“Embrace Life Fully with Gratitude, Curiosity, Humility and Humour!”

Maria Tibblin interviewed for Global Thinkers Forum

Maria is the Founder and Director of MARIA TIBBLIN LTD, a Medical & Health promoting Interior Design Firm. Maria is an advocate about the pivotal link between wellbeing & holistic design, and how environments impact our health. Maria has spent her life and work supporting behaviours which help determine our sustainable health. She advises various sector industry leaders about how well-designed environments promote general wellbeing.

Q: Tell us a bit about your life's journey, from Sweden to Switzerland and from there to London.

A: I was born and raised in Sweden, and I have lived and worked globally for most of my adult life. I always knew that staying in Sweden was not an option, I was keen to explore new horizons. After a year in Los Angeles at UCLA, I knew that as soon as I finished my degree I was off. 

Being very curious about how we can achieve disease prevention and alleviate people’s suffering I studied Public Health at the University of Zurich.

I then embarked on a long career in the Healthcare industry, where I held various global positions at Astra Zeneca, Stanford Research Institute, PRA International, MSD and Private Healthcare Providers. In the early 90s, I was a member of the national preventative HIV & AIDS study at the Federal Health Department, BAG in Switzerland.

My transition into interior design did not affect my passion about health and wellbeing, on the contrary. But it happened really as my response to a tragic event that changed my life: the sudden passing of my daughters’ father. I became a single mother from one day to the next and I had to find a sustainable work/life balance that would allow me to raise my two young daughters. They were always my priority. I moved to London 10 years ago to find an international environment and ensure high quality education for my daughters. At the same time, I was following my dream of many years to live in a cosmopolitan city. I did not know anyone in London and it felt overwhelming at first, but a “healthy” level of anxiety is good for development. I took my leap of faith, and I am very happy I did. I am living my own life, not anyone else’s.

My mother was a strong career woman and my father was intellectual and artistic. I have discovered both sides in me: I am creative and sensible yet an independent forward-thinking woman.

I love the work of Scandinavian designers and artists and I cherish my heritage in this field. So much so that when I moved to London allowed my creative side to take the lead. I studied interior design, going on with a career change, and today I have combined my two careers and I create design concepts that nurture health and wellbeing in healthcare and medically affiliated environments. I want people to feel nurtured, productive and comforted enough to heal.

I also have a strong interest in women’s health and empowerment.

My life took painful turns, and I am keen to share my insights with others. This is why I joined the Advisory Board of GTF and Athena40 which envisions the power of sharing wisdom and knowledge on a global stage.

I will continue to build my platform on the values and awareness I carry to support women.

I am currently studying to become a certified Jungian coach, which will give me more analytical understanding in my supporting roles.

Q: You have a prolific professional background. Tell us about the transitions and what prompted them.

A: I have a prolific professional journey, but on reflection, it all has come very purposefully together. Everything is very true to who I am. I am still developing, and my brand MARIA TIBBLIN will most probably always be evolving for the rest of my life.

I find creativity on personal and professional explorations and that has defined my life prompting me towards continuous transformation, which I embrace with interest and gratitude. Today I have a work portfolio that is aligned with what I am in service of. 

Photography by Sebastian Boettcher - www.fromwomentotheworld.art

Q: Today you are a successful entrepreneur. What were some of the obstacles you had -and perhaps still you need- to overcome?

A: There have been many obstacles along my journey as an entrepreneur, but when I look back, they have all moved me forward in the right direction. As an entrepreneur the professional journey goes hand in hand with one’s personal journey, which is very enriching. We must keep asking ourselves about our values and how these resonate with our identity and business purpose. What I am radiating must resonate with my business purpose.

The most difficult part for me has been to sell my brand and services. When I was working in the corporate industry in large global companies, it was easier because I represented established brands. To sell yourself as a brand is so much harder. One needs to be assertive enough, yet not desperate to land a project. It takes time to build relationships, create trust, win the value of respect, and to stay connected.

