It’s always a bit daunting decorating a home; add in the tricky small spaces of an apartment or the sterility of a temporary rental and it’s enough to make you throw up your hands and head for IKEA.
But before you resign yourself to a cookie cutter living room, mamas, check out our conversation with the oh-so-stylish Elizabeth Acland of E&A Interiors. Wondering whether “kid-friendly interior design” is an oxymoron, or how to inject a rental property with personality and style? Read on to find out what’s hot right now in design and her insider tips on the best design shops in Singapore and on the web. Because we can all use a little bit of fabulous in our homes!
Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to what you’re doing now?
I come from a very creative family and I always knew I wanted to work in interior design. When I left university I applied for a job at Colefax and Fowler – one of the oldest and most established design houses in the world – and learnt the fundamentals at their headquarters in London for a year.
I then applied for a job a Veere Grenney Associates. They work on incredible projects around the world and it was the most amazing five year experience where I eventually rose to senior designer. I completed projects in New York, The Hamptons, Jackson Hole, Ibiza, Mustique, Sweden and in the UK. I then moved out to Singapore, met Chloe (my design partner) and started E & A!
What inspired you to start E&A Interiors?
When Chloe and I met we had a really similar vision of what we wanted to achieve. We wanted to create a unique design house within Singapore combining our varied and extensive experiences.
We are both hugely passionate about fabrics and the process of weaving and printing. I knew of so many amazing fabric and wallpaper suppliers from throughout the USA and Europe and wanted to introduce them to Singapore. We have over 35 brands of fabrics and wallpapers from around the world, most of which are hand-woven or printed. We know most of our suppliers personally and it is so inspiring to know the stories and history behind the fabrics, rather than working with fabrics produced in a sweatshop or huge factory.
How would you describe your approach to interior design, and what influences the style of your work?
My approach to interior design is to always really listen to what the client wants and to give them the best possible interpretation of what they want. I think it is incredibly important for each project I complete to be original and unique. A client’s house – besides being beautiful – has to above all be practical and comfortable. I am constantly reading design books, and contemporary designers like NYC-based Stephen Gambrel – plus the old greats like David Hicks, Sybyl Colefax and John Fowler – are a constant source of inspiration.
What’s hot right now in interior design?
Chloe and I really keep our fingers on the pulse of what is going on in Interior Design around the world, particularly since so many of our suppliers are from Europe and USA. In terms of what is hot right now, it depends on where you are in the world and what type of house you live in. I think what is hot is what you like and what is appropriate for the space and client!
And what’s not?
There aren’t any rules for what is hot or not – it is so subjective. I love so many different interior design styles whether it be contemporary, classic, retro, ethnic, etc. It’s about achieving the look your client wants in the best way possible. One thing I would say is to never rate style over substance; practicality and comfort are paramount.
What are some common home design mistakes that you see?
Our clients often have such a mixture of possessions from their travels and different countries they have lived in and they feel that they can’t pull them all together. We incorporate our clients’ existing items into their new homes and make them work with new pieces of furniture in a harmonious way.
What are some quick and easy ways to jazz up our homes?
Wallpaper is a great way to liven up a room and make a big change. It’s especially good if you don’t have much art and want a cosy feel with less empty wall space.
What are some easy ways to brighten up a rental home?
For rentals, concentrate on the soft furnishings that you can take with you when you move. One interesting shaped chair in a bold or interesting textured fabric can add character and colour. Throw cushions are a great way to inject some colour and pattern without spending a lot.
What are your tips on how to express our own personal style in our homes?
Our homes reflect the way we live, and everyone lives in a very different way. Some like a very clean look while others like an eclectic look with layers of pattern, texture and colour. If you want to add character to your home without spending too much, consider cushions, a rug or wallpaper.
Can “interior design” and “child friendly” realistically co-exist in our homes?
Absolutely! For upholstery items like a sofa for a family, we will always suggest a washable fabric so it isn’t the end of the world if something is spilt. We also make mostly natural rugs in 100% cotton or wool that can be cleaned easily.
What makes or breaks a room?
The proportion of furniture makes a huge impact and you really don’t want your furniture to be too big or small for the space. The size of rugs can also make a huge difference – put a small rug in a small space and it will feel smaller. Put a large rug in a small space and it makes the space feel bigger.
What risks are worth taking in interior design?
People are often scared of pattern, but even if you don’t want a lot of colour then a neutral pattern adds an interesting design element to the home.
What are your favourite design/homewares shops for mamas on a budget and for mamas looking to splurge (both online and Singapore stores)?
Online, I love Anthropologie and ABC Home for homewares; they have some reasonable items and more expensive knickknacks also. For a splurge, the website 1stDibs is always amazing – even for window-shopping and inspiration it is worth a look. It has everything on it like knickknacks, jewelry, furniture and art from dealers all around the world.
Can you share any hidden or secret design/homewares stores in Singapore?
Hock Siong is a great one for second-hand furniture. We sometimes find some gems there and with a bit of sprucing up they become really great pieces. The important thing is to look beyond the colour/finish that the piece is in and to look at the shape and the potential of what it could be!
Sassy Mama Perk:
Great news, mamas! E&A Interiors are offering a FREE design consultation to all Sassy Mama readers. Stop by their showroom and design studio to go over the basics, and they’ll follow up with a complimentary concept package. The first five mamas to sign up will even receive an in-home visit! Be sure to mention Sassy Mama!