Making Over Your Home? Interior Designers Share Their Best Advice (And Where To Get Started)

By Leanne Moore
Interior designer Janice Kumar-Ward. Photo / Duncan Innes

Never underestimate the power of your surroundings to make you feel good and elevate your life. Leanne Moore talks to interior design experts about the alchemy of carefully considered spaces.

Janice Kumar-Ward of JKW Interior Architecture & Design, Auckland

The look: Janice Kumar-Ward is all about innovating the design process

Signature style: A creative powerhouse, Janice and her husband Julian Ward also produce the beautiful bespoke furniture and cabinetry collection Mr & Mrs Ward.

Design tips: Engage a designer early so decisions are well thought through rather than rushed. Also, you’ll get the designer you want — there’s often a wait.

Be wary of selecting on-trend fixtures such as tapware — these are not easy to change, unlike bed linen, or even paint colours.

Alex Fulton. Photo / Aimee Thompson
Alex Fulton. Photo / Aimee Thompson

Alex Fulton Design, Christchurch

The look: Alex Fulton creates exciting spaces saturated with colour and pattern. Her bold and unconventional — yet practical — designs attract the adventurous spirit. The AFD flavour also adds a twist of humour and delight.

Signature style: Confident, bold and absolutely fearless use of colour.

Design tips: Lock in a colour story. A limited colour palette gives consistency and acts as an easy reference when choosing and specifying products.

Push the limits. If you can’t find something you want, ask, alter or get it made. Long term, you will be happier that you made an effort to get exactly what you want.

Be super-organised. Have a document that lists the specifications in each room to keep tradies, architect, painters and suppliers updated and on the same page. It becomes your go-to document for quick reference and recall of everything that goes into your project.

Alex McLeod and Tomi Williams. Photo / Supplied
Alex McLeod and Tomi Williams. Photo / Supplied

Alex McLeod and Tomi Williams of, Auckland

The look: Considered design, layering through colour and texture, elements of surprise.

Signature style: Alex and Tomi bring a bespoke approach to every project. Their ethos is to design interiors that are creative and challenging, yet cohesive. They create spaces that are designed to be lived in, not just admired.

Design tips: Creating your home is a reflection of yourself, your family and the way that you live. All of these are intimately interconnected and so should the spaces of your home.

To create a holistic scheme, start with using colour to connect the exterior to the interior and throughout. Colours do not need to be the same. You can use different colours to create individual spaces and add personality, but they should have the same tone.

Use two or three materials or finishes throughout that are repeated in different spaces and in different ways to ensure the rooms feel connected yet individual.

Always question how you can do something differently, whether with colour, form or materiality.

Paul Izzard. Photo / Richard Hodder
Paul Izzard. Photo / Richard Hodder

Paul Izzard of Izzard Design, Auckland

The look: Seductive and award-winning hospo interiors and sophisticated and award-winning residential interiors.

Signature style: Pared-back glam, with evidence of experience in hospitality design in the social spaces of residential projects, such as the introduction of booth seating to a kitchen.

Design tips: Go for quality materials that stand the test of time. I like to think our designs wear in, not wear out. Use lighting to create different moods at different times of the day.

Jessica Close. Photo / Jane Ussher
Jessica Close. Photo / Jane Ussher

Jessica Close Interiors, Christchurch

The look: Brings an English country house aesthetic to her work, after several years living and working in the UK.

Signature style: Charming, relaxed and atmospheric.

Design tips: A room always needs a bit of antique, mid-century or tat from a junk shop. Mixing old and new is so important, it adds a patina to your home that can’t be manufactured.

Enjoy pattern! Upholstered furniture takes less meterage than curtains. Go mad and get the best you can afford.

Avoid downlights and recessed ceiling lights whenever possible. Your home is not a hospital! Lamp lighting makes everyone look good, and you can take them with you when you move.

The most interesting interiors are made up of collections and layers that take time to build. I wholeheartedly believe that a room is never finished — one should always be adding to it.

Katie Lockhart. Photo / Babiche Martens
Katie Lockhart. Photo / Babiche Martens

Katie Lockhart Studio, Auckland

The look: Creative force Katie Lockhart works around the world on interiors that are understated, yet striking at the same time.

Signature style: Curate, edit and cut through the clutter.

Design tips: I think the inclusion of colour, whether it is through the base palette (walls, floors, etc.) or the furnishings, brings spirit and warmth. I love low light in the evening, less overhead but more lamps.

Nikki Burnet and Katie Peck. Photo / Supplied
Nikki Burnet and Katie Peck. Photo / Supplied

Nikki Burnet and Katie Peck of Kurio Design, Wellington

The look: A dynamic design duo creating harmonious interiors that celebrate the art of layering.

Signature style: A flair for detail that adds character and makes their spaces feel like they’ve been there for a while.

Design tips: Scale up when it comes to rugs, lighting, and artwork. So often people buy these items far too small. Your home can be instantly elevated when these pieces are the correct scale, if not oversized.

Consider which furniture pieces and surfaces will get heavy use (think family room sofas, kitchen benchtops) and put your money into these. Think of them as an investment, and balance them out with smaller, more cost-friendly pieces.

