He is tall, dark and handsome; articulate, soft-spoken, intelligent; and a gentleman to the core. But do not be deceived: behind that polished look lies a great personality, an excellent people manager, a shrewd businessman, a skillful Interior Designer and a ruthless Project Manager.
I never knew the difference between his job as an Interior Designer and that of an Interior Decorator, nor did I appreciate how hard he really works managing a team and delivering complex projects to specification, on time and within strict budgets, until we had this eye-opening chat.
Another evidence that you can ace your career in any industry of your passion despite what you studied for your first degree. I’m sure you’ll be thrilled and enlightened. Without further ado, please explore with me the very exciting world of the amazing Dele Nicholas, Principal Designer and Lead Project Manager at his own Interior Designs outfit, Fitted Designs Interiors:
Funmi: Let’s meet the man behind Fitted Designs Interiors .
Dele: Nicholas Oladele hails from Topo in Badagry Local Government area of Lagos State. I bagged an HND in Banking and Finance from The Polytechnic Ibadan in 2006 (CEC)
Funmi: Wow. And one would think you studied Building Engineering or a design related course. So, have you ever handled any banking / finance job role before?
Dele: I handled the accounts while working as Project Supervisor at Sonon Furniture Adewole Estate, Ilorin. That was from October 2006 to July 2007. I relocated to Lagos in 2008 and took up a part time Job with Calvary Hill Metal Art as a designer on faux finishes and special wall effects. I was there till 2010. I became a certified Interior Designer in March 2013, after completing a series of courses at The Calibre Institute Ogudu, Lagos.
Funmi: So what triggered the transition from Finance to Interior Design? Has it always been a passion?
Dele: It could have been there all along, but I never discovered it till I had to work with my dad on some projects from while still in school. He is a Building Engineer, and those days during the holidays, I used to assist him on site. I worked basically as his accountant. Complaints by clients about poor finishing by the artisans were very rampant in those days. The artisans couldn’t meet up with proposed standards most of time, so I took it upon myself to provide quality control and correct their lapses. With time, I discovered I had a passion for finishings and Interior Design, and I chose to pursue it as a career.
Funmi: Many people can’t tell the difference between Interior Decorations and Interior Designs. Do they mean the same thing? If not, what’s the difference?
Dele: Laughs. It’s a world of difference. An Interior Decorator provides decorations for the interior of a building, with good furnitures, colour combination and artistic effects. An Interior Designer, on the other hand is a professional who employs CREATIVE and TECHNICAL solutions to produce a FUNCTIONAL, QUALITY ASSURED and AESTHETICALLY attractive environment within a given structure and specified budget. The Interior Design process follows a systematic and well coordinated methodology, including research, analysis and integration of knowledge into creative processes, whereby the NEEDS and RESOURCES of the CLIENT are satisfied to produce interior spaces that fulfill the project goals.
In a nutshell, an Interior Designer sees every structure as a potential space which can be built or converted to function in line with a proposed purpose.
For example, as an Interior Designer, I can convert a residential home to an office space, an office space to a religious centre; I can convert a hospital to a banking hall or any existing building or space to serve any proposed function, and all this must be achieved to time, within a budget, and in line with a given specification. That is where Project Management comes in.
Funmi : Amazing! So, when was Fitted Designs Interiors officially birthed?
Dele: Fitted Designs was founded in November 2007 while I was working as a Project Manager in Ilorin; but we got registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC in 2012 (Reg. Number. 125960).
Funmi: What service(s) do you render?
Dele: Our services include:
– Space Management and Remodelling (renovation)
– Design Solution
– Facility Management
– Floor Solutions (e.g. tilling, concrete floors, paving stone, wooden floor, carpet and mosaic etc.)
– POP Ceiling design,
– Partition Systems
– Wall panelling
– Furniture designs (handmade)
– Contemporary Painting and Special-effect wall finishes and
As an Interior Design firm, we usually take up projects from the carcass level (i.e. when the structure is complete to the roof top, but is merely an empty space), and from there we will propose the design concept in line with what the space was meant for through our 3D designs from ‘down to earth’.
Funmi : What makes Fitted Designs different from other Interior Design outfits?
