the fact that he was so conceptual, my second job out of school was with Martin Brudnizki, and I don’t think you can have two more different designers. And I just loved the fact that I came from someone who was so avant-garde and streamlined and futuristic. And then I went into Martin Brudnizki was extremely detailed and quite traditional, and the traditional was the inspiration for his own language. And throughout my career, I always tried to find very opposing designs and studios that represent a very different point of view to find my own language. And I find it very interesting and still quite fascinating with our current work as well, because our portfolio is very diverse.

SSR: Amazing. And what was one project that you worked on with Martin that you think maybe helped shaped your career or you learned the most from?

LB: So at the time, Soho House was outsourcing the design. I don’t know if the listeners know, but Ilse Crawford worked on some of the Soho Houses as the first, and then also Tom Dixon did Shoreditch House originally, and Martin Brudnizki was working on quite a few. So that was my first exposure to Soho House at the time. And I was working on Soho House Mumbai with Martin. And interestingly enough, after that I left, I moved to Sydney for private reasons. I lived in Sydney for two and a half years. I moved back to London. I worked in another agency for around six months, and then I went back to, went and started working at Soho House, and the same project landed on my desk. So Soho House Mumbai was actually something that I started working on when I was still at Martin Budinski. And then I continued working on and delivering it at Soho House.

SSR: What made you decide to go into move over to Soho House?

LB: Well, it was a no-brainer. I was always a fan. I was a member. I really loved what they represented in terms of inclusivity and the uplifting of creatives and bringing people together, creating a community. It was a very dynamic space to work at. And well, I had a little bit of exposure to them when I was working at Martin Brudnizki, so I kind of knew what I was getting into. But when I got an email saying that they’re looking for a UK design director, I couldn’t turn that down. So I obviously just had to go and see what it was going to be all about and it didn’t disappoint.

SSR: Right. That’s amazing. So what was one of your big projects there?

LB: I was working on a variety of different projects. I think I delivered over 20 projects while I was there during my four and a half, nearly five years. But some of the favorites are, Soho House Amsterdam, Soho House Mumbai, Soho House Hong Kong, the newly refreshed original Soho House which was Greek Street. We did a bunch of Cecconi’s, we did a few townhouses. We started working on Soho House Paris and Rome and Milan. I was on the plane at least two, three times a week traveling around and building a team from a team of 15 to nearly 100. It was an incredible and extremely exciting and inspirational time. I learned about design so much more than I ever did in any other design firms, even though I learned so much in every place. But to work for an operator and to take those standards as your starting points to approach every single project from a customer’s perspective and to work so closely with operations, that’s something that you don’t get exposed to if you’re working in a design firm only.

SSR: When you say that you learned more than you did at another design firm, what layer did you learn? What was that like extra bit that you took away from Soho House that you didn’t get elsewhere, even though I know you said you learned a lot, but what was that one more, I guess layer is the right way to say it.

LB: So I think design can be quite one dimensional in many ways. We are often only concentrating on the aesthetic and how things look, especially nowadays. Where is your Instagramable moment? And I think it’s so shortsighted. I think Soho House really opened my eyes to the fact that design is a highly emotional affair and it’s an alchemy of many, many different disciplines and many, many different things. It has to be in perfect harmony with operations, with the music, with the sense with the people behind it. And only then you can create the perfect experience. And that’s what differentiates a memorable experience to average one. And I think Nick Jones has been such a tremendous force of nature, and he was such an incredible leader at the time, and I learned so much from him. He’s one and only goal was to make people happy and to create this incredible experience for them. And that was our brief, when we had a design briefing, we didn’t have a briefing about colors necessarily or style that was quite self-explanatory. It the design, the style was always derived from the existing architecture or the cultural context, but the nitty gritty was coming from the energy that you were trying to create. Is it a high energy places, a lower energy place? What is the experience, what people going to feel when they enter a certain space? That was our main thinking behind every single design decision.

SSR: Right, right. And it must have been so cool too, to play in that space. Mean those years were such a growth year for Soho House and really defining what that was. They’ve always been known, but I feel like you were there in the time that took it from here to here.

