While Alexandra Donohoe entered the interior design industry via “the side door”, she took every step along the way to ensure she made it into the building. After missing out on a place in the interior design course she wanted to enrol in at university, she took a place in landscape architecture at UNSW. However, during the first year, after Alexandra fell asleep in the soil science class, she transferred across to interior architecture. During her uni years, she also worked as a receptionist at SJB Interiors+Architecture and also gained experience at other well-regarded practices including Landini + Associates, Bates Smart, Sarah Davison Interior Design and Paul Kelly Design. After starting her own studio - Decus Interiors - Alexandra has worked regularly with leading architecture firms such as Luigi Rosselli Architects [interview]. “Opening the studio was the equivalent of strolling out onto the edge of the cliff and taking a leap across the divide,” she says. “As cliche as it sounds, backing yourself in those moments is essential. If you don’t think it can happen no one else will.”

Which five words best describe you? A nutty, laughing, dancing, brutally honest, push-the-envelope introvert - think that counts as six!

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I started as a secretary at SJB Interiors+Architecture straight out of high school. I knew I wanted to work in design but my last years of high school were should I say… distracted? I just missed out on getting into interior design so I started a degree in landscape architecture at UNSW instead. In the interim, I worked at SJB for five years throughout uni and between backpacking holidays before hop-scotching to Landini + Associates, Bates Smart, Sarah Davison Interior Design and Paul Kelly Design. In doing so I experienced the full gamut of interiors. Ultimately, residential is my spiritual home - no pun intended. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? There have been thousands of lessons along the way. I think starting a business from scratch at your dining table and building it centimetre by centimetre forces you to look at how you approach almost everything in life, be it work-life balance, tricky situations, following your heart - and gut, prioritising family and friends, and how you value your own contribution to the world. Life is big and constantly changing, it’s messy, it’s perfect in a totally imperfect way and I’m quite passionate about looking at what drives me to make the decisions I make.   

What’s your proudest career achievement? It’s driving home at the end of the every day feeling immense gratitude for the studio I’ve created from a bit of a pipe-dream and the amazing team of people I have around me. That’s insanely cool. Seeing our work published in respected magazines is bonus.

What’s been your best decision? To work for myself, hands down.

Who inspires you? Pierre Yovanovitch, a French self-taught fashion designer turned interior designer; Josep Font, creative director of Spanish fashion house Delpozo, an architect turned fashion designer. The work of Studio KO. My husband. 

What are you passionate about? What it is that drives us to make the choices we make.  My environment - interior and exterior. Sleep. The happiness of those around me.   

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Anna Wintour. I’d love to know how her mind works and how she handles the spotlight, criticism, pressure. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? Designing a house and living in it on one of the Aeolian islands, Italy. 

What are you reading? Tribes by Seth Godin and The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

images courtesy of decus interiors; photography justin alexander [interview]; archicture luigi rosselli architects [interview]; porebski architects (image 4)