Marie Soliman, Founder and Creative Director of Bergman Design House and Njord by Bergman is an award-winning designer with 16 years of design experience in the hospitality, commercial and residential sectors. Dubbed a “chameleon of design” by British GQ magazine, Marie’s vision stems from her belief in the vital spark of adventurous souls who are willing to take risks and try and test new ideas in the service of creating fabulous and engaging experiences. Her goal is always to bring fresh ideas to the fore, while revelling in — not fearing — the chaos of creation.
Marie’s keen eye for the timeless and the well-crafted has guided her on journeys around the world to spearhead such globally recognised projects as The Other house Hotel, South Kensington, The Other house Covent Garden, BXR London, We11, NOR hotel Norway, and Eagle Lodge in Botswana, among others. Her latest project, Laowai, a “hidden restaurant” concept in Vancouver, Canada’s Chinatown neighbourhood, is her first North American venture, with another scheduled for completion later this year in New York City.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
I was born and raised in Egypt, studied interior architecture for five years, always played with forms, creating shapes since a young age and sold my first sculpture by the age of 10 for £10, which made me the happiest and richest (in my little head!) kid in the universe. I’ve lived in London since 2010.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
We launched Bergman Design House five years ago – the name being a blend of our surnames (Bergland and Soliman). It somehow happened organically. We were doing small freelance jobs such as small townhouses on the side, and then we met Olia, the owner of BXR (London’s Luxury Boxing Gym), and she asked us to design the gym. From there, Soliman and Berglund began picking up wellness, hospitality, and high-end residential projects, and we left Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) to focus on Bergman Design House full-time.
Totally by coincidence, a very beautiful one, after the huge success of BXR, we found our names everywhere as Albin and Marie. We were asked to set up a company, design a logo and launch a website, which we did in November 2016 in my living room. The universe had given us a massive push forward, we took the leap of faith and Bergman Design House was born.
How did you achieve awareness?
I Guess BXR was a very lucky charm, it was such a wonderful project and truly put us on the map as a young start-up that is smashing it, one project after another.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Bergman Design House doesn’t have any investor, and strange enough our funds is our own hard work and sweat equity! I started the company with my own savings, setting up a company, hiring designers, an accountant and bought all the IMACS – if there is a will there is a way. For me there was never a Plan B. Bergman is the only plan A.
What are the key successes? ahhh long list!
Since I started my own business end of 2016, I have learnt so much about myself and about leading a business. How to run a business and not letting the business run me. It takes self-discipline to know when to stop and when to say no equally as when to say yes and how to win more projects.
Below are words I live by every day.
–Never lose sight of why you started
-Print your vision on paper. Have clear goals
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
I used to hear NO, but I never let it get to my heart! Common things are often said to successful entrepreneurs, such as “you are wrong” “it can’t be done,” or “you are taking big risks, you are crazy.” I hear of all this, but I still do my own research and make it happen. I never stop.
Success is not about winning, success is showing up every day with the same persistent focused mind, same enthusiasm, regardless the situation.
Last but not least, my coping mechanism is art! I create art, and it’s been my mental yoga for many many years. It’s a dialogue between yourself and the canvas where all your threads and thoughts get so calm and inline after a busy day. It’s my form of meditation. Art is also a form of hope and having a diary. Art allows you to find the truth with a sort of special magic.
What are your plans now/for the future?
To have my own hotel brand! Having designed hotels worldwide for almost now 17 years, I think this is the next step for me. We have launched the Lund Collection – our first cottages rental this year and there are more to follow.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
It is beautiful and it is challenging. The journey will keep you on your toes, sometimes sleepless nights but tasting the success of your own company is priceless. Do it. Jump in then learn to swim!
Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?
–Be stubborn! You have to be stubborn and focused on what you want to achieve, it’s a marathon and long game. Not a daily event!
-Learn to be flexible
While a few clients have clear direction and ideas in mind, others don’t. Have an open mind -embrace different styles and work towards creating a bespoke tailored experience for each client. Be a life enhancer who can stear clients closer to favourable vision whilst managing and weaving their design choices.
– Every problem is a gift.
Without problems we wouldn’t grow, so embrace them, love them and solve them.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
Maya Angelou taught a message of being the best person you can be – that means chasing your dreams and believing in your one true vision. Do it with compassion, with kindness, and with insight. Go forth and let your fantasy transform as many realities for the better.
My mom, she is fierce and never takes no for an answer! She is such a visionary, and she goes for it if she believes in the cause.
Kelly Wearstler has always been my inspiration since the age of 20. I loved her fearless celebration of patterns, colours and extravagance. When I see my image next to hers in magazines, I get that warm and fuzzy feeling.
India Mahdavi – for embracing her heritage, worldly upbringing and her notable design style
Finally, my 11 years old daughter! She is smart, fun, never takes things personally and is always smiling.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
A winner is a dreamer who never gave up.
What is your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?
Linked in: Marie Soliman Berlund