Emma Maxwell is one of Asia’s top restaurant interior designers. Since moving to Singapore she has not looked back.
What’s your story?
I’m an interior designer who specialises in restaurant and bar design. I have my own firm, Emma Maxwell Design. I’m based in Singapore, originally from Melbourne, Australia. I graduated from RMIT in sculpture.
I have an uncompromising eye for detail, probably a hangover from my London advertising days. This characteristic ensures that each of my projects are finished with finesse, quality and passion.
My list of credits include projects worldwide from casual to fine dining Michelin star restaurants such as 3 starred Bruno Menard (also host of Master Chef Asia) as well as resorts in the Maldives and South East Asia.
I have been widely awarded and recognized for the last 3 year runnings at the UK based International Bar and Restaurant Awards, I have received trophies at the A&D Awards and I have been published widely in Wallpaper, Interior Design Review, Frame, Belle, Elle Décor, InDesign, Surface, Epicure, Cubes, D&A, The Peak and Prestige.
What excites you most about your industry?
The endless possibility of growth and creative output. The design industry is changing all the time. There is never time to rest on one’s laurels.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I moved to Asia 8 years ago from Sydney and it has been one of the best career moves I could have ever made. There is so much scope for growth here. It has given me so many opportunities.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore. For a Westerner it’s easy to communicate. It’s also a dynamic, growing city with a hunger for everything new. It doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
If you don’t first succeed, try again, and again and again! It’s determination and focus that will get you over the line. Also there is never an excuse to forget your manners. Always conduct yourself with dignity and with grace. It’s the weak who are rude with explosive tempers in business.
Who inspires you?
My mother. She taught me the virtue of patience and compassion.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That no matter how small your company is, no matter where you are located, if you want to reach to the highest international goal in your industry, just ask and have courage and faith in your ability. It’s amazing the response you can get.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
No. Every step of my journey has been integral to where I am now. The lows of having only $200 in my pocket and in search of the next project and to where I am today. Designing restaurants for the world’s best Michelin starred chefs. All of it is important. All of it makes me humble and grateful for every day in business that I have.
How do you unwind?
I travel! I immerse myself in architecture and design all over the world. Right now , it is exploring every facet of Italy that I can. I’m in Siena right now. I’m unwinding by looking at the various 800 year old pattern detailing in the duomo. My unwind time is also my inspiration time. It’s important to feel free. Your work will be the better for it.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Sri Lanka. It’s sublime. Perfect beaches, amazing food and no one tries to sell you a sarong on the beach. As yet, it is unspoilt. The architecture is divine.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Or better yet, look at this sculpture: Jean of Arc. For me, it’s the version in the Notre Dame, Paris.
No matter how small you are, if feel you are over looked, if you come from a humble background, you can have the determination, the talent and drive to lead, succeed and strive forwards. In spite of all of the adversity around you, stick to your steed, raise your sword and never cease and never compromise your intent, passion, dreams or your values. You will eventually win, in so many ways.
Shameless plug for your business:
I’m one of the best restaurant designers in Asia.
How can people connect with you?
I’m visual. So I’m Instagram.
This interview was part of the Callum Connect’s column found on The Asian Entrepreneur:
Callum Laing invests and buys small businesses in a range of industries around Asia. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is the founder & owner of Fitness-Buffet a company delivering employee wellness solutions in 12 countries. He is a Director of, amongst others, Key Person of Influence. A 40 week training program for business owners and executives.
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