Hospitality Interiors catches up with Parla’s talented head of design, Betül, to discover more about her varied experiences and her vision for the company’s future ...  

Betül, please tell us a bit about your journey prior to arriving at Parla …

I was born in 1989, and grew up in Balikesir, a small city in Turkey. When I was growing up, I was inspired by my father who was a teacher, and spent a lot of my time sketching, designing and producing craft items. I decided to study my degree in Istanbul, and was very fortunate to study at one of Turkey’s top three universities, Istanbul Technical University. The university is very supportive of students spending time abroad during their degree, and I was motivated to spend a year of my Product Design Degree in Sweden’s Linneaus University. 

After my degree, I spent time studying Furniture Design at the Florence Institute of Design. So, I received a very multi-influenced and multi-level education before I joined Parla, which really has been instrumental in shaping my time here. 

How have things developed for you since you joined Parla?

I was very lucky to join a company like Parla immediately after my studies. Parla is a third-generation furniture company that goes back to 1910, when the grandfather of the current owners, who are two brothers, started as a furnituremaker at the then Imperial DolmabahÇe Palace. This job gave him the confidence to open his own furniture company, and 112 years later we are continuing his legacy.

Parla is a family company, and the culture of fraternity is what you feel as soon as you join. When I joined in 2012, the company was developing internationally, and – as now – was determined to ensure that its past, present and future were working hand in hand.

I started at Parla as a product designer and, thanks to the company’s commitment to giving its younger team members the chance to lead, I have had the opportunity to design, manage projects and teams, and help shape the direction of the business over the past 10 years. The owners encouraged me to come out of my comfort zone multiple times, giving me a very rounded experience and education. As a result, I am now head of design, and I also lead the project management teams, to make sure that projects always link back to our design ethos.

As head of design, how would you summarise Parla’s approach?

Until relatively recently, Parla was focused on being a manufacturer of furniture for bespoke projects, and as such had developed an extensive portfolio of international clients in the hospitality and F&B sectors. The experience and knowledge the current owners had gained since taking over from their father in 1995 had led them to develop certain elements in their design and manufacturing approach. These had happened naturally. Then I, and other design-related team members, started to shape these elements into a signature approach. I believe that this is one reason why we now have so much repeat custom.

In summary, we now focus on three principles: fusing simplicity, influences from our cultural heritage, and an artisanal approach, in design, form, technique and in the use of materials, to achieve a distinctive and contemporary result; making sure every piece of furniture we design, craft and manufacture is in harmony with the environment it is being placed in; and being sustainable and measured in all aspects of our processes, so that we use our time, resources and materials well.

How does what inspires you as a person link into your role as head of design? 

I love to travel and explore new places, not only physically but also online through blogs and design-related sites. Once assimilated, all of this exploration then translates into thoughts about a design, sketches and 3D modelling.

I feel that the fact that my studies took me through three very different schools of design has been such a blessing – not only to me as a person, but also for the work I do at Parla. I am able to envision how we can use the best of all three worlds in one creation. Nowadays, I find that my mind automatically blends different influences, and an original piece of furniture is born. 

What is your vision for the future?

From the minute I started working for Parla, I could see that it could be so much more than just a manufacturer of furniture. I wanted to see it grow into a company that is known for its own designs. We are now fully on that path, but we have not arrived at our destination yet. I am excited to be leading this journey of transformation and helping Parla become a company that is celebrated for contemporary furniture design, for nurturing young talent, and for being a company that ensures equality and diversity.

Let’s talk a little bit about the more immediate future – what are your plans for 2022?

We have just been through a whole rebranding exercise prior to us really pushing the Parla brand into the public eye. We will be launching our new branding and new designs at a variety of trade shows internationally, starting with Clerkenwell Design Week in London, then in different parts of the world such as America, France, Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

In such a competitive environment, what do you feel differentiates Parla from other design studios and manufacturers?

I feel that we act as consultants to each project, with a strong team of designers who work seamlessly with our 15,000m2 factory that comprises specialist workshops for metalworking, glass, wood and upholstery. We can push boundaries, experiment and innovate to create the best solutions. We also always aim to blend the artisanal with cutting-edge technology. 

What have been some of the proudest moments in your career so far?

Whilst I feel proud of all the achievements we have had at Parla in the 10 years I have been working for here, I was especially delighted to win an award recently. In 2021, one of my designs, the Nigiri A chair design, was awarded a Good Design Award from The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.

We will be showcasing this chair alongside another award winner, the Rimo Armchair designed by Berrak Ilkcan Sener, which won the 2022 BigSee Award for Product Design, and many other new designs firstly at Clerkenwell Design Week, and then at other notable trade shows.

How has working internationally benefitted you?

Working on projects in very different parts of the world, and alongside designers and architects who are very esteemed in their sectors, not only elevates me above the day to day, but also gives me a new sense of drive. Being recognised for what we can offer and being respected for our work ethic and attention to detail has made me want to achieve even more. The international aspect of my work makes the day-to-day problem-solving fun and exciting.

Looking back to 10 years ago, what was your career dream, and where are you now?

I actually had an aspiration to work for a design company abroad, somewhere in Europe. While I did not achieve this, I am very happy with where I have arrived. Working in a company that delivers projects in America, Europe and the Middle East, being part of a team that has transformed the company and developing a brand that will stand the test of time, I don’t think I would have achieved all that I have if I had pursued my original idea.

Where I am now gives me the opportunity to constantly learn, improve, develop, and be a positive influence on many others. What else could I want?!

www.parladesign.com