Our Team

PENSON's Designer Profile | Ilkay Tek's Placement Year at PENSON

By Sarah Bean

A lady standing in front of a red and white display showing architectural drawings

Ilkay was our Interiors queen when she with us on placement year from 2017 to 2018, before she headed back to Sheffield Hallam University to complete her final year of Interior Architecture & Design. We miss her a lot, but she’s been having an amazing summer since completing her degree.


She’s stacked up some great awards; from winning a student competition designing a student room with Sugar Cube Sheffield in May, she went on to win best in show at Free-Range earlier in July. She also bagged the Best 2D Representation Award in the UK before the show ended! We caught up with Ilkay to see how her whirlwind year has been since she left PENSON…

A bit about Ilkay:


Hand drawn or digital?



Concrete or plyboard?



Furniture or materials?


Favourite furniture brand?

Moooi because they’re so fun!


London or elsewhere?

London all the way!



Sheffield Hallam University


Degree subject?

Interior Architecture & Design

A concrete floor with yellow writing on
iconInterior Educators Show 19 @ Free Range
Descriptive text on an Interior Design presentation
iconIlkay Tek, 'Naked Theatre'

Q. What was your final project called? 


A. Naked Theatre



Q. What's it about?


A. It's a flexible fashion show/events space made up of a grid, staircases and mesh walkways, stripped back to its core materials. Audiences are made a part of the show with models walking around with them. Every detail has been specially designed to be assembled on site and moved around to change the event layout.

A red grid format theatre on an Interior Design presentation
iconIlkay Tek, 'Naked Theatre'

Q. Can you tell us a bit about the awards you’ve been winning?


A. Back in March 2019, I entered a competition to design a room for new student accommodation that’s being built in Sheffield. It was open to all Interior Architecture & Design students at my Uni and I managed to come first place and won a trip to Copenhagen.


My final year project was also chosen the ‘Best in Show 2019’ at the Sheffield Institute of Arts Graduate Show in June. This was chosen by an external industry professional.


Last but not least is the one I’m the most proud of – my final year project was just recently awarded the ‘Best 2D Representation’ at the Free Range shows.



Q. What was it like winning all these awards in a row?


A. I never imaged winning all these awards so it was honestly very unexpected but so rewarding. I’m really grateful and proud that my work has been recognised nationally and did so well. Free Range is an exhibition that showcases work from every university across the country, so to win an award on this national scale with a well-respected panel of judges is a great feeling.



Q. Where did you get inspiration from for your award-winning ideas? (please talk about your final project and the Sugar Cube competition)


A. As cliché as it sounds, I get my inspiration from anywhere! I absorb everything I see from just walking around in London to visiting exhibitions. I would say one thing all my work have in common is the influence of Fashion.



Q. Can you tell us more about the concept behind your final project?


A. I wanted to challenge the idea that we sit and watch a show from one perspective only. I wanted to create an experience where you’re involved in the show and get to view it at every angle. The naked grid system with ‘random’ staircases and walkways allow users to move around and create an experience that is different to another person. The staircases and walkways are designed specially to be moved around for every show, providing a new layout and new way to enjoy the show.



Q. What’s so unique about the experience of the Naked Theatre?


A. The main thing for me is that every user will come out of the grid with a different memory of the space as they make their own way through it. The next time they come in it will be like a whole new space. You could say it’s like a game.



Q. Why did you go with the colour red for the grid layout?


A. The colour red came along when I was looking into construction and scaffolding – which was my main inspiration for this project. It’s used a lot in road signs as it’s a striking colour and I guess it just stuck with me and worked well with the grid idea.



Q. Why did you choose these materials?


A. I only used steel throughout the entire project. I always try to limit myself when it comes to materials because I don’t want to take away from the design itself. Steel also worked well because I didn’t want to obscure the views through the grid.



Q. The best parts of your final project?


A. For me it’s the complexity and intricacy of it but also how simple it looks. I also love seeing people’s reaction to it.



Q. The worst parts?


A. The rendering process! Due to how complex the model was, some renders would take 30 hours to render!



Q. Did anything surprise you about your final project? Did it turn out how you'd imagined/originally planned?


A. I had a vision from the beginning but it definitely developed throughout and it was amazing how much I learned from the challenges I was faced while designing the space. Looking back, what I enjoyed the most was the process of it all, so the outcome was just a huge bonus.

A paper showing & explaining the grid system
iconIlkay Tek, The Grid System for 'Naked Theatre'

Q. Congratulations – you won the design competition with Sugar Cube Sheffield earlier in the year, and you were awarded a short trip to Copenhagen! How did you spend your time there?


A. I visited the Design Museum, Hay House, Louisiana Museum of Art and Normann Copenhagen Showroom. Copenhagen is like heaven for designers and furniture lovers!

It was actually my first time travelling alone and I loved it.



Q. What do you miss most about being at PENSON?


A. Definitely the team! I love how close everyone at PENSON is and l always enjoyed working with such creative people.



Q. How did PENSON help you? Especially going into your third year?


A. PENSON helped me in everything I needed to learn – all round really – to become a successful designer. During my placement I learned so much about colour, materials, technical drawings, how to communicate with clients and much more. Most importantly, working on real projects really gave me an understanding of what is required from a designer and how to work professionally.



Q. What surprised you most about the industry while you were on placement year?


A. How fast-paced jobs and projects can be turned around and delivered – in comparison to when you’re doing the one project at Uni where you get a few months to complete it! Also, how important the budget of a project is!



Q. Do you think you’ll want to focus on one area of interior design or one industry in future?


A. I want to become the best I can be in all areas of Design and not just Interior Design. My main focus will always be creating experiences for people through space but I’m also constantly learning about products, graphics, fashion etc. I would love to get into designing fashion shows and events.



Q. What did you enjoy most from the last year?


A. Probably designing as freely as I want without the restrictions of reality!



Q. What are you up to at the moment?


A. I’m currently doing an internship for an events company that design fashion shows and events for Fashion Week and I’m really enjoying it.