LB: Yeah, I think so. I was just really lucky. That was my lucky break being there at the time, because I had the freedom. Nick gave me the freedom to create something that he thought it was right. And I also was just really taking it by the tail and I was just running with it. So yeah, I was very fortunate at the time. We opened, like I said, over 20 projects, we expanded to three different continents. It was just a crazy time. We worked hard, we played hard, we built an amazing team, and it was an experience I will never forget and I take it with me with my current practice as well.

SSR: So what made you leave this amazing opportunity to launch your own firm, which is not an easy thing to do.

LB: No, it’s not. It’s not. Well, a lot of different things happened. First of all, I became a mom. I had my baby, which obviously in every woman’s life it’s a huge change. And just when my son turned six months old, that’s when COVID hit. At the time I was in on a holiday in Australia, and consequently I got stuck there.

SSR: How long were you stuck in Australia?

LB: I was stuck there in three months. Our visa was just running out on the day when we managed to leave. In the end we had six flights canceled and we were really on the verge of overstaying our welcome. But yeah, we managed to get out. But to be honest, it was just a very tumultuous time emotionally as well as the world was turning upside down, my team started to shrink because of COVID and the projects started to get delayed or canceled. And then in the same time I started to get these amazing opportunities and I realized that the type of lifestyle and the job that I was doing now as a mom, I mean, that was just not going to be an option anymore. So yeah, sometimes it feels like the universe is pushing you to do one direction, and I just went for it.

SSR: Amazing. And so when you decided to do it, did you have projects or was it kind of a leap of faith and then you found projects? What was that like? The beginning?

LB: Yeah, I had two projects lined up. I had a private residential project in the U.S. in Los Angeles in Bel Air. And then I also had a 5-Star hotel in Australia near Sydney that I started working on. And I only got that project because I got stuck in Australia. So that was a very serendipitous moment. And those two were there for me to take if I made the decision. And I thought, why not? If not now, when?

SSR: Yes, exactly. So was it just you at first or were you able to bring people on early on? What were those early days like in leaving the mothership to go out on your own?

LB: Yeah, at first I was on my own. I had a partner in crime in Australia, otherwise I would not have been able to deliver the project in such distance during COVID times as well. And I had someone, an ex-colleague of mine in Los Angeles who also was helping me out at the time, but I was running solo for about six months at first, but then we started growing pretty quickly and now it’s been two and a half years. And we are a team of 12 in London, and we have a small team in Sydney as well.

SSR: Team of 12. Wow, that’s awesome. So it’s been only, it’s less than three years then, right?

LB: It’s going to be three years in the autumn. Yeah.

SSR: That’s exciting. You made it.

LB: Let’s see. Take it day by day.

SSR: Yeah, exactly. So looking back, is there something you wish you had known about starting your own firm that you now know or was ignorance bliss?

LB: Ignorance bliss for sure. I can only compare having your own firm is having your own baby. It’s just a whole different ball game. And I don’t think it’s for everyone, but I always had a sense for business. I think I’m a very entrepreneurial person and mentality. I always go for things and then figure things out as I go along. But then also I have an amazing husband who worked in finance and who’s a lawyer and he’s helping me a lot. I couldn’t do it by myself. And right now I have an amazing and very capable team who have amazing experiences. So it’s always a teamwork, but nothing can prepare you for this. It’s pretty much, like I said, like becoming a parent. You don’t get time off, you don’t get days off, it’s always on your mind. Yeah, my team always jokes that they are my children too. It does feel like that sometimes. We are one big family and I really, truly enjoy it and I take so much out of it, but it does take us so much out of you as well.

SSR: It’s only been three years, so I don’t know if there has been, but has there been a big break or a project that you think kind of put you on the map or is helping put you on the map?

LB: Yes, of course. We’ve been so fortunate that people have been extremely encouraging and excited about the change. And we are working for some amazing brands. We are working with Hyatt on the Thompson in Rome in an amazing historical building. We’re so excited about it, it’s very special. Thompson is quite new to Europe, so we have really have an opportunity to put our own stamp on things. Then we are working for the Sircle Collection. We are working on Sir Prague, which is an amazing, beautiful residential building again with amazing proportions, amazing details. And we are working for the Coast Brothers, the Bull Marley Group in Paris. We are working in a beautiful restaurant in Saint Germain, and we have some really amazing just private clients who, some of them we work on their residences and some of them they want to sink their teeth into hospitality and restaurants.

