Valentina Piscopo is an Italian designer and stylist based in Dubai. Winner of the 2019 Inside Out Arabia Magazine Home of the Year, she has been turning heads with her clean and calm aesthetics – meeting the needs of individuals for their coastal residences in Dubai. Today, we had the honour to speak with Valentina and hear about her story and get an insight into the creative process behind her designs.  

So Valentina, how did you overcome the initial challenges of establishing yourself as a designer and stylist ? 

I have worked in the art and design industry for four years so by the time I started freelancing I was confident with my network. I invested in decorating my home as professionally as possible within my limited budget and then hired a fantastic photographer to take photos – that was the beginning of my portfolio. Lastly, I had to become social media savvy, and quick! It is time consuming I am not going to lie – but it pays off and it’s the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to build a brand. 

What is the first thing you do after receiving the brief for a new design project? 

Create a moodboard, I get a lot of inspiration from magazines, window displays and Pinterest. I like homes that are cohesive, so an overall mood, style and colour palette for the whole space needs to be considered before tackling each room one by one. 

What are your most favourite projects to work on? 

Residential homes that have existing jaw dropping architectural details and are preferably by the sea. My favourite aesthetic is definitely light and fresh inspired by holiday homes in Byron Bay, South Africa and Venice Beach. I like uncluttered – magazine worthy spaces so I do take a minimal yet warm approach to furniture and accessories which lends itself so well when the shell of the room has a lot of built in character on its own. 

How do you find products to use in your work? Do you have a favourite magazine / social platform you use? How about your favourite website? 

I first visit my favourite stores in the city, which thankfully even here in Dubai have recently launched online platforms – this makes it so much easier for us designers to grab product cut outs for our moodboards. I also use Instagram a lot and try to visit furniture shows every year such as il Salone del Mobile in Milan. 

If you had a time machine, what era of design would you go back to? 

I would definitely stay in the now, I am excited about the contemporary era of design. However there are some elements of the 70’s which I have been looking to for inspiration such as the use of cane, indoor plants and open plan living. Being a trained Art Historian I am also a big fan of introducing classic designs and art to contemporary spaces. For example, I am a big fan of mid-century designs such as the ones of Hans Wegner. 

What are you most proud of so far? 

Seeing my own home on the cover of Inside Out Arabia magazine was a dream come true. My mother was a keen amateur interior designer and our family homes were often featured in Architectural Digest in Italy, but I never thought I would be able to follow in her footsteps and snatch a cover feature at the age of 28. That, I am very proud of! Especially since my home is a rental and therefore comes with certain limitations.

What is your most favourite part of being an Interior Designer? And most disliked? 

It allows me to apply art and imagination, exercise my inborn creativity, I also love that there is a huge inspiring female community of designers in my city. It is really empowering. My least favourite part is regulations, anthropometrics and paper work in general… any task that is not creative I find I use double the effort to complete it. That’s just how my brain is wired! 

What advice do you have for young Designers and Architects reading this interview? 

For those who have studied interior design or architecture I recommend working under an established firm for 2-3 years. It is completely eye opening to understand how the business operates, it will be tough but also vital to understand if it’s the career you are truly passionate about. If you are not qualified I am testament to the fact that you can change career – I have personally re-trained with an online diploma from the New York University of Art + Design. And lastly, research local competitions or awards you can enter yourself or your firm in, if you get shortlisted or even win it, it will help to increase your following, receive free press and make yourself known to the public.

So, what’s next?

I am having a lot of fun assisting with the creative direction and operations of a new company called Fronteriors, a furniture hacking venture launching soon in Dubai. We are busy designing the collection and I am loving getting my hands dirty with complex product design. I am also working on launching my own e-design platform that will enable clients and designers to collaborate in a much more quick, affordable and efficient way. Stay tuned for the launch and in the meantime you can follow my journey @kukydesign

Photo credits Natelee Cocks