Today we have a conversation with award-winning Interior Designer Vera Sant Fournier, a self-confessed wizard of light bulb moments, proud mum and wife. She is a fierce femme fatale who embodies ‘warrior’ and has a business to match.
I first met Vee at a close friend’s BBQ, back in the days when we were free to move around. Goodness, that feels like an age ago. She walked in the room like a catwalk queen, oozing with style, grace, and a stunning smile to match. I loved her instantly. And the knockout, mega-shoulder blouse she was wearing. She felt like an old friend. We instantly hit it off chatting about creating, art, fashion, and above all, difficulties in progressing her career on a small island. Her keen eye for detail comforted me and I was eager to find out more about her work.
Give Vera Sant Fournier an empty room and in no time she will turn it into an explosion of colours and ideas. She has won countless awards as a designer – her mantlepiece must be completely brimming! In 2015 she bagged the Malta Best In Business Award. In 2016 she won Best Entrepreneur Of The Year and Best Design Company plus she was honoured to receive the Best Female Entrepreneur of the year award. In 2017 she won Best Boat and Yacht – Interior Design Company Of The Year (Conceptual Design) and in 2020 the studio was graced with the Luxury Lifestyle Award – Best Luxury Design Studio in Malta, and a few months later the same award for Qatar. She also boasts the prestigious Iconic Interiors – Innovative ‘Interiors Award in the Office & Workspaces’ category for their product design, Botanical Rotation, awarded by the German Design Council.
She puts her success down to having big dreams and ambition and the strength required to solidify her drive. Go girl!
What designers inspires you?
Kelly Hoppen amongst many celebrity Interior designers who prove that taste, style and the know how, do not come from certifications and degrees but come from within and experience. You either have it or you don’t. Kelly Wearstler, just for staying true to who she is, her style, she does it how she wants to, and creates some of the most bold, dramatic and impactful interiors in the world.
What is your proudest achievement?
I kept thinking about this question, and apart from being a mother to three wonderful girls, there are many things I am proud of. The awards I have won, the countries I’ve visited and professional people I have worked with along the way – most of which I am proud to call friends. I remember a time when I travelled to Qatar whilst six months pregnant. I had eight meetings a day for three days straight! I’m proud of that. I’m proud of being the first Maltese Interior Designer to feature in some major international publications. But I would say, and wholeheartedly feel that my biggest achievements are each time I assist a person on a journey of self-discovery whilst educating them to be more sustainable and make healthier choices for their interior finishes. I love creating personal spaces to reflect the needs, style, and budgets of my clients. So, overall, I’m proud of my dedication as a professional Interior Designer. I get to manage and run a business whilst developing side projects and staying sane, thanks to the wonderful humans that surround me!
Who inspired you recently?
I recently worked with Saurabh Guptu, the Founder of EARTH5R. The project was driven by 50,000 plus volunteers globally and is one of the largest citizen-led environmental movements. Earth5R focuses on creating a circular economy based zero-waste communities while reducing poverty and restoring the local ecosystem. Whilst he was in Malta we created a Masterclass in less than two days and gathered a group of dedicated people to learn more about what we, as global citizens can do to be sustainable. I’m glad to call Saurabh a friend today.
What was one of your biggest lessons so far?
Being a woman in a predominantly male-dominated industry, I used to, at times, find myself in situations where I was either completely ignored, or not taken seriously, even used. One situation saw a male worker not taking my instructions on-site just because I am a woman. Besides removing him from the project at that time, today I know better and do not tolerate disrespect on the job, lack of attention to instructions, and dedication to one’s work.
What’s your tip for life-work balance?
|Remember you have the right to disconnect. You are human, don’t set unrealistic expectations that just make you feel hard on yourself. No need for that. Things can wait, but love, family, the kids, and yourself – that should never wait.|
What advice would you give your younger self?
|I guess I was raised with such innocence, a princess, I admit sometimes I still believe in fairies, who knows – but seeing the world only for beauty, freedom, love and kindness will put blinkers on. Not everyone who is nice to you is genuinely being nice, not everyone who acts like your friend is your friend, you know how it goes. I feel like I became more aware and less naive, and perhaps a bit harder to crack because I have been been bitten and if it were not for me being naive then perhaps I wouldn’t have. I now question almost everything and am more in my own bubble with my family and selected few. My circle is small but tight and that came through the experience of a lifetime.|
What general advice would you give to a wanna be Interior designer?
|Get advice on the business aspect of things from a professional. It’s not just about the pretty things. But you have to take the leap and take risks – or you will never know.|
Do you have a life-changing quote to share?
‘Always stay young and beautiful’. My grandmother, Olga would always tell me that! Feel good, and look good. How you feel will be a reflection of what you can achieve.
What book changed your life in some way?
I love The Beach by Alex Garland. I devoured it in a few days. The way Garland wrote the whole story really took me on a trip to Thailand in a remote place, where I lived with a community of people that sought the simple life – back to the basics. Even though I read this when I was about fourteen it’s still there somewhere in my head. When the movie was released, my imagination was nothing like how the director, Danny Boyle had portrayed it (all except the character of Duffy) . The book was way better and I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t!
I can’t stick to one artist, it’s not possible, I love music too much, so it varies according to my mood. But truth be told I’m a rock and grunge lover at heart, The Doors, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Audioslave, Depeche Mode, add a dash of Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, with a sprinkle of Janice Joplin, The Kinks, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Bowie…mix in some INXS and then wait for ten minutes and check out Beck’s new album. A bit of funk goes a long way and that’s where Jamiroquai comes in mellowed down by Madeleine Peyroux and Alt J. Inspiration and stillness come from Vivaldi, Chopin, Khachaturian, Smetana, Prokofiev. And so much more!
The Takeaway. Be inspired by Vera’s unfailing ambition and focus. Celebrate her big dreams and the dedication she has to her art.