And some of them are just real passion projects. And because of our experience in operations and how we know how restaurants and hotels run, we can really help them. And the hotel we opened in Australia was a classic example. We had an amazing client who had restaurants before and they know really well how to run restaurants and bars, but they’d never done a hotel before. And so it was a really interesting experience in walking them through. It was a real partnership and we do that with some of our current projects as well.

The Osborn House in Australia

SSR: Yeah, no, for sure. What is it that you love about hospitality and about the process of building these living, breathing, beautiful buildings?

LB: I’m just in love with the notion to create fantasies and to give people an unforgettable experience. I think my early years of exposure to different countries and cultures and beautiful hotels and places I could have never visited if I didn’t model at the time. It just gave me such a huge impact. And I just want to give that to other people. I want to give that sense of excitement and fantasy and that really primal, intuitive and visceral feeling of you’re about to experience something really special and it’s just I’m in love with that feeling. So that’s what really draws me to hospitality. I think I heard once someone saying that a great restaurant or a great hotel should feel like you are being embraced, by this very interesting individual and I truly believe in that. I think these hospitality places should have a very strong personality, and if you trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. So I think they should all have a very interesting and quirky character, and that’s what I’m trying to recreate with our projects.

SSR: Amazing. Is there a project that you have learned the most on lately? I know every project is a learning curve, but was there one that you’re like, “Oh, this is something that I will remember moving forward?”

LB: Oh, it’s so hard. I get this question quite a lot and I can never answer to it because with everything, like you just said, with every single project, you learn something new. And I think that’s why we do what we do. The day you stop learning, it’s the day you should put the pen down because that’s what keeps us on our toes good and bad equally.

SSR: Yeah, no, for sure. So let’s go back to your firm right now of 12 people. How do you try to create a culture in this new environment and how are you trying to teach that younger generation that’s helping to build your firm?

LB: I think it’s a very tricky question. Sometimes you have to build in a very quick pace. So it’s not just the technical requirements and the technical skill set that you’re looking out for. It’s mainly the personality and their personal traits. I think one thing that really connects us in my studio is that we are all very passionate about design. This is our hobby. We’ve always wanted to be designers. So every day we just feel like we are living the dream. And what we are trying to do is to have at least once a month, like an inspirational afternoon when we take the half day and we just go to see an amazing exhibition or watch a movie or go and see a supplier. And then twice a year, we also go away for a trip. We go to Milan to Salone del Mobile, which is an absolute dream if you’re a designer, not just because of the fair, but just to walk around in Milan. And this is some of the amazing sites. And then also once a year in Autumn, we just go away, just us as a team and everyone brings their better halves or worse halves, and we just take a long weekend and we bond over the things they like. I think if you enjoy spending time with the people you work with, you also produce better work. So it goes hand in hand. And so far we are on the right trajectory.

SSR: No, that’s amazing. It’s hard too to keep it going with probably your workload. Stopping and reflecting I think is important.

LB: It is so important. Yeah. I’ve just been through our mid-year reviews, so we are doing that every six months as well. And as you know, it’s really important to check in with people. Because you are going 100 miles an hour, you have so many new projects, you have new people coming in, and you just need to sometimes stop and reflect on the things that you do well and you don’t do well and to listen to your team as well.

SSR: I feel like coming out of COVID I’ve said this a lot, but you went from managing a team to managing individuals and you learn that now so many different things can affect somebody, right? Because you got kind of a glimpse into their home, into their life and things that you didn’t get before COVID.

LB: Absolutely, absolutely. And it’s different when you’re managing your own team that you hired and you are fully responsible of, and you don’t have that security net around you in the shape of a huge corporation or a huge company like Soho House. You have insight to other bits as well that are not necessarily all rosy and glittery. You have to deal with every other aspect and you have to still keep moving on and motivating them and be able, just provide them the right atmosphere that they can produce the best work they can.

SSR: And then you mentioned that you take them out to get inspired and go to Salone. How do you stay inspired and on top of everything that’s happening?

