Interview with Interior Designer Semra Panahova

Mandrake Hotel Main Bar

This week we caught up with Semra Panahova of Tala Fustok Interiors. Tala Fustok have worked on projects such as interior design for The Mandrake Hotel in London and the fashionable Notting Hill members only club Laylow.

Semra, hello and thank you for meeting with us. How did you enter the interior design industry?

As a child, I used to take dance and painting classes as a hobby/after school activity. So when I grew up I had two career options: to be a dancer or an artist/designer. I didn’t like being on stage, so I chose to be a designer. Also, I used to go to galleries at weekends with my mum. My dad enjoyed art too & used to collect antiques. So I guess my childhood experiences influenced my future career.

How did you start work with Tala Fustok Interiors?

When I joined, the role was supposed to be a “temporary position” for two to three months but I have been here for almost 2 years. The first project I worked on at Tala Fustok was for the Mandrake hotel. The project was successfully completed and the hotel is now open to public. I am currently working on residential project.

What does your day look like?

It really depends on what stage of the project I am at, but almost every week will include a site visit to ensure everything is running smoothly, antiques scouting and a casual office day.

What are your tips on work-life balance for creatives?

I love my job, so it’s actually part of my life. They merge. But when I get too tired (or lose the balance) I like to travel.

Do you have any advice for creatives who are looking for their ideal job?

Love what you do, be passionate, be curious about things (art/ design/ fashion/ music/ movies…..), keep developing

For some fashion designers inspiration comes from movies. What inspires you? 

It could be anything really: painting, fashion, nature…. I work with clients, so it depends on the client. It has to relate to them as well as inspire me.

How would you describe your own design style?

It’s difficult to say. But I guess if I design my own space it would be eclectic and sexy. Minimum furniture and no decorative accessories. Low large deep sofa and a big mirror is a must!!

What are the current trends in interior design?

Mid-century furniture is very trendy. But you have to be careful with it, so it doesn’t look like “copycat of old“.

What are the future trends you are excited about?

It’s hard to say what that “trend” will be, so let’s just stay excited about the future:))))

What colour palette is better to use for smaller spaces?

Either go very dark as it makes the space feel very intimate and cozy, or vice-versa and go all white and bright.

Do you have any advice on how to organise living room storage?

I like a very simple sideboard where you can store everything. Mid-century inspired, but with a modern twist.

How to mix and match natural oak with other materials?

Depends where its used, but maybe matching it with terazzo will add another dimension to it?!

What are you top small space living hacks?

Keep one colour throughout. Avoid small accessories around. Don’t hang too much on the wall. For example one large artwork instead of lots of small ones.

How do you get inspiration when it comes to creating a material palette?

It depends what the inspiration for the project is and how you want people to feel in that space. Then you start creating space layering finishes…..

Are there any rules when working with wood?

If you use it too much in interiors, it might be quite heavy. So you have to balance it with other materials such as concrete, marble, metal…

What should you save money on when investing in interiors?

Nothing. You don’t invest in interiors every day, so once you do it, do it properly.

What should you not save money on when investing in interiors?

A designer!! They will actually help you to save money and get the best outcome.

What companies would you recommend for bespoke furniture or fitted wardrobes? 

Try this company: We used them for a couple of projects and very happy with the results.

You can find out more about Tala Fustok and see some of their recent work by visiting their website: