Today’s interview is special because we decided to take a step forward and challenge architects to answer our questions as well. Carolyn Trevor established her studio in London, in 1997 and currently collaborates with 20 architects and interior designers. In this interview you will find out about the ups and downs of being an architect while also going through an impressive portfolio. Enjoy!

  • Freshome: What determined your passion for design?
  • Carolyn Trevor: I was fascinated by art and design as a child. It could have been inherited from my parents. My father, a Chartered Surveyor, spent his life working with buildings, my mother, after a brush with fashion modeling, became a notable plantswoman and garden designer.

Knightsbridge Suite 1

  • Freshome: Tell us about the moment when you decided this is the way to go.
  • Carolyn Trevor: It was a tussle between a career in art or architecture. The chance to work in 3D was irresistible, so I decided to become an architect.
  • Freshome: Can you remember your first design project? Describe it a bit, whether it is a gizmo you worked at as a little kid or something that was sold at a large scale.
  • Carolyn Trevor: When I was eight years old I built a tree house and encampment in our garden.
  • Freshome: What field of design are you most interested in? Do your works have anything to do with it? (We are asking this because not many designers do what they actually want)
  • Carolyn Trevor: My greatest job satisfaction comes from creating new buildings to a particularly complicated and demanding brief. Not many new-build opportunities in the UK, with so few empty plots or wide open spaces, as in, say Australia. I should love to build a line of cool beach houses for instance. I thought of being a fashion designer, another form of instant gratification but I am not outgoing enough, too shy.
  • Freshome: Chronologically describe what you are going through (feeling and thoughts) on your way to work.
  • Carolyn Trevor: We live as a family above our working studios, so I suppose the chronology depends on which of the children I meet on the way, rather than the journey itself. With no traveling I have to switch from one mindset to another in an instant. I try hard to separate professional and home lives as much as possible.

Knightsbridge Suite 2

  • Freshome: What is your favourite book/magazine on design?
  • Carolyn Trevor: Building Design for its inside architectural gossip, also French and German Architectural Digest.
  • Freshome: What inspires you?
  • Carolyn Trevor:Encountering new experiences is important in maintaining freshness and a positive outlook whether a visit to a gallery or overseas travel.
  • Freshome: What is the most frustrating aspect of your job as a designer? And the most rewarding one?
  • Carolyn Trevor: Seeing a design through to completion is the most rewarding part of the job. Downsides are the time consuming frustrations along the way, nothing running according to plan and nail biting reliance on a wide network of trades and suppliers.
  • Freshome: From your point of view, is design an art or a science?
  • Carolyn Trevor: I would not call design either a process nor an artifact. It is more like a dialogue where you hope the outcome will be as elegant as it is ‘fit for purpose.’
  • Freshome: Let’s say you entered a contest. You have to come up with a design for the first house on the Moon built for extra-terrestrial living. How would your project look like?
  • Carolyn Trevor: The only other man-made structures that could compare with the scale and living requirements of an extra terrestrial house are great oceangoing ships. I have always preferred designs on a human scale, with tactile finishes, to those ubiquitous sci-fi set designs with their bulkheads and ducts on view. Such a project would offer us the wonderful opportunity to create something entirely true to the genus loci (spirit of place). The challenge would be to create something in keeping with the airless and waterless environment within the freedom of a lower gravity. It would probably be a return to the cave, until we have the knowledge and courage to venture out.

North London House

  • Freshome: If design were a product, what would it be and how would you design it?
  • Carolyn Trevor: It would be most like a mirror that appears different and appropriate to whomever is viewing it. Allow people to be confident and informed in what it is they like.
  • Freshome: If you had no limits (money, resources), what would you create?
  • Carolyn Trevor: I would look at the interface between virtual and real architecture and design. It seems that the natural inclination of people to change and acquire objects is not sustainable, also leads to inequality. It would be clever to develop a method of changing design without placing a heavier burden on our resources, as well as satisfying our innate acquisitiveness and longing for change.

Hampstead House

  • Freshome: Share something you would like the world to know about you or your ideas.
  • Carolyn Trevor: Design is no longer ‘top down.’ No need to follow the dictates of a professional or a social elite. As in top 40 music charts for music, the label or logo will become less important, supplanted by more niche design relevant to the individual. I see more and more ability to choose what we like, anyone can engage in this dialog.
  • Freshome: What do you think of our site?
  • Carolyn Trevor: I think it is very interesting and of the moment.
  • Freshome: What advice do you have for young designers or architects reading this interview?
  • Carolyn Trevor: We believe that like all careers especially in the current economic cycle, designers must be prepared to be flexible in their work and professional development. As in all periods of financial stress and great changes, creativity and doggedness will win the day.