LB: I think that’s probably my biggest challenge at the time because of the lack of time, as you probably know. When you’re running your own company and you have a family as well, and there’s just never enough of you. So I wish I could tell you that I’m going to exhibitions every week and watching movies every week because that’s what I used to do. But nowadays, I think I’m, I stick to books and I love reading and I find a lot of inspiration in literature and professional literature. So I read a lot of books from Peter Zumthor and I just reread one of my favorite books from Pallasmaa, the Eyes of the Skin, which is such a beautiful book about how we perceive space and architecture. And I think I’m very used to communicating in pictures and I visualize things very easily, but when it comes to language, I have my barriers, just I’ve always had it. And especially that English is my second language. I find it’s fascinating to read about these things and theories and see them in words, and I find them extremely inspirational. So yeah, I think nowadays it’s mainly books where I find my most inspiration in.

SSR: Is there something besides that one author, anything else that you’re reading right now that’s top of mind?

LB: Well, the Zumthor History of Feelings and Atmospheres by Peter Zumthor is a beautiful one. I think, what was the other one I read the other day? Axel Vervoordt has the Reflections and Memories. It’s a beautiful work. Those are the things that come to mind at the moment.

SSR: Awesome. Love it. Started as a model, went into fashion. You always are dressed in impeccably. Can you talk a little bit about how would you describe your style or your personal style and then also your home to somebody? Did you bring in that Soho House layered feel, or do you have something very different than what you used to do?

LB: Well, I think the layered feel, it comes from my upbringing, it comes from my mom. That’s something that I intuitively I love to do. And I guess that’s what I brought into Soho House as well. And yes, my home reflects that. I’m not scared of mixing chinoiserie with midcentury and do something really contemporary. I love creating projects as well that look accidental. I think that creates a sense of relaxed nature and something that feels like it comes from a real person rather than too automated or systemized or planned. And I think those things can create a very hostile feeling. So yeah, I love mixing different styles. I pay a lot of attention to lighting. I love art. I’m still in the process of moving around a lot. I live like a gypsy, so I don’t have a home base, but I have my furniture and art that I bring around wherever I go. So yeah, I guess that’s the style at atmosphere is my style. I think that was Turner who said that once, the famous painter, and I think that’s a really good way of putting it.

SSR: Is there one thing that most people might not know about you?

LB: Before I embarked on modeling, I wanted to be an actress and I was always the lead on theater plays and I auditioned and played in movies, but thanks God, I didn’t go down that path. I don’t think a lot of people know that. I don’t think my team knows that as well.

SSR: I feel like you would’ve been a great actress. Is there something that you love most about your job?

LB: I love the human connection. I enjoy nothing more than having workshops with our clients, the long days on site and to meet interesting individuals. I love the traveling part as well. I think it’s the sense of adventure that really drives me in design and hospitality in general. And we have 14 projects and there are in nine countries. So as you can tell, almost every project is in a different country. And I love that. I love to learn and keep pushing ourselves and to do a lot of research, and that’s the most beautiful part of our work. And then obviously when it all comes together like that, the opening day when furniture and chandelier becomes a backdrop becomes just a musical instrument, a beautiful opera because the music comes together, operations come together, the scents, the people, the guests, and they all of a sudden start enjoying and using your pieces that you so carefully curated. That’s the moment of magic.

SSR: So on the opposite side, what’s the most challenging part about your job?

LB: Oh, well, it’s again, people, I would say. If people are not moving into the same direction, the trajectory has to be the same. There’s so many different moving parts. Interior design is one discipline, but we always have architects, we always have project managers, quantity surveyors, clients, sometimes more than one. If the vision is not aligned, I think that can be quite challenging. The rest is easy. Budgets, timelines, those are easy things, but when people are difficult, that can be a real headache.

SSR: What do you think is the key to successful collaboration?

LB: I think a shared vision. Oftentimes expectations are not managed properly. Communication is very important and just stay aligned, stay aligned on the same trajectory, same vision, and that’s the key. I think lack of experience can be an issue, but I think it all depends on the team. If the team is capable and the clients are listening and help us, ]allow us to help, then it’s an amazing experience. Then everyone comes away with a lot of things that they learned and they become a better designer, a better person, a better hotelier, and that’s when the magic really happens.

