It’s hard to ignore the sheer number of real estate and hospitality projects active in Phuket. Finding a project that catches your eye and draws you in is easy, but not many will hold your attention like the projects endowed with the M2 PLUS touch.
You’ll immediately notice the simplicity and class unique to every project, and I believe this is what sets them apart from the rest. This is at the core of what the firm does. Mary Pakamard is the visionary behind this interior design, architecture and construction firm. We learned of her journey from student, to an artist, to a leader and how she plans to take her firm to new heights.
Who is Mary Pakamard? Who and what made you what you are today?
I am a passionate, ambitious opportunity seeker. I take risks, but in a calculated way; applying some discipline to my thinking and eventual decision-making. I have never been scared of failure, which I guess you could say is what gives me an entrepreneurial spirit.
I remember when I was in my third year of university, studying for my first degree, the Thai government provided a budget to support young entrepreneurs. Realising the opportunity, I wrote a business plan for my first ever project: ‘Papier Mache Furniture’. I spent three months researching and writing about it and a further three months experimenting with the product. Sadly, in the end, despite my enthusiasm and efforts, the project was rejected. Although I never lost sight of the excitement and feeling of achievement I’d gained through the experience.
As a designer, my quest to continually improve has really been down to my own mindset and discipline. I can attribute part of my success to one person that always supported me and encouraged me growing up – my older brother. Because of his encouragement, he rescued me from becoming a hairdresser in our small village – this being the job that my dear Mum suggested I should aim for. My Brother said to me “you will grow big, sister”. He wanted me to do what I had a passion for.
I had been great at art from the age of 7. I remember that I even got paid small amounts to draw for everyone in my class. I also developed a talent for managing and organising things for my teacher and my classmates. So, my enthusiasm and abilities in art, combined with my organisational skills led me to become an art school teacher following my graduation from Art Education. It was through my time working in a school that I learned the basic skills of being a leader.
I grew up with a passion for art but unfortunately, this talent didn’t generate enough income. After my teaching experience, I worked for an artist for a while. It was then that I realised that neither of these was the right career for me. That was when I started to think about directing my love of art to interior design and architecture.
How did M2 Plus begin?
In 2011 I gained my second degree in Interior Architecture, in Singapore. After graduating, I worked with a global architectural firm based in Singapore as part of its Interior Design team. I had always wanted to establish my own practice, and in 2013 I moved to Phuket to establish M2. At first, I worked from home and the design work was all me! My first ‘big’ project, the work that really ignited me and became the first real turning point for M2, came as a result of a recommendation to a resort owner that came from a friend of a friend. Out of the blue, I received a call one day from the owner/operator of the resort. She was looking for a design team to help create a brand new and very innovative resort in Phang Nga.
Now – I would not advocate anything other than transparency and truth in business – however, I know that on this occasion if I didn’t create a little white lie I would never have a chance of being selected as the design partner on the project. So here’s where I took a calculated risk. Although still working alone from my home office, I had actively started seeking out potential local talent to join my team. I had also started looking seriously at office space.
So I simply imagined the business forward by 6 months and said that we had a team of 6 Designers on-board already and that the project deliverables as they had been described to me were all absolutely doable. I knew in my heart that even if I had not been able to quickly recruit a team of Designers that I would personally take ownership and would deliver on the project as needed. No matter what it took.
A long story short – I won the project for M2. I was, in fact, able to then quickly hire in other locally based Designers. And I quickly formed a working partnership with an experienced Architectural practice to cover the master planning and external architecture deliverables. So all was well that ended well. And since that milestone project, I haven’t looked back. Nor have I exaggerated the truth!
Several transformations in the business, and nowadays with a large group of clients, I now engage over 40 people through four different companies. A design studio, furniture design and retail business, a furniture manufacturing business, and most recently our own construction business. All of these businesses operate under the M2 PLUS umbrella. Our current structure gives full control of the quality of an entire project. From conceptualisation, through the design phases, and onto final implementation.
What was your vision for your career and the companies?
I always see opportunities in things, places and people. I also look at things differently – being talented and passionate about design is a solid fundamental requirement of this business but that alone doesn’t bring success. I believe in people.
The strength of the people in my team is key to the success of the business. Having begun the journey from working on my first project alone in my home office, and now having grown the business to encompass four companies and over 40 in my team, I often wonder how I am going to be able to control the quality of work. I have come to realise that no matter how good the tools, products, software, smart systems, etc. – the quality of the people we have in the team is the key factor in us creating ever-increasing success.
When I moved back to Phuket in 2013 I quickly realised that the island was lacking in creative design companies. My vision back then was exactly what we have come to achieve now. The current structure and strategy for the growth of the business will be what keeps me and the team growing.
Why are you and your team different?
I have been fortunate to attract and hire people all of whom share my passion for design; all of whom strive to deliver perfection on every project we work on; all of whom take ownership in and pride themselves on delivering work on time. On every project, we aim to help clients to save costs wherever possible – through the selection of materials, the construction strategy, and by mobilising all disciplines in the design and build process.
What does your average weekend or day off look like?
I try to find time to play golf on most of my weekends or whenever I have time off from work. It’s an activity that I’ve grown to have a lot of passion for since I took up the sport around 8 years ago,
It’s a sport that I plan on playing throughout my life now. It’s challenging to play and make improvements in. Regardless, I love the fact that for 4 or 5 hours on the golf course I can completely switch off from work – no computer, no phone, no designs to look at – I can enjoy the scenery and the company of my golfing friends. I can focus on my game and my brain has to focus on only one small white ball over 18 holes!
I’ve seen your work on many branded properties on the island. how do you manage to keep every project unique?
Every client is different. Every client has different nuances in their personal taste and sense of style. This ensures that we don’t simply copy and paste design ideas from project to project. Client objectives are always subtly different, and hugely different from one type of project to the next – e.g. a commercial project versus a residential project.
Do you have a philosophy or ethos behind the way you design? What is it?
My core philosophy is SIMPLICITY – to make material selection straightforward, not putting too many elements into the design palette. I use design details and accenting of features within the design rather than complicating the end result with a myriad of different materials, pieces, and other finishings. Simplicity is beauty, More money spent does not necessarily equal a beautiful outcome. I aim to make each project a stand-alone statement about the owner, as well as making a statement about my approach to my style and ethos.
Growing locally in a market that is usually saturated with Bangkok-based firms is quite the feat. How have you kept ahead of the curve?
Because the island desperately needed the proposition that M2 Plus brings to market – we have established the company through the quality and reliability of our work. Bangkok based firms may have held sway in the past as previously locally sourced choices were somewhat limited. There were (and still are) many interior decorators, or there were Architects. There was no locally based practice offering the complete range of design services that projects both large and small need.
As a team, we also differentiate as we have the language skills to deal with the international owners and developers who need to be able to have detailed design and construction discussions with people who truly understand them. We understand the local market.
What’s next for you and your business?
Other than the exciting and innovative island development that we will take end-to-end ownership of (as alluded to earlier) – my aim for M2 Plus is to become the biggest one-stop design service business in ASEAN. My vision is to lead a business that offers the widest and most diverse network of suppliers and partners to tackle any project – no matter how big.