15 Designers Share What Inspired Them as Children

It's September and as classrooms beckon it’s natural to reflect on childhood experiences and memories. We’ve rounded up the reminiscences of 15 talents in the interior design, architecture, and art fields—all of whom have been recently featured in Interior Design’s 10 Questions With… profiles—to look at how the things we see and do as children inspire our creativity as adults.

Thomas Bentzen

“I would draw a lot as a kid—trucks, Formula One race cars, things related to space and spacemen, often side views like you’d see in a technical drawing...and a lot of cowboy and space stuff, in a cartoonish way. Drawing was my favorite thing, next to stacking a lot of Lego systems while I was listening to audiobooks. More or less, it’s the same as I do today: draw, build models, and listen to records.”

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Caroline Till

“Our house was full of color. My mother is an artist and was always doing creative things with us, like painting. When we were growing up she was also a model maker, making dollhouse miniatures. She specialized in tiny plants and flowers and was often asked to make 1/12 replicas of people's gardens. My mother is also a great storyteller, always explaining everyday narratives in a very engaging way. With all this creativity, I was naturally always curious. This job is very nosy, really! You’re wanting to constantly know what is going on.”

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Andreas Engesvik

“When I was really young, I loved going into old abandoned houses, where everything is a big mess. Maybe you’d find some old piece made out of copper or bronze or brass. I’d then bring it home and try to wash and clean it. I was always really interested in materials and objects, and this is likely why I gravitated towards design.”

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Bethan Gray

“Creativity was always really encouraged when I was growing up, so that definitely had an influence. With the Glenlivet project in particular, my grandfather was a research forester in the Cairngorms, where the distillery is, so that gave me an immediate connection to the area. I came up with a barley field concept for the dinner celebrating the whisky’s launch—with barley plants all around the tables—and I actually found out that my grandfather used to do something similar with trees to promote the Forestry Commission! Great minds…”

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Kim Dolva

“My mother was an artist and my father head of sales for a travel agency that was all about finding new places around the world. During my childhood, at least four times a year, we were out traveling all over the world. I saw much about different cultures, about different design and architecture. I think that’s why I'm so curious about everything and can't really stand still—because I know that there's a world out there. My wife hates me when we go traveling because I'm always, ‘Oh, let's go around the next corner, let's go to the next beach because I'm pretty sure that it will be better than this one.’ It’s a blessing, but also a curse!”

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Emily Forgot

“I had a really creative upbringing because my father was a curator at the time, in a gallery in the north of England, in Sheffield. I used to draw buildings, play with colors, and collect a lot of things, like post cards and badges. Actually, the things I enjoyed then I enjoy now. I am quite similar to how I was when I was six!”

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Jasper Morrison

“When I was growing up in London in the early 1960s, the standard interior was very claustrophobic and quite gloomy, with a lot of curtains, upholstery, and sofas—everything was heavy and upholstered. Then, at maybe four or five years old, I discovered this room my grandfather had made for himself. It was in England—but, while working for a Danish company, he had discovered the Scandinavian way of making interiors. I think he had quite a good eye, and the room was well-lit with lots of daylight, wooden floors, and just a few rugs. There was less upholstery and more lightweight seating, a record player by Dieter Rams from the German company Braun, and an open fire. Suddenly I just felt way better in that space and realizing that there were some places that made me feel good and others that didn't had a huge effect on me. I'm pretty sure I became a designer to have some influence on my surroundings and to generally improve atmospheres for others as well.”

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Juan Montoya

“At age seven, with my mother's approval, I decorated my room with an orange wool fabric (curtains, bedcovers, and tablecloth). The chair was upholstered in a black-and-orange plaid with a black wool fabric as contrast.”

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Dorothee Meilichzon

“Raymond Loewy was the first designer I heard of. Then I discovered Philippe Starck at the age of 11 or 12 and decided that I wanted to become a designer.”

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Sebastian Herkner

“When I was young, my family was always camping—and camping with family Herkner means you change your campground every day. When you are 10 or 11 years old, it's a nightmare! You’d erect the tent in the evening, sometimes with a flashlight, and break it down in the morning. Then—since my mother is addicted to churches—you’d drive to another city to look at another church. When you're young, you don't completely understand why you are going to another church as they look all the same. However, we also visited cities that I now understand were connected to design or to craft—say a city famous for leather gloves, another for ceramics, another for porcelain blades, and another for chocolate. It was in these places that I really started to think about craft or design, and how it would be connected to a specific region.”

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Tom Fereday

“I grew up surrounded by some really nice objects. Both my grandparents were artists, my father is an antiques dealer specializing in rugs and textiles and my mum is a ceramicist. To be surrounded by antique furniture while growing up gave me a strong understanding of good design. I used to also do ceramics and the basic understanding of processes and materials came to me at an early age.”

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Juli Capella

“As a child I wanted to be an inventor, but there was no such career in college. So, they suggested I study architecture. I then learned almost nothing, but had a good time browsing everything. Design is only learned by designing and committing many mistakes at the beginning.”

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Arielle Assouline-Lichten

“Well, my mom is an architect, so I grew up with her pointing things out. You kind of never think you’ll follow in your mother’s footsteps, but then somehow inevitably you end up here! All of our trips were about dissecting spaces. Once you have that lens it’s hard to remove. She was very pedagogical and wanted to show you what she can see. That was always a background.”

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Marc Ange

“My childhood was peculiar and troubled. I think now, with more hindsight, that provided a chance. I have kept an unfinished feeling that gives a lot of fantasy to my subconscious. I remember with great precision the way I saw things when I was a child, and today this reminds me of how a lack of certainty allows creative escape. My childhood leaves an indelible trace on my work that often changes color.”

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Matteo Thun

“My parents took me regularly to the Venice Biennale, so I became familiar with art and architecture at quite a young age. I grew up in nature, in the mountains near Bolzano, Italy, where my mother worked with pottery. She gave me clay to play with—so I had to use my imagination to have fun with it. I was always very close to material and materiality.”

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