SSR: Yeah, exactly. And I hate to use the word trends, but what are you seeing come across your desk more that you think is kind of showcasing where the industry might head? Are you seeing more lifestyle unique projects? Are you seeing mixed use projects, more residential, hospitality, wellness? Is there anything you’re kind of watching or paying attention to, considering what you see come to you in terms of RFPs or questions or wants from-

LB: Yeah. Well, less so in discipline because I think people, we are quite specialized in hospitality and residential, so we don’t get a lot of inquiries for wellness or retail as such. But I think in terms of style, there’s quite a predictable trend that people are now moving away from the ’70s and moving more towards the ’80s, which is something that I experience when I look at my feed on Pinterest or Instagram. But yeah, we are trying to consciously not do that. Even though it’s very tempting, algorithms are worst enemies, I think these days you’re being fed something that you like and I don’t agree with that. I want to see things that I don’t like. So I’m being challenged and then maybe I can think a bit more outside the box. So it’s all a little bit too much on autopilot at the moment I think. So I think designers nowadays need to make extra effort to find the inspiration that are not necessarily on social media. And so we try to look at auctions and look and buy old books and then just in general, buy a lot of design books that are not easily available to be able to counter them.

SSR: Have you had a mentor along the way or somebody that you can look to that’s helped you or somebody that you use as a sounding board? And do you try to do that for your rising stars in your firm?

LB: Yeah, of course. I had so many mentors. I’ve been so lucky. I think the interior design industry in general is a very supportive and friendly industry, and I’m constantly surprised by that. It’s an amazing community, so I love being part of it. My first mentor was probably my university teacher who just signed me up to this competition that I later won. It wasn’t part of the curriculum because it was a residential scope that we had to design. And I went back to that same class and I did a few classes for them in university when I still had the time in exchange. And then Tom Dixon is still my mentor to this day. We still meet up for coffees when we can, and he’s been such an amazing mentor and always very encouraging and introducing me to people. Another one would be Thomas Heatherwick, who I met casually on design events, and he is definitely become someone who is putting us forward for projects and an amazing, amazing person. I would also highlight probably Verena Haller. She was a client when I was still working at Martin, and throughout the years, it’s been over a decade now. Every once in a while she’s an amazing person that I can rely on. She often tried to find me a job when I was looking for a job in New York or introducing me to people. And just in general, I love women who mention your name in a room full of important people, and it’s quite an incredible trait and I try to reflect it on other people as well.

SSR: There’s nothing more powerful than women supporting women. And we talk about this a lot at our conferences and whatnot. Has it been more challenging as a woman in this industry to launch your own firm and to get those… It’s a very male-dominated world on the investor side, but then there’s a lot of women in this industry, but to own your own business and to get to that point, did you see any more challenges or was it just a challenge just because it is?

LB: I think it’s a challenge just because it, I never think about gender because I have the luxury not to think about gender because I never had a negative experience. Of course, there were times when I found myself in boardrooms and I would be the only female non-British person at the board meeting. That happened a lot. And I only just realized that once in a while, I never think about it because if I had, I already have a huge imposter syndrome, but then I would never made it to create my own firm. I think in general it is very difficult as a female because we are more emotional, we are more intuitive. People don’t necessarily like to take orders from us, but sometimes it can be an advantage, and I think I just don’t think about it because that’s just the way it is. So you just have to do with it.

SSR: Yeah, just got to power through.

LB: Yeah, just power through.

SSR: Was there from your mentors, was there one piece of advice that has stuck with you or one thing they helped you with that you know, keep with you to this day, like the best piece of advice you’ve received from them?

LB: I think, yeah, I need to mention someone I haven’t mentioned to amongst my mentors. She was an amazing director at my work job at Woods Bagot. Her name is Sarah Kay, and she was a director and her demeanor and her personality of how she powered through projects, and she just had this can-do attitude and she would always say, “Just go for it. If the door is open, just walk through the door and then you figure out what to do next.” And that gave me such a confidence in taking any opportunity, every opportunity, just say yes to everything and then you figure out how to do it. And I never once regretted it so far.

Osborn House Australia Linda BoronkaySSR: I love it. Also too, was there a first reality check opening your own business where you were like, “Oh God, I wish I had known?”

