A Peek Into The Life Of An Interior Designer: Montie Mahtani of M3 Studio

August 04, 2016 | Furniture | Decor
The HipVan Blog

Photo courtesy of Montie Mahtani


In the first of HipVan’s “A Peek Into The Life Of An ID” series, interior designer Montie Mahtani of M3 Studio sat down with us to share his insight and experiences within the local interior design field.


Born and raised in Singapore, Montie had always been aware of his artistic inclination, “Ever since I was 14 or 15, I was constantly drawing, not art or graphics, but buildings. I was looking at buildings and wondering how they stood the way they stood, thinking, ‘There are so many lives inside that one little space’”.


This interest prompted him into earning a diploma in architectural technology at Singapore Polytechnic, which covered interior design as well. He also studied business while in the police force. But it was not until he became a homeowner did he get a taste of what the interior design field entailed. Due to budget constraints, he had to choose the cheaper designer. “It was a nightmare,” he recalls, “there were no drawings, hardly any advice; I felt like I dictated the renovation more than anybody else.” Through getting his hands dirty in the process, he figured, “‘I could do way better than this. I have a business degree, I have a diploma in architecture… why not?’ So that’s how I started.”


At 27 years old, Montie began working for a local interior design firm, but after the company went bust, he decided to open up his own in 2011: M3 Studio. “At M3, we don’t look at interior design the same way as a lot of people do in Singapore. We believe the art of it has been lost quite a bit,” he states, attributing it partly to the number of contractors and the technicality and rigidness of the profession here. “But here’s the thing: interior design is actually a mixture of art and science. You need to have your technical know-how and you need to have the art. We at M3 want to bring the art into people’s places, rather than just building up the place.”  


The HipVan Blog

Photo courtesy of Montie Mahtani


Along with their promptness and creativity, M3 is known for their adept personalised service. Monte stresses the importance of meeting their clients face to face and taking the time to learn about their personalities and specific needs, “Communication is key. If the customer feels comfortable with you, a lot of things can be solved. We always try to incorporate our customer’s individuality into the project, because a space is never personal until then.”


While he and his team write down the client’s requirements, they also analyse their clients to catch their taste in design, “Many people do not know what their taste is. They might say, ‘I love Scandinavian [design].’ but after a long talk with us, it’s not Scandinavian that they’re looking for. They misconstrue the design, which is perfectly norma. It’s our job be able to define the design.” Perfectly summarised in a compelling analogy, Montie compares interior designers to doctors, “Your house has a sickness, but you don’t know what it is. You give me the symptoms, and I’ll diagnose something to help revamp it.” Unsurprisingly, it is not unusual for Montie and his customers to remain friends even after the project is done, “ It goes to show that our work is very personalised, especially when our forte is residential.”


When asked about how long a project typically takes, Montie replies, “It depends on the customer. Design is a two way thing: I can’t design something if you don’t feed me the info.” The completion time for his projects ranges from a month to six months, depending on how far away the project is and how often they need the customers He adds that they sometimes get very unique designs, “For example, I’m working on an English-Colonial design, so I need a bit more time to research, since there are a number of styles for colonial designs, from the 1700s, the 1880s, to the revival. I have to figure out which part to choose, which is another interesting part of my job.”


But, of course, it the highs come the lows, “The hardest parts about this job wold be when things don’t go according to plan, which is probably almost every project, difficult customers who don’t see eye to eye with you, and handling some contractors, who are a bit more robust in their nature.” Two common customer concerns are of space, fitting everything within a certain square footage with Singapore’s scarce and thus expensive land, and safety, from kids, elderly, and pets. “We need to pay special attention to these factors,” Montie notes. Expectedly, the best parts of the occupation include seeing the satisfaction on customers’ faces at the end, and simply the opportunity to design, “It’s fun - researching, finding new avenues, always keeping an open mind to something that’s different, and visually applying it or trying to learn how to apply it.”


The HipVan Blog

Photo courtesy of Montie Mahtani


As the interview came to a close, Montie graciously shared a vital trick of the trade: “Good lighting is absolutely essential. Lighting produces mood and ambiance. No matter how well you do your place up, it will always feel incomplete without lighting. That’s why you see certain homes look good in the day, but really stand out at night because they have the right lighting at the right place with the right focal point with the right intensity. You need to know your purpose and objective when it comes to lighting.”

So, why should people care about interior design? “The home is an extension of you. It’s a place where you spend most of your time in, where you gather your thoughts, and where you wind down. The way your house is laid out actually has a psychological and sociological affect on you; it has a lot more importance than people take it for,” Montie concluded.