By Damiete Braide
Mrs. Jennifer Chukwujekwe, proprietor of Jenniez School of African Interior Design, also doubles as the president, Interior Designers’ Association of Nigeria. She believes that interior design is an integral part of human existence.
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She is passionate about interior design in the country and has promised that, during her tenure, there will be inclusiveness in the industry and she will take the industry to a higher level. She spoke to Daily Sun recently.
In what ways has interior design affected the lives of people?
I must emphasize the beauty and relevance of the entire world sitting down at home, thanks to COVID-19. We saw what happened to people during the lockdown where everybody was at home. People realised that they had to learn different ways of working at home. Some people realised that their houses were not as conducive as they thought it was. They also understood that the more they have a beautiful space or functional space, the more productive they were which in turn, affects their personalities, and overall, well-being.
Also imagine, if you have an office that is properly designed in the way it should be designed, productivity of your staff will definitely increase. The staff may not want to go home on time thereby increasing their output.
Whether it is residential or commercial, interior design has a great effect on people, how they live, play and work. It shouldn’t be taken for granted because it affects you emotionally, psychologically and even your well being. Interior design for me is life.
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What is the impact of interior design on the nation?
As a country, you cannot rule out the earning power and contribution of crafts and interior design into the nation’s GDP Interior designers will help the country increase her earning power, create employment for people, expose people to the beauty of aesthetics as a lifestyle.
As an interior designer, which fabrics, local or international, do you like to work with?
I use both. The local ones are not as good as the international ones, however, if given the opportunity or avenue to produce factories with high quality textiles that can be produced for our work, why not? If we have the right funding, government support and the enabling environment, why can’t we have the same quality like the international ones? We can have local fabrics that can meet international standards if given the opportunity to work with.
What is your take on the state of interior design and space transformation industry in the country?
Interior design is a growing industry and we are trying. We don’t have universities that teach interior design in the country which makes it impossible to produce or have as much people that we should have in the industry. We will definitely get better and with mistakes, we will learn and improve and go along. I am very positive about the future of the industry in Nigeria which is positive.
What are the expectations for the sector in Nigeria as you are the incumbent president of the association?
There should be more government awareness in the sector. I want people to understand the importance of interior design in the country and that interior design is important in every aspect of our lives. Interior design is a profession that people cannotdo without. When we understand the importance of interior designs in our lives, we will achieve a lot. I want to see a Nigeria where people cannot do anything without interior designers being consulted.
What steps are in place to checkmate the activities of quacks in the industry?
Considering the fact that coming into the industry doesn’t take much, there are no universities that teaches interior design in the country. However, there will be standard based on experience or formal education that people will have and they cannot venture into the industry like that. They must have a formal education or a form of training based on experience. We are going to work on education, standards and ensure that our people are well trained to be able to do jobs at a professional level that will meet international standards.
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What was the motive behind Jenniez School of African Interior Design?
The school was set up to bridge the gap in interior design training in Nigeria and Africa. There is no university in the country that teaches interior design and for me, it was borne out of the need to see people being trained. I am passionate about interior design and when I wanted to venture into it, I didn’t find anywhere where I could get training, so, I had to travel abroad for training. If I travelled abroad to study it, how many people can afford to travel to go and study it?
It made sense to me to start my own and also contribute my own quota to the industry and see how Nigerians can be trained on interior design. Also, to create more awareness and produce world class certified interior designers who can also run successful interior design businesses.
What would you want to be remembered for as the president of the association?
At the end of my tenure, I want to leave a better association that will be inclusive. I want to be remembered as someone who came and empowered our people while members in the association will not be left out either as a member, professional or even as a client. I want to be remembered as someone who left a legacy in the industry which has come to stay and be a voice for the people.
What lessons have you learnt about life?
Life is in phases, whatever I do, I have to be consistent. I don’t rush things and what is mine will be mine. I have seen that through life and work hard, when it gets to that time, nothing will stop me from shinning. I always put God into whatever I do in life.
How did you venture into interior design?
Initially, I didn’t know that I had a passion for interior design. When I got married, at the end of every year, I would change the outlook of my house either by painting. It took a couple of friends to visit me and they kept asking me, your house is nice, who made it for you? That was when I realised that I had a passion for interior design. People kept asking me if interior design is what I do and I would tell them that is not what I do. After I researched and found out that interior design is a profession.
Before I veered into interior business, I was into the travel industry. I am information technology expert and am into various businesses. I also went into blogging of interior design and noticed that people were asking questions how can they decorate their houses, and it became clear that there was a gap to be filled. I got trained in interior design and I started my own interior design company and as I progressed I set up the school.
I realised and decided how can I train people to create impact and empower people. When I started my interior design school, I realised that people were coming to learn the skill, but they didn’t have the business skills, and that was how I became a coach to train people on interior design and teaching people the business side of interior design.
How do you balance your roles as a mother, wife and career woman?
When my kids were young, then I wasn’t into interior design and I was doing other jobs. When I went into interior design, they were old enough to understand that mummy is busy now and I had a very good supportive system, from the family, husband and children, friends. Basically, it was the support that I had around me that made me thrive and do exceptionally well and with the help of God which made things easier for me.
What was the inspiration behind your book?
The title of my book is Interior Designers Planner. During my course of training, I realized that most interior designers because they started because of the passion for interior design, they start the business and do not have a business name, they still operate with their personal account, so the book was like a build up into what they need to start interior design business. The book helps people discover themselves and translate that passion into career and able to plan themselves.
What is your advice for women in the profession?
The industry is mostly dominated by women. I want them to take it as a business and career. Some women would start interior design out of passion and I found out that most women do run it as a business. It is more like compassion or just trying to make earns meet. They don’t put in their all and I want them to understand that it is actually a business and career that can make them become financially free. They need to run it as a business and not as a hobby. If you do not have the business skills to take you to the next level, then you will not be able to make much profit from the business.