LB: Yes. I mean, it happens on a monthly level.No, it’s just insane how many things you have to keep in mind from contracts to proposals to the team, to overheads and cash flow and all the business side of things that you never ever had to deal with. And you still have to produce the amazing design work. So people still need to think that you are just there sketching away 9:00 to 6:00 and you have nothing else to worry about. So that’s like a hard balancing act, obviously. But like I said, it’s an amazing experience. I’m so fortunate that I have the opportunity to do this, and in my own terms, I get to pick my own clients. I get to pick my own team. It’s a wonderful, liberating and empowering experience.

SSR: Do you have the luxury right now to say no to clients? Are you only picking certain projects, or are you just trying to be very, to your point of saying yes. Are you trying to be open to what you take as a younger firm? I know there’s a fine line between having enough work and taking the projects you want, so I’m just curious where you’re at right now.

LB: Yes. So ever since I opened, I tried to be very conscious about how fast we grow, and I’d rather say no to projects than grow too fast. I also think that it’s a responsible to say no to things if you’re not ready for it. So I actually say no to a lot of projects, and I think it pays off because we only do projects that are we truly passionate about and we know that we can deliver. And so that’s why we are a team of 12, but we could have been double, but I chose not to because I don’t want this monster that I then have to keep feeding. I’m very conscious of the fact that we are a young firm, so you are only ever as good as your last project, and I’m trying to deliver projects that we can truly be proud of.

SSR: Speaking of taking projects that you can deliver correctly, is there still a dream project that you have or a space you would love to design that you haven’t yet?

LB: I don’t know. I’s hard because dream projects, I think they consist of amazing clients and a great team, a capable team. It doesn’t necessarily connect to a specific geographical location or a type of project. I would love one day to design set for a movie. I’ve always being fascinated by movies. I think this is why I wanted to be an actress and set design and movies are always a constant inspiration for our projects as well. And as a designer, I always see ourselves as directors on a film set. We are putting the pieces together. We are making sure that the clients have a focal point. We are very conscious about what they see first, what the emotional impact is. I wish I could choose all the tracks in the music that the clients will hear and all the scents of the candles that they will… So I love that holistic approach. So yeah, one day maybe I would love to design a movie, but dream projects from hospitality, they can all be dream projects. It’s not a single ingredient that I would highlight.

SSR: Do you get asked to do more of the holistic? I know some firms are doing more branding and all the pieces, are you trying to do more of that? Is that something you want to do, especially with your incredible background?

LB: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because I truly believe that that’s how you can really create a change, create an amazing experience. Like when we did that hotel in Australia and we were involved in the branding, we were involved in uniforms, we were involved in the graphic design, the signage, the music, the cutlery, the glassware, the tableware, everything. And it was every single notebook that went into the rooms and the pen. We picked everything ourselves, and people really noticed that. When there’s one single vision behind every touchpoint, that’s when that thought comes back to, we are coming full circle with the fact that you want to feel like you’re being embraced by this very quirky, interesting individual. Then it becomes a singular and very interesting experience from a customer’s perspective.

SSR: For you and your firm, how do you define success? In terms of a project, in terms of terms all the deliverables and what you need to accomplish in a single project, what is success for you on that level and then also for your firm in the years to come?

LB: Success is customer satisfaction. It’s client satisfaction. It’s a singular thing. A project can look incredibly amazing. If the client is unhappy because we went over time or over budget, then it taints that success. Of course, it has to look amazing. That’s just baseline. It has to be delivered on time and on budget, those are things that we don’t compromise on, but the client has to be extremely happy as well. And that’s what makes it a really special and happy project that you think back years on end and you still consider it as success. Yeah. And I want to be able to, in a, be in a position where we are now, stay in that position that most of our projects are coming through referrals. People are recommending us to others, and that’s the testament to the work that you do.

SSR: I hate to stop the conversation, but in the sake of time, we always end the podcast with the title of the podcast. So what has been your greatest lesson or lessons learned along the way?

LB: Greatest lessons are if you get an opportunity and you feel is right, then just go for it. And then you figure out how to do it along the way, and that you can’t do things by yourself. You need a team. You need an army around you that enables you to deliver something special.

SSR: Perfect. Well, thank you so much. We’re such a big fan, and I can’t wait to see. I feel like you’re just getting started, so I can’t wait to see what comes next. So thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today.

LB: Thank you, Stacy. It’s been an absolute pleasure. So nice to talk to you, as always.