In the latest instalment of our Dezeen Jobs: How We Recruit series, Megan Grehl, director of her eponymous interior design studio, describes how her work and hiring needs are evolving.
Alice Laycock: Can you talk me through the kinds of projects your studio has delivered.
Megan Grehl: I used to work for Neri&Hu, where I worked on a lot of hotel projects, restaurants, and light residential – mostly show flats. When I moved to New York to start my own company, high-end residential was easier to obtain. I've always wanted to gravitate towards hospitality, but actually residential is what kept us afloat during Covid-19.
In New York, people spend a lot on their homes. It just feels like spending power on one's home is quite important in American culture.
My husband used to be a lead architect at ODA in New York and he used to develop large condo buildings. Since then, we have designed condo buildings and restaurant designs, but I would say at the moment, our bread and butter is still high-end residential.
Alice Laycock: What high-end residential projects are you currently working on?
Megan Grehl: I'm designing a seven-storey, single-family townhouse right now in Chelsea, New York. It was an old carriage house that was five storeys and we added two storeys on top.
We're also working on a large five-bedroom, art deco renovation in Miami, and a couple of condo renovations. We're designing and project managing a very large oceanfront condo on Palm Beach island right now. We're also preparing to do a very large renovation of one of the largest condo buildings in West Palm Beach with all the amenity spaces – the lobby, the penthouse, the lounges and the gym.
Alice Laycock: Are there any skill sets that you're specifically looking for when you're hiring?
Megan Grehl: I think 3D modelling is really important. It's something that you see a lot internationally, but you don't see as much in the US.
Surprisingly, a lot of people in the US still just do 2D elevations in CAD and then Photoshop, but I really believe to understand spatial connections and the interactions of scale and proportions, 3D modelling is key.
Because we are a small team, I also look for people who are confident and I like to prioritise women. I look for people who seem to be leaders.
High-end residential design is very personal, it's all about how the clients feel. If they feel like they're in good hands, if they feel comfortable and confident that they're going to be taken care of by our team, that is super valuable to me. It is very valuable for me to win the clients, winning their favour and projects.
The other thing is having great taste. I think taste is something you're born with, it's not something you can teach. People who have good taste will be more efficient and picking beautiful objects, knowing proportions and knowing how we can solve a problem.
Alice Laycock: Is there anything that you don't prioritise at the same level as you did when you started hiring?
Megan Grehl: I don't know if there are things I'm prioritising less, but I think I'm getting a lot better at reading portfolios.
It's not just the content, but how someone places their imagery is very important to me, because you can tell the level of care that people are putting into their portfolios, and how much they care about representing their work. I would say I value the content as much as the layout and presentation.
Alice Laycock: What impact has AI had on your recruitment position?
Megan Grehl: I recently taught at the University of Miami last semester, and everyone's talking about AI, and how AI is a major threat to our industry.
I think if we don't keep up with the latest software and the latest trends in our digital world, we are going to fall behind. I don't think we should see AI as a threat. I think we should ask how can we get ahead of it – how can we embrace AI to make our business more efficient?
Alice Laycock: What advice would you give people who are interested in a role at your company?
Megan Grehl: I think first and foremost, I've been shocked at how many cover letters look like a mass cover letter. You think that there's no one reading the emails or the cover letters on the other end, but actually, I read almost all of the candidate emails and cover letters.
So I would say, never do mass cover letters and always reference projects. We also often ask in interviews, what are your top three favourite projects that we've done? And the people who don't know how to answer that question show that they are not following our work.
Don't underestimate who is on the other side, whether it's in email form or cover letter form. Do your homework and research the person that you're interviewing with.
Alice Laycock: How has Dezeen Jobs helped to build your company?
Megan Grehl: We hire using Archinect, but I find that the candidates that come through Dezeen are much more international, and have much more diversified experience. And in general, they are very strong at 3D modelling. A lot of people who follow Dezeen have a very strong affinity for 3D design, I find.
I look for international hires, I like people who have grown up abroad, like myself, who have travelled the world and seen a lot of things. It just reflects really well on our company that we have such a diverse, international team.
Dezeen Jobs: How We Recruit series
This article is part of Dezeen Jobs: How We Recruit, a series of interviews to mark Dezeen Jobs turning 15, which explores changing hiring practices and future recruitment needs for companies around the world.