If you’ve not worked with an interior designer before, it’s hard to know precisely what they can offer. The cynical among us might think they’re just glorified pillow fluffers.
Having recently engaged an interior designer to manage the interior spaces in our latest Mt Martha project – The Gallery – we will now never go back to doing it all ourselves. Even though our last project won an MBAV award for Best Custom build ($600k – $800k) without an interior designer, by contracting Sisalla Interior Design to manage this part of our current project, not only have we saved a massive amount of time (in sourcing products and finishes), the finished interior has taken the build to a whole new level. Even better, we managed to do this within the project budget.
The difference is an interior designer is an expert in their field. They are across all trends, products, stockists: with a solid brief, a good interior designer will ultimately save you time and money in being able to source products and produce a finish that goes way beyond the average builder’s capabilities. In our case, the interior far exceeds our expectations and completely filled the brief.
Sisalla is a boutique interiors firm based in Melbourne. We spoke to chief designer, Lauren Macer, about what makes a great interior.
What services do you offer clients?
Sisalla Interior Design offers a complete interior design service for residential and commercial projects. I work with the client from the initial space planning stages before any building has commenced, through to designing the joinery including the kitchen, bathrooms and bespoke TV units and fireplace designs. I also provide an interior decoration service. My approach to decoration is holistic: from a lighting design, soft furnishings, furniture, and artwork, right down to a place to put your keys everyday.
I aim to provide a perfect backdrop for the clients to live within.
What is involved in a typical domestic job?
There isn’t really a ‘typical domestic job’ because everyone’s space is different, and some clients lead very different lives however my approach is the same. I try hard to listen and understand my client’s needs. Sometimes they don’t articulate what they are looking for so when I visit for the first meeting, I quietly observe how they use the spaces. The first step in the design process is to design the concept, which becomes a brief for the project and gives direction. I follow a design process that I have refined over the years so that client’s know what to expect.
What do you love about what you do?
I might sound cheesy, but I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that my clients absolutely love the space and it works well for them. I love visiting towards the end of a project and seeing all of the pieces of the puzzle come together, it’s really exciting.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere these days. Apart from the obvious (Instagram and Pinterest) I am inspired by my friends that also work as designers. We love getting together and conversation often leads to new finishes and furniture. Dorky but true. Going out to see architecture and interiors is so inspiring; you can’t get that spatial awareness and detail from images alone. So I am always getting out to see the latest café, restaurant, showroom or exhibition when I can.
How do you keep ahead of the curve, trend wise?
When you are designer, you can’t switch it off. My radar is always on for beautiful and clever design. Keeping aware of interior design trends has never been easier. Instagram means that instead of waiting a few months after the Milan Furniture Fair to see what the magazines publish, you can see what’s going on in real time. That is amazing.
What’s the most important part of interior design? What makes a space work for your clients?
I think that listening to the client is very important and trying to understand their needs. Also I try to show the concept clearly with images, floor plans and sketches so that they understand the design. I find that when the client can see your vision for the space, the process is much more enjoyable and seamless for everyone.
Who are your favourite Australian architects/designers?
There are so many talented people doing their thing out there. The work of Studio Moore is consistent in its beautifully minimal aesthetic. Hecker Guthrie has a huge body of work that always inspires. At the moment I love the work of StudioYouMe and We Are Huntly.
What materials do you enjoy working with?
At the moment there are some beautiful tiles in various shapes that give texture, or colour and some personality to a space. I like to use different shapes like hexagon, kit-kat or very large format. Handmade tiles with a unique finish add warmth and sophistication. Brass is another finish I can’t get enough of. Every room needs something metallic and brass is found in gorgeous lighting, décor and hardware. It’s very chic.
Do you have your own signature Sisalla style? If so, how do you balance a client’s tastes with a look that is simultaneously ‘Sisalla’?
Sisalla Interior Design is about creating spaces that respond to the site, suit the clients lifestyle and have soul. It’s really about listening to the client’s requirements, and creating a space that expresses their personalities and needs rather than being dictated by a particular style. I try to give the client something unexpected but with a quiet luxury to elevate their expectations, however, I suppose it’s inevitable that a certain style starts to develop. I’m drawn to quite a sophisticated eclectic style, featuring mid-century and incorporating contemporary design. I feel at ease using colour, combining texture and a bit of pattern to keep it exciting and interesting. I also focus on lighting, as it is so important in creating warmth and atmosphere.