An architect and a designer, Nikola Stjelja was the first intern ever to get employed in Salt & Water studio. That happened back in 2013 when Salt & Water was still a one-woman-show. Yet, all went well and Nikola soon got a chance to join Svetlana Mojić on her architectural journey.
Today, after working on several awarded projects with a vast number of international clients, Nikola is the longest-serving employee in the office.
Long gone are the days when you and Svetlana worked in a small, windowless office on old laptops. Today, you have a modern studio and several other workers to rely on. So, how does it look like to work in such a small and dynamic team?
The good thing about our team is that there is no strict division of tasks. One might think that it is not the best possible work organization, but, in our case, it has proven to be quite successful. There are always some individual tasks whose execution might be the best fit for one specific employee, but that is not the rule. We feel free to consult and help each other whenever we can. I believe that might be one of the biggest advantages of working in a small studio. Without a strict division of tasks, we have the freedom to grow in any desirable direction through hard work and practice. We also have the opportunity to recognize, by ourselves, the specific fields of work in which we can give our best.
What is your favorite Salt & Water project you have ever worked on?
That is most definitely the Floating Hotel Project. I was a part of this venture from its very beginning, starting from the first scratches. With this project, we have won a prestigious MYDA 2015 award for which we are very proud. Honestly, I can’t wait to see this project build up in person. What I find most interesting about this project is the fact that we are talking about a serial production. This kind of approach is very different from the usual architectural projects which are mostly done for a specific client and his specific taste.
Is there any other project you are equally proud of?
The project that holds a special place in my heart is the interior design of a private jet for which we received the International Aviation Award in 2014. This was a huge event followed by a big international competition. It was a big surprise for us to have won since there was just the two of us in the office at the time.
You have a vast experience in working with difficult, yet promising projects. You have also worked with various international clients. So tell us, which part of the design process you find most interesting?
I like the feeling you get when starting from scratch. I like concept design, the first step in a design process. At that moment, you get to incorporate and balance all influential factors such as location, economy, construction and functionality directly to the idea from which the new unique and aesthetically pleasing space will emerge from.
This part of the design process requires a lot of inspiration. Where do you find fresh ideas? What architectural styles you prefer and which ones do you try to implement in your own designs?
To me, inspiration usually comes through work and other experience, often unrelated to my profession. I prefer designs that are highly functional and simple. I love when one design gives light to natural features of the material, its color, texture, and glow.
Once the workday is done, how do you charge your batteries?
I always try my best to find time to read, explore and learn something new. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost six years now. However, my free time wouldn’t be complete without my friends, whether we are playing board games, or attending to concerts or festivals. I also like to travel whenever the opportunity arises. I love trying new foods and specialties, but I hate cooking. I could live on coffee alone, though. (I guess that’s my favorite way of charging my batteries).