Designer Paul Straughn. (Picture by Dominique Bonnett.)
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Paul Straughn always had big dreams.
At 23, he left Barbados to pursue those dreams and has not looked back since.
After completing a degree in Interior and Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City, the opportunities came at him fast and furious, even taking him as far as the White House in Washington DC.
“Luckily for me, my interior design took off. There was a new company starting in New York and they were looking for designers, and I was in the right place at the right time and that landed me great things. In 1997, the White House came to the company looking for new talent and I happened to be one of them that was selected. That opened a lot of doors for me. I decorated the White House for Christmas in 1997 and 1998 and Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tippa Gore’s house four years in a row, three seasons, spring, Halloween and Christmas,” he explained.
From there, his career continued to grow, taking him all over the world, allowing him to put his personal touch on many houses and spaces.
“After that, I had a really good career doing a lot of celebrities’ houses, travelling mainly for Christmas, travelling all over Europe doing big houses and different things like that, some that I’m not allowed to name,” he said.
For Paul, being able to design worldwide was a dream come true for him since he always liked ‘the nicer things in life’.
“I like opulence and I like classy stuff. I like the contrast mixed between modern and classic. Stately houses like the White House and so on, I like those things. I like to do really nice things with spaces like that. I like to use a lot of expensive and really good products,” he said.
Since his career took off in 1997, he was working constantly until 2004. He took a break to travel Europe and gather his bearings for five months.
Coming back from his break, great opportunities opened up once again for Paul which took him to where he is today – Asia.
There, he is putting his magic touch to many spaces across Hong Kong and China.
“I’m a Product Development designer for High end Home Décor and Holiday. Asia is amazing. In this financial climate of Asia, you’re allowed to do anything because you have the financial backing and the opportunity to do whatever you want. Asia is such a modern and forward thinking society that you can do whatever you want. You can mix future with modern, contemporary with classic.
“With the company I work for, I just finished up my 2019 collection, which will be launched this coming April. That will be the beginning of the 2019 home décor.”
He added, “In two weeks I will be heading off to Paris for the Home Décor and Design show of the world.”
By anyone’s admission, Paul is living the life and one others could only dream of. For Paul, while it may have started out as a dream, the very confident 50-year-old told Easy while enjoying the mid morning sea breeze coming off Miami Beach in Christ Church last Thursday, that he always knew his dreams would come true.
“Yes, I always thought my career would have gone far. I was always confident. The ones that know me know I was always very outlandish, even though I was really small. I was always very positive and focused with my style and design,” he said cheekily.
But while it would seem his career took off only in interior design, he has also dabbled a bit in fashion designing.
“On my 40th birthday, I gave myself a gift and did something with my fashion design degree. So I launched a line called Straughn Barbados. It was just like a gift to myself, I didn’t really think it would go anywhere. But it did really well. I was noted as one of the new designers to watch. I plan to do something like that again but I’m not sure. Anyone that knows me here in Barbados knows I’m a fashion designer at heart. On the club scene I was that one person who would be dressing up and so on,” he added.
During the interview, mere hours before he left to return to Asia, Paul lamented that he was only able to visit Barbados for six days adding that moving back home has been playing heavily on his mind recently.
“Lately I’ve been thinking about moving back here again. I’m thinking of starting a whole new design concept back here in Barbados and I’m looking into that. I have this idea swimming around in my head that would work very well here in Barbados. There isn’t a big market for it here in Barbados, so I’m hoping to expand it once I decide to come back. When you put your all into something it will go very far,” Paul said.
And there definitely isn’t any slowing down for Paul, who believes his career now has far to go.
“No slowing down for me. Sleep when you’re dead. The ideas are constantly coming and I haven’t put them to use. I pull my ideas from anywhere. In the design world, you always have to go to sleep with a sketch pad and a marker because you can’t turn your brain off and you see ideas everywhere,” he added. (DB)