Q: How is your relationship with your two daughters and how has it evolved over the years?

A: I became a mother quite late in life and motherhood for me was a deep inner wish which unfolded in my mid-thirties.

I have raised my two daughters by myself since they were only 3 and 4 years old. Their father had been lost under painful circumstances, they were very young when it happened, and that made our bond even more special.

My relationship with my daughters has always been filled with love and respect. We are three separate individuals each with our own needs and visions for life. Today they are young adults in their early twenties, and I have a more guiding and supporting role, trying to be responsive to how they see the world, to their passions and dreams.

I am so proud of them, the women they have become! I learn from the generation they represent. We have deep conversations along with joyful moments and life’s ups and downs.

Q: What advice would you give to a young mother who will have to juggle motherhood and career?

A: What I have learned as a single working mother is to be present in what you are doing. To be in the ‘now’ while being with your children. Try to find shorter moments of present awareness with your child, rather than longer moments with them, while multitasking or juggling other things.

I learned from a child psychiatrist to always be honest, even if it was something painful that I had to share with my daughters for example when I had to travel abroad, which I knew would make them anxious. But honesty is always better than losing their trust. Taking time for myself, even if difficult to accommodate is something I felt has been important because it has given me good perspective to a busy schedule of a single working mother.

Q: Your latest project, care homes: what makes your business stand out in the market?

A: As specialist interior designer and an advocate for sustainable wellbeing, I incorporate my medical background in clinical healthcare, preventative medicine and R&D with interior design – this is a truly unique combination.

I use a science-based approach, incorporating a multi-sensory design to create environments which support sustainable health and wellbeing. I design with distinct purpose, focusing on and raising awareness for good health and wellbeing, respecting the needs of patients/clients and staff.

As we move to the future where prevention-focused healthcare will be a priority, there is a growing demand for healthcare providers and wellness operators, to offer clients meaningful and life-enhancing solutions.

My two careers enable me to understand the separate requirements of patients and practitioners. The subtleties of understanding these two separate stakeholder groups is what makes my business stand out within this growing and changing industry. Conscious, sustainable, and considered interior design will play a key role in helping us achieve this new sense of balance and wellbeing. 

I am also a strong supporter of Women’s health, which is a fast-growing important sector.

Q: How do you see the situation of women worldwide? Are you optimistic that things are improving? 

A: I would like to be optimistic about the future for a gender-equal society and for women’s situation globally. We are on the right path and we should involve the younger generation more from early on in schools. Education and sharing human values on a grassroots level, where everyone can get involved is as critical as working beyond borders, genders, cultures, traditions and faiths.

From the Bible, Isaiah’s definition of a mother and woman “She is clothed in strength and dignity” speaks straight to my heart.

I have been exposed to abusive men on the worst of levels. But I never let it define who I am.

Q: At what stage are you in your life?

A: I am on the path of feeling at home in the midst of my own life journey. I am curious to ask the larger questions and I dare to live my “fuller life” in line with what I would call my purpose. It takes courage to walk the path in finding one’s vocation, but it is exciting and fulfilling to really “see” the richness of the possibilities of universe.

Like Rumi says, “Man has come into the world for a particular task and that is his purpose. If he doesn’t perform it, he will have done nothing”. My biography will be published later this year.

Q: What gives you balance?

A: Being in the second half of my life, I find balance by securing time to myself in nature, stillness and solitude, reading, listening to music, reflecting, meditating, and journaling. This gives me clarity, keeps me grounded and in contact with my inner true core. A healthy lifestyle on all levels is crucial for me to feel nurtured and balanced. Daily exercise, fresh air, healthy diet, enough sleep, and human stimuli.

Q: A motto you live by?

A: Life is a lifelong journey -embrace it fully with gratitude, curiosity, humility and humour. Trust your intuition and your inner whisper, they are usually right.

Published: 04/05/2023