In conversation with Ashton Holmes, Mix 30 under 30 Designer

three people talking around a round table

A selection of photos on this page are provided by Mix Interiors

You were recognised in Mix Interiors’ 30 under 30 Class of 2023, that celebrates trailblazers in commercial interior design – Congratulations! What’s happened since July?

Thanks! I initially celebrated my inclusion in Mix Interiors' 30 under 30 Class of 2023 with friends and family. This achievement marked a significant milestone for me, ticking off an item from my professional bucket list.

Mix Interiors organised an event to celebrate the new cohort, where I was joined by colleagues in Peldon Rose’s SME team. It was great to meet some of the team from Mix Interiors, who then invited me to participate in a roundtable discussion a few weeks later, held at Amtico Flooring’s Waterloo showroom. We discussed how the designers of the future can leave a positive impact on the discipline, as well as a lasting impression. It provided a platform for engaging conversations with other designers from diverse backgrounds, both in traditional construction and design and build, and was an insightful experience to observe and discuss how individual design journeys influence perspectives on various themes and topics.

Where did your design journey start? Have you always pursued interior design?

My passion for design came from my mum. She is crazy creative and can put her mind to anything; she taught me how to sew and how to sketch. My mum’s artistic nature steered me down the path of creativity and design.

When I left secondary school, I studied graphic design at A-level. An interior project came up during this time to design a nightclub, and whilst working on it, I fell in love with interior design. I then furthered my education by studying for BTEC in Design, which covered architecture, furniture, interior and product design. That turning point in my studies is what gave me the final push into interior design.

Where do you take design inspiration from?

Honestly, anything and everything. Art, in all its forms, serves as a powerful muse, like Daniel Arsham and his Relics of the Landscape exhibition or textile designers like Lucienne Day. I find insight and ideas in other industries too, like fashion. There are parallels that we can draw between the design of fashion and architecture. One can often orchestrate the other, as demonstrated in Somerset House’s Skin + Bones exhibition, which draws on the dynamic relationship between the two industries, offering a unique perspective on how design principles can seamlessly transcend disciplinary boundaries. I aim to infuse my work with a depth and vibrancy that translate as designs that resonate on multiple levels and engage the senses in unexpected ways.

How do you keep your designs relevant and modern, but ones that will also stand the test of time?

I think an ageless design blends elements of past, present and future to create a rich, familiar, but contemporary scheme. While trends are considered beautiful in their moment, they are also fleeting. I like to steer clear of the temporary and focus on creating my own design language that I hope I can revisit in 10 years’ time and think, “This could have been designed today.”

How do you put your own stamp on your work?

I deconstruct everything. When I see or create an idea, I like to see how many ways I can break it down and rebuild it into something truly unique to a client.

As well as this, I love to hide ‘Easter eggs’ in my designs. Easter eggs are secrets or references hidden in pieces of media like movies, songs, video games or TV series. They’re often elusive and aim to reveal something more about the story, or to honour the influences or inspirations of the creator. I often play around with hidden meaning; my mantra is “What would the walls say if they could talk?”

We recently worked with a client to create a workspace that embodied their manifesto. Their tagline is ‘Relentless like a salmon.’ I designed a statement graphic wall for their new space which, at first glance, looks like an oceanic contouring map, with the business’ coordinates at the bottom. I took the flesh of a salmon, distorted and inverted the image, and matched it to the brand colourway, weaving in a secret nod to the company’s tagline.

What are some common misconceptions or overlooked aspects in designing a workplace that you seek to address in your projects?

Form follows function. It’s a pivotal rule when it comes to design, however, the general wellbeing of end users can often be overlooked as a functional element. Supporting mental and physical health, general happiness and business culture improves the productivity of the workforce and creates a space that functions and communicates to all its users, providing an environment where people feel comfortable to work.

This can take its form in producing a menu of task-based or collaborative environments, becoming more educated on the needs of the neurodiverse workforce, or uncovering the certain needs of each user. Allowing ample opportunities for the user to find their happy medium is essential.

How do you stay up to date and continually improve your skills in such a dynamic industry?

There’s always something to learn. My education didn’t stop upon leaving university; there will always be a new thing to adopt, a new material to manipulate or a new technology to harness. I’ve learned over the years to be a sponge, soak everything up, and to ask every question I have. Alongside this, I stay up to date with journals, like The Conversation and RIBA-J, and continue to connect with the wider industry, whilst looking into other design-led sectors like fashion and consumer goods to gain inspiration.

How many years have you worked in interior design? What has your biggest learning been throughout this period?

I’ve worked in design for eight years now, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: Nothing that’s right today will be correct tomorrow. In our fast-paced world, our roles as professionals are always shifting. To make a positive impact on our industry and the world at large, it's crucial to stay hungry for positive change and keep embracing growth.

What is your philosophy when it comes to creating commercial spaces that are both functional and beautiful?

In my approach to marrying functionality and beauty, I'm all about looking to the future. I like to think, "What possibilities might unfold down the road, and how can I bring a touch of the future into my designs today?" It's about staying ahead of the curve, being forward-thinking, and aspiring to make my designs not just current, but ahead of their time.

What excites you most about the future of commercial interior design?

What excites me the most is the dynamic interplay of technology, evolution, and a transformative shift in the very fabric of what ‘workplace’ means. As we deconstruct more linear or binary design elements like desks, an evolution is underway; The conventional office space is giving way to multifunctional environments reminiscent of hotels, homes, and coffee shops, but ones that transcend the 9-5 routine, and give back where possible.

In a future where offices eclipse mere workspaces, they’re poised to become destinations in themselves. Picture singular buildings turning into hubs where people aren't just clocking in – they're genuinely pumped to be part of something bigger and more exciting.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers?

Firstly, you have to trust yourself. Imposter syndrome will come knocking, but you've got to trust that you're exactly where you're supposed to be. Making decisions can be tricky but embrace in your abilities as a designer and go with it.

All the same, never get too comfortable. Don't rest on your laurels; always push the boundaries. Growth comes when you're uncomfortable, so keep challenging yourself and striving for positive change.

See similar content

You may also like

Detail shot of brown terazzo worktop with brown leather seating

Start your workplace transformation today.

Your workplace holds enormous potential to improve your business performance. Get in touch today, and we will unlock that potential together.