Dele: What sets Fitted Design apart from others is that we have come a long way, and gone too far to compromise on quality. We have delivered functional, durable and quality assured design solutions to our clients over the years as we march forward with our vision of ‘becoming a world-class interior design firm where there is a place for everything and everything is in its place‘.
Funmi: Kudos! What three things keep you going as the visioneer of this great firm?
Dele: Three things that inspire me are:
1. My Dad: He is a Builder, like I mentioned earlier. His craftsmanship has been a source of inspiration to me. I followed him to some of his building projects, and listening to the complaints about some mistakes and substandard jobs by the artisans exposed me to lots of correction. Dad was a major source of inspiration to do all things creatively well as quality cannot be compromised in our field.
2. Some inspirational quotes from people I respect, for example, I once read one by Nelson Mandela which said, “It always seems impossible until it is done. ” That quote always holds true in my field and it gives me the courage to believe when I get seemingly impossible briefs from my client; for instance, to turn a café into a hospital space? But now I know all things are possible.
Another of such quotes is from “The Rules of Work” by Richard Templar where he wrote, “Never Stand Still.”
That keeps me going without the need to create any boss vs worker relationship with my staff, as that would be a bottleneck to the way things operate in my field. Instead, we operate as a team, and I treat them as team members
3. I can’t but agree with the statement, “Interior designing for me is not a job but an adventure – anticipating always … ” from the book “Starting Your Career as an Interior Designer” by Robert K. Hale and Thomas L. William. In a funny way, seeing inferior jobs by quacks always sparks up creative Design Solution ideas in me.
Funmi: Awesome. Now, what are some hazards you’ve been able to avert on the job?
Dele: Good question. Inattention and negligence are the major undoing of many players in this industry; and they are not necessarily quacks. However, a very observant and meticulous Interior Designer will go very far, because a good job is beyond just delivering to specification within time and budget. It must also be structurally safe and sound, posing no threats to the users thereafter. And that is one of the major reasons why it is not advisable to keep a boss-worker relationship with your artisans and staffs. You must be on ground and get your hands dirty, otherwise, things might go awry after your project has been commissioned.
A common example of hazards I have averted on the job is electric shock, and I achieve that by watching out for water leakages. When a space is reconstructed to serve an entirely different purpose, these things happen, but it only takes the experienced and meticulous designer to see beyond the surface. Subtle water leakages might lead to entire walls giving electric shocks well after the project has been signed off, and this is one major hazard my team has averted many times.
Funmi: Wow! Commendable. What are the major challenges of the job?
Dele: The first major challenge is being able to manage a team of artisans without creating a boss-worker relationship. Artisans are mostly unreliable, and they can be very volatile. Yet, you can’t handle the projects by yourself. Keeping good hands from project start to finish can be very challenging at times
The second major challenge is the way prices of commodities fluctuate in our economy. A client sees a design during his vacation in Dubai, comes with a snapshot, and wants you to replicate same with his structure. You cost materials, give a quotation, which has to be reasonable because of competition, and by the time the project kicks off within weeks, prices have escalated because of exchange rates.
As a professional, it’s very undesirable to go back to your clients with such stories as that might seem unprofessional. This affects our margin most times, though some clients who are aware of the situation try to compensate us.
Funmi: Tell us about some major projects you have handled.
Dele: As a trusted brand in the industry, Fitted Designs has handled countless projects ranging from residential to corporate work spaces; however, we have this nondisclosure agreement with some major clients.
Nevertheless, these are some of the projects we handled:
– Design Solution and Space Management services for Pearson Nigeria, Alausa Lagos Branch.
– Special wall effect and wall finishes for Roddizio Restaurant and Bar, GRA Ikeja.
– Space Management for DHL Branch office at Alausa, Ikeja.
– Residential Home Design Concept package for Alhaji Laide Fowosere, Victoria Island, Lagos.
– Repainting and Repair work of ASSBIFI Secretariats, Alausa, Ikeja, among many others.
Funmi: It’s been such an educative session with you Mr. Nicholas. Final words for aspiring and fellow Interior Designers?
Dele: Thanks for the feature. Be good to your staff, be observant, never stop moving forward, and remember, it always seems impossible until it is done, so never intimidated by the size or complexity of any project. Yes, you can!
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