Maria Cheung, director and head of interior design at Squire & Partners, on how she got started in property, the project she’s proudest of, her advice for young people and her cultural recommendations.
What do you value in people?
Honesty and enthusiasm. To do any job well, you must have a strong desire to do it, and to work well with other people, you must have their trust. That’s everything.
What do you like most about yourself?
I’m hard-working, determined and have a flexibility in my thinking and approach to work.
What does your job entail?
I run the interior design department at Squire & Partners. We have a team of great designers and I review with them the full range of our work, from concept to details, and projects that are onsite as well as what is new and developing in the interiors market. I also meet and work closely with all our clients and consultants, and I keep an ear to the ground for any new opportunities to show off our talents!
How did you join the property industry?
Originally, I trained as an architect and started out by setting up my own practice. It was good experience, and set me up for joining Squire & Partners in 2007. From the off, I worked across a range of projects, where I found a love for interiors that became the foundation for setting up our in-house interiors department.
What do you like most about the property industry?
It’s always evolving. We are about to enter a period that will be looked back on as a time of enormous change. There’s a wealth of opportunity coming too, in adaptations that will inevitably come from the changes we’re seeing on our high streets as former retail spaces are put to other uses, which may be sad for some right now but will lead to exciting times and potential.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I’ve been lucky enough to work on a variety of projects, from large-scale, mixed-use developments to one-off houses, workspaces, co-living schemes and installations, and even product designs such as bags and door levers. Through these projects, we’ve gained a breadth of experience that enables us to turn our skills to any project or challenge.
The project I’m most proud of is, of course, The Department Store. It’s not only Squire & Partners’ HQ here in the heart of Brixton, it also has a making studio for a community of makers and hosts a restaurant and events spaces that serve our staff and members. It was a fantastic opportunity that really pushed our ideas. Now, we’re adding workspaces for the local community at The Department Store Studios, which will launch in early 2021.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Build experience. Work hard. Learn from people.