We recently caught up with the wonderful Sintija who you may know as ‘Space for Edit’. Sintija was working a 9-5 office job as an interior designer before taking a leap of faith to become her own boss. In 2018, she launched her own Youtube channel, SpaceforEdit, and her goal was to take people behind the scenes of what it’s really like to be an interior designer. Since then, she’s racked up almost a quarter of a million views and worked on some amazing projects along the way.
We wanted to speak with Sintija as we have been enjoying her content for a while and wanted to hear her thoughts on biophilia, wellness and the future of interior design.
Hi Sintija! How are you today?
I’m really good! I was actually quite impressed by that number, almost a quarter of a million – that’s good right?!
For people who are not familiar with what you do, could you tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve been an interior designer now for about 7 or 8 years in commercial interiors. I’ve worked as both as an employee and on a self-employed/freelance basis. After doing both on and off, I ultimately stuck with self-employment as I prefer the flexibility it allows.
Although I’ve been self-employed for a while now, there are still new challenges and things I am learning. It’s been a wild ride so far.
You said you’ve been an interior designer for 7 or 8 years, how much of a focus was there on wellness and biophilic design back when you were studying at university?
I think it’s only really become widely spoken about more recently, I’d say in the last four or five years. We’ve started introducing a lot more greenery in our projects. Whether it’s real or faux, even just a visual representation of nature can be beneficial.
I’ve also seen suppliers, both real and faux plant suppliers, really step up their game. Rather than simply being a place to purchase plants from, companies like yours really want to educate designers which is a massive help for us selling the project as a whole to clients.
You mentioned earlier that it’s mainly commercial customers you deal with, do you have a specific type of commercial customers?
It’s a bit of everything. Especially now when corporate and hospitality design has become so similar. More and more, offices are looking to add entertainment features, flexible meeting spaces, places to relax and biophilic elements to entice their employees to return.
What do you think is the biggest cause of stress or anxiety in an interior environment?
The biggest stress I think is essentially sitting in a box. Not having windows, or the windows are in a position where you can’t look to the outer world. We are essentially wild animals; we come from nature and need it around us. Although we’ve changed our lifestyles over the years it doesn’t mean that we’ve lost that need for connection with nature.
I feel passionate about this as I come from a tiny little village and spent my days and summers outside. Even now, when I go outside I feel recharged. I can breathe, I can think clearly and I’m less stressed. When that element is taken away it inevitably leads to anxiety and higher stress levels.
When clients maybe don’t understand or realise the importance of nature, it’s our responsibility to educate them on it.
What do you think is fuelling this rise in the awareness of biophilic design? Do you think it has been the pandemic or do you think it’s something that would have happened naturally anyway as we become more urbanised?
Probably a mix. I think the way that big brands were moving helped to give it an initial push. Especially in office culture, you saw these big Google offices seven or eight years ago doing these great, beautiful things that eventually began to feed down to everyone else on a smaller scale. That’s how trends happen right?
And like you said, the fact that we have had the opportunity to go back to our home comforts and have a cup of tea in the garden in the middle of the working day. People realised that actually, this helps me, this is what I need. Even if it’s just a walk in the park, we need that connection with nature. So when you go back to the office and there’s nothing there like that, there’s an issue.
Is the growing body of research into biophilic design something you keep up to date with as an interior designer?
I do like to keep up to date with trends and research generally with things like newsletters, but in terms of biophilic design, probably not in as much detail as you guys will. I’m one of those designers who trust my suppliers. I know you guys are the specialists so when I’m consulting with a client and more specific details are needed, I know I can always turn to my suppliers and ask for their expert advice and possibly even introduce them to the client and get their input as well.
One of the frustrations I’m sure you’ll share is that it can be sometimes be difficult to quantify to clients the effect that adding natural elements like plants and flowers can have. You’ll often hear that plants improve your focus and concentration etc, but there aren’t really any monetary figures we can use to demonstrate exactly how that works. At the end of last year, we were part of a research project at a large office in London. We had participants working in four or five different environments, ranging from very sparse and bare to a full immersive biophilic experience. Over the course of the study we measured things like their heart rate and productivity, as well as journaling their emotions in a diary. What we’re hoping to do once the results have been compiled is to actually place a monetary value on planting. I think it’ll make it a lot easier for us, and also for yourself as a designer, to have those conversations and be able to clearly display the potential impact that biophilic design can have.
You’re mirroring the challenges that designers face as well, because you can’t really put a measure on good design. There’s not enough research behind it which makes it difficult when it comes to selling our designs and proposals and encouraging clients to add in those features. From our experience as designers, we know that it’s going to improve the space but from a client’s perspective they see numbers on a budget sheet. They realise that they might not be able to afford that extra feature, biophilic element or more comfortable solution for seating, so it gets pulled from the project and we remain stuck where we are. So yeah, I think this kind of research that you are doing is great and will help a lot of designers to push biophilia even further.
What are the main challenges that you’ve experienced when it comes to incorporating living elements like plants and flowers in your designs?
I think from a client’s perspective, and what I see in their face when I mention living plants and biophilia, is a worry about the maintenance. That is often a tough question as most likely they’re not going to have a team on site that will take care of them. I always try to propose a maintenance subscription or contract where a team like yours will come in and take care of it all for them.
Do you have a favourite project that you’ve been a part of where biophilic design was a focus rather than an afterthought?
Recently, as you know, sustainability has been a big focus in our industry, and wellbeing and biophilia go hand in hand with this. It’s such a broad term.
We are currently working on projects where we’re leading with sustainability in mind and there’s new information coming out daily. This is why I say I go to my suppliers to ask for their latest and greatest ideas because we need to be on top of these things. With those projects where sustainability is the top priority that’s where we look to biophilia and how we can improve the space for everyone using it. It’s really great to see that clients and the public are opening up to these ideas.
Is it something that you’ve tried to incorporate in your own home? And do you have any tips?
I have plants in every single corner of the room. I’m not quite the crazy plant lady just yet as I don’t have time to look after them but I do have plants everywhere. Even if there’s not an option to have a real plant, I’ll use a faux plant or some kind of foliage.
I love to keep my blinds open to let the daylight in. We actually bought our house based on the garden because we also have a dog that loves to run about so that was a priority. Again, it goes back to being from the countryside, I’ve always been drawn towards nature.
Even something simple like having cut flowers can make such a big difference. They are easy to change up and not very difficult to look after. So yes, elements of biophilia within the house are definitely needed.
What does the future hold for Sintija and Space for Edit?
I wish I knew. It’s been ups and downs for me. I go through phases where I love what I do and I’m so engaged that nothing else matters. Then I go through phases where I’m sick of this and want something else. I think what I’ve learned over the last few years is that I need a mix of both. So now going into freelancing and self-employment it’s really given me that time and flexibility again where I can work on my YouTube and socials and connect with people that way. So I’m hoping to keep that balance going and reach further afield.
My friends often say they don’t understand how my channel is not even bigger because of the value that is there, so fingers crossed my moment is coming.