I’ve been consumed by all things interior design recently. My Instagram feed has been entirely overrun by Architectural Digest, Dwell Magazine, Vogue Living and West Elm (just to name a few). A few weeks ago I downloaded a new app (or is it a game?) called Design Home, an interactive tool for decorating fake rooms with digital furniture (tiny renderings of actual furniture!). The rules of the app (game?) are fairly simple—decorate a room to be voted on against other players’ designs. If your room receives a 4+ star rating, you win a prize (typically a piece of digital furniture to add to your inventory). The game is highly addictive and I’m seriously thinking of quitting my day job to become a full-time (fake) interior designer.
As if that wasn’t enough, I’ve also been bingeing on two design-related shows on Netflix: Selling Houses with Sarah Beeny (where sellers make home-improvements in a bid for a buyer’s offer); and Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs. The latter is particularly good—a British reality show about ambitious (and often magnificent) home building or renovation projects. The show follows a project from design conception through to completion (unless, of course, funds run out and the project is stalled). Part of what makes this show so entertaining is that there is always some tension or drama—whether it’s a married couple arguing about a project’s design or budget (spoiler alert: they all go over budget), or a daring design element that could spell disaster. The show is as educative as it is entertaining—I now know more about brick work, timber frames, and insulation than I will ever need to know. It’s also well worth watching just for Kevin McCloud’s dreamy British accent, his oft profound and witty musings, and his fetching dress sense. Ya just have to watch the show to understand his appeal.
Anyway, I’m drooling over sculptural staircases and round mirrors and pendant lights and pastels and woven baskets and anything bespoke. Much of this is purely fantasy fulfillment, but I am taking mental notes of what might be possible to incorporate into our new build in Mauritius. If you’re looking for a lesson on class privilege, simply google “features to include in a new build or home renovation”. This “must-haves” list is particularly telling. “More ornate garage doors”, what?! Why?? “Space for a dog washing station”. Lol!
I did like a few of the features on that list and I’m adding them to my own (slightly more modest) list of interior design features I’d like to see in our new home in Mauritius (budget-allowing, of course):
1. Lots of natural light. This seems like a no-brainer to me. Since we’re building entirely in concrete, I’m hoping the large windows we’re installing in the living spaces will lend lightness and airiness to what is otherwise a very solid and heavy concrete block house.
2. Open-plan living. This really is the norm nowadays and I can’t imagine a new construction having anything but an open-plan floor design. Gone are the days of separate dining rooms and sitting rooms or family rooms. And boxy kitchens? No thanks! I love that I can cook while entertaining guests and watching André play at the other end of the room (in what would technically be the “living room”). Open plan living is far more conducive to socializing and family-life, and there are some subtle ways of creating distinctions between spaces (a kitchen island, for example, often sits between the kitchen and the rest of the living space; or you could use a large sectional sofa to demarcate the living/entertainment section of the room).
3. A kitchen island (preferably with an overhanging counter for bar-stools). Depending on the shape of the kitchen, a peninsula (where one end is fixed to a wall) could be an option. In our case we are going for an island, much like the one we have in our current Bay Area home (sans sink, since I prefer to have the sink closer to cutting and cooking spaces and leave the island for serving food). Kitchen islands are also useful for additional cupboard space, and as a place for visitors to sit and be entertained while the host is busy in the kitchen. (Electrical outlets optional, though could be very useful).
4. Hanging pendant lights above the kitchen island. Just because they’re beautiful.
5. Built-in floor-to-ceiling shelves. This is both practical (a place to house books, small indoor plants, nicknacks etc) and beautiful (depending on how it’s constricted and curated). I love the dramatic scale of floor-to-ceiling shelves, and I’m much rather use this as a feature wall than, say, a wall that was painted in a bright accent color.
6. Track lighting in the hallway. I’ve always fantasized about having a “gallery wall” in my own home (much like my parents’ walls in our family home, thanks to my artist mother). Track lighting is one way to achieve this look since you can aim the light heads towards hanging artworks, and this look can be particularly effective in what might otherwise be a long and dark room (like an internal hallway).
7. A built-in shower shelf/bench. This might not be the most glamorous design feature but it is very practical. We had one in the shower of the teeny tiny studio apartment we rented before moving to our EPA home, but I didn’t fully appreciate the benefits of the shower shelf until I was heavily pregnant and finding it difficult and bothersome to bend down or shave my legs (let alone stand for long periods of time!). (Obviously the shelf has to be low enough to accommodate this). Thankfully our current home in EPA also has a shower shelf and, even though I am no longer carrying around a watermelon, I appreciate that I have somewhere I can sit or put my feet up on when I’m in the shower. It also doubles as space for displaying soap bottles and the like.
8. Dual vanities in the master ensuite bathroom. Having a master ensuite bathroom is a luxury in and of itself, I think (I grew up in a home with four tiny bedrooms and only one bathroom), but if you’re going to have a master ensuite bathroom you might as well go the whole hog and have separate “his-and-hers” vanities. We have separate vanities in our current EPA home mater ensuite and, honestly, I don’t ever want to go back to sharing a sink! I mean, I like that Oli and I can brush our teeth at the same time. Ha!
9. A home-office. This is essential for our family, particularly for Oli (a software engineer/”techpreneur”) since he spends a considerable amount of time working from home on his laptop or desktop computer. But our home-office can also be used as a guest-room when needed. In our Mauritius house, the office comes off the kitchen, separated by a step and (hopefully) a sliding glass door (with a curtain for privacy when being used a guest-room). This way, Oli can see through to the living room and have easy access to the kitchen when he’s working. A second door off the office leads to a bathroom and to the main corridor that connects to the bedrooms.
10. An outdoor spiral staircase. Ok, this one isn’t really a “must-have” design feature, and it wasn’t even on my wish-list initially, but we’ve decided that we need to have a secondary entrance-way at the front of the house. Currently, the main entrance to our home (which is a level above my in-laws ground-floor dwelling) is at the rear of the building. There’s a wide balcony at the front of the house (off both floors) and we decided that adding a staircase up to our first-floor balcony would be advantageous. It didn’t have to be a spiral staircase, but personally I think they are much more elegant and beautiful than your standard boxy staircase, and they take up less room too.
There are a few other design elements I’m contemplating right now—kitchen cabinets and countertops, bathroom tiles, balcony railings and tiles, wall color schemes etc. I’d like to dedicate a few more posts to interior design and document our final decisions as we go. In the meantime, what’s on your design feature “must-haves” list or wish-list?