The benefit of hindsight has proven that the pandemic had a silver lining for numerous entrepreneurial individuals. Faced with such an unprecedented crossroads, it was a moment of pause, a chance to carve one’s own path and embrace self-reliance at a moment in time when no one quite knew what the business landscape would look like even a few months down the line.

Martina Fenech Adami found herself in precisely this frame of mind when all her work at a leading local design firm came to a halt due to COVID. With uncertainty looming and boredom setting in, she seized the chance to pursue a long-held ambition of setting up her own interior design studio. The venture was driven not only by a desire for autonomy but also a need to give her creative spirit freer rein on the projects she took on.

Reflecting on her journey over the past few years, Martina shares: “I’ve been working in interior design and spatial architecture since 2005 and was fortunate to have gained valuable experience with two prestigious design firms in Malta, working on hotels, restaurants, and high-end residential projects. This helped me build not only a portfolio but also a reputation. With a few clients and leads, I took the leap to start my own studio. Despite the challenges, I dove in wholeheartedly and studio NiCHE. was born.”

Martina points to her background in the fine arts as the starting point for her distinctive interior design style, which she defines as striking a balance between maximalism and minimalism. And with such apt initials as hers, the choice of her original line of expertise was filled with promise. Since her student days, she has been inclined to challenge traditional approaches and norms, consistently seeking innovative ways of thinking and creating.

With a chuckle, she remarks, “If everyone was going one way, I’d go another. And I’d say my design philosophy mirrors that. Of course, I respect my client’s wants and lifestyle needs, as well as the context of the building itself. But I like to take a bit of a deconstructionist stance, break things down, question norms. It’s my way of infusing each project with a unique touch, where I can design something original and fresh.”

She refers to a penthouse project in St Julian’s where she completely reimagined the typical living layout to fit today’s evolving lifestyles. Where we cook, how we entertain, where we focus on work, all these spaces were reconsidered. The result is a penthouse design that breaks away from traditional configurations with the living room taking inspiration from a cosy café and a garden area in the middle of the kitchen to welcome in a sense of nature within the home.

“I am always looking to push those boundaries, make life more experiential through our living spaces,” she emphasises. “When I walk into a space, I’m deeply affected by the sounds, the light, the texture. So, my goal is to create that connection between the space and the person who inhabits it. I strive to give them a living experience that resonates deeply with them.”

As one satisfied client led to another, a steady stream of projects has come Martina’s way. From revamping traditional Maltese farmhouses to crafting a super creative residence in the Mercury Tower high-rise complex, her portfolio has grown steadily. Yet, amidst the whirlwind of her expanding workload, together with the complexities that come with running your own business for the first time, Martina was hit by another realisation.

“As much as I’ve loved this entrepreneurial journey, I initially found it harsh to live and work by myself twenty-four-seven. I had been used to working with teams, and constantly having people around. I am quite a social person, so to suddenly find myself alone was not easy for me,” Martina reflects. This, combined with the chance to travel again once social distancing restrictions eased, opened her eyes to the rising trend of co-working spaces worldwide. Seeing an opportunity to blend her passion for design with the need for community, Martina embarked on her second entrepreneurial venture, creating her own co-working space, WORKNiCHE.

Set within the former Muddy Waters rock bar in St Julian’s, Martina has breathed new life into the venue, turning it into a chic co-working hub designed to appeal to a diverse range of professionals, creatives, and entrepreneurs. From freelancers to digital nomads, the space offers a variety of options, from individual desks for focused work to meeting rooms for collaboration. This project has not only expanded Martina’s business portfolio but has also connected her with a wider community of like-minded individuals.

KCO Design 50 Business Leaders

As she explains: “WORKNiCHE. was also another way for me to showcase what I do best. I wanted the design to reflect my personality, fun yet refined. I played with negative space, patterns, and lighting to create a stimulating environment. I’m proud of the result. It’s an inspiring place to work that reflects who I am and what I can offer.”

Knowing she would have limited time to run both her interior design and co-working ventures, WORKNiCHE. operates on a self-managed and self-sustaining model, inspired by the honesty bars and unattended supermarkets Martina encountered during her travels. Clients can easily book online and self-check-in and out. While the concept is relatively new to Malta, digital nomads living on the island have embraced the concept, and she has seen more local clients gradually acclimatise to the idea.

Now, she’s gearing up to apply this self-sustaining model to yet another endeavour—a guesthouse in the Three Cities, slated to open its doors later this year. Here, she is embracing sustainable development to help regenerate the area, preserving the heritage materials within the building as much as possible.

“This project taps into my passion for travel, putting me on the other side of the equation, where I can welcome people and share Malta and our experiences with them,” Martina explains. “I’m using interior design to create a welcoming space that celebrates Maltese culture and heritage through a building that feels fresh and inspiring while staying true to the essence of the area. I can’t wait for it to be up and running.”

Given the immense workload she’s shouldered in recent years, it’s no surprise that Martina acknowledges experiencing burnout. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned since starting this journey is knowing when to step back and not take on everything by myself,” she shares candidly. “I am passionate about my work and love to keep myself busy, but it can be overwhelming when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. So, I’ve realised that it’s a continuous process of learning, stumbling, and picking yourself back up.”

This interview forms part of the Digital 50 Business Leaders project. These high-profile interviews are exclusively featured online at MaltaCEOs.mt, highlighting 50 distinguished conversations with business leaders, CEOs, and emerging entrepreneurial talents. Through these discussions, we aim to showcase the remarkable journeys, achievements, and successes of Malta’s business leaders.

Want to know more? Please drop us a line at info@maltaceos.mt

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