One of the most difficult things about designing a space is being able to articulate your design style. It’s something that I’ve struggled with for a while—I know what I like and don’t like, but I find it hard to explain why certain aesthetics are attractive to me and others are not. Clarity of vision is fundamental to design.
When Oli and I began construction on our new home in Mauritius, I knew all the interior design details would come down to me. I relished the challenge and was excited to begin the process, but I had no idea where to start (and almost zero experience, and definitely zero formal training). Since day one I’ve been muddling through, making decisions about flooring and cabinets and lighting and countertops and furniture and appliances based solely on gut instinct and what’s pleasing to my eye (oh, and budget, kind of). But I didn’t have a unifying design style in mind, and over the past few months the “look” has shifted from something like minimalism and Scandinavian to midcentury modern with elements of industrial and bohemian design styles. And I wanted to give a nod to our local environment (a tropical island) and culture so I plan on incorporating natural materials—lots of wood, and rattan, and basket pendant lights—as well as local arts and handicrafts. I knew I could pull it altogether somehow, but I was looking for that unifying theme, or just a cover-all term, to provide cohesion. And then I discovered interior designer Baiyina Hughley…
I discovered Baiyina (I feel like we’re on a first-name basis!) through a random YouTube search. I was watching interior design videos for inspiration and I came across one of Baiyina’s older vlog posts (below) about developing a cohesive design style. Let me just say, I absolutely love Baiyina. Although we have fairly different personal tastes (she’s into pink, I don’t think I own a single pink item), I agree with so many of the design tips and insights she gives and I really appreciate her delivery—she’s very direct and matter of fact but also leaves space for differing opinions and tastes. And she’s a professional with years of experience, so she knows her stuff and it shows!
Baiyina has developed an online tool (a free quiz—who doesn’t like a good quiz!?) to help people like me discover or, rather, articulate their design style. Based on my quiz results, my interior design style is modern eclectic (“modern” as in the midcentury modern era of the ’40s and ’50s, not contemporary—an important distinction). Baiyina has also developed a Pintrest page for each of the various design styles the quiz covers (Scandi, bohemian, contemporary, industrial chic, transitionalist etcetera) so you have immediate design inspo at your fingertips. When I looked through her Pintrest page for modern eclecticism I knew without a doubt that this was my design style—I love the vintage look of midcentury modern furniture and its angular aesthetics, and “eclectic” is shorthand for incorporating many different styles into an interior design which is definitely what I’m trying to achieve.
One piece of advice that Baiyina offers which I 100% agree with is to try to buy authentic vintage pieces where possible. Typically a vintage item means better quality materials and handiwork (and the fact that it has withstood the test of time is evidence of that). A vintage item will have a personal history which will add depth and soul to a space. A decades-old dresser purchased at an antique shop or flea market will have a richer and more compelling backstory than a dresser that was mass produced and purchased at a big box store or online. In terms of quality and soulfulness, the same is often true for items that are bespoke (custom-made) or crafted by local artisans. I haven’t had a chance to visit the local Mauritian antique or second-hand shops yet (there are only a handful here) but we are having many of our larger furniture items custom-made locally, and I am sourcing deco and art made by local artists, as well as pieces I’ve collected over the years from home (New Zealand) and my travels abroad.
Something else to consider in a space is texture, something Baiyina talks about a lot. Incorporating different materials, patterns, and shapes into a space will add layers, contrast and depth. This is easily done, for example, with cushions on a couch—adding cushions of different sizes, textiles and complementary colors or patterns (see example below with cushions, and also the layering of rugs in photo above). Texture can also be achieved by placing items made from different elements or materials side-by-side—like a rattan armchair next to a coffee table with black metal legs and a glass top (in other words, bohemian meets industrial chic)—and playing with shapes by, for example, putting curved pieces next to more linear ones. I’m really into combining different elements, and I’ll definitely be incorporating wood, metal, and stone into the interior design of our new home.
My Netflix design shows binge continues! My latest binge is the Netflix original series Stay Here, which features renowned American designer Genevieve Gorder and real estate expert Peter Lorimer making over short-term rental properties and setting the owners up for business success. Honestly I had never heard of Genevieve Gorder before watching Stay Here, but she’s been on American television for over a decade—she’s one of the designers in Trading Spaces and is a regular contributor on the Rachael Ray show and is frequently on HGTV. I really loved the spaces she curated on Stay Here so I started watching her videos on Youtube and following her on Instagram.
As a designer, Genevieve Gorder is incredibly versatile—she can execute any design style beautifully—perhaps because her own taste is very eclectic and she has a great eye for detail. In this video (below) she gives a tour of her own New York city apartment and it’s stunning! The first thing I noticed was her Calacatta marble countertop (with a waterfall island—more about that in a future post!) and it’s so true what she says: “it has so much veining and drama, and when you walk in it smacks you in the face!”. She’s also said elsewhere that Calacatta stone is her favorite kitchen countertop and I was actually trying to decide on kitchen countertops when I came across that and it just seemed like a sign—Calacatta stone it is! More about that in a future post too!
Ok, so those are currently my favorite designers for design inspo—Baiyina Hughley and Genevieve Gorder—but I’ve also been following a ton of design-based Instagram accounts, hashtags, and blogs. There’s so much out there on the web for design inspiration (and yay for free advice!), but there are also things that I see locally in my own neighborhood and around the island that give me ideas about what I want to incorporate into our home. In the next post I’ll share more about some of my interior design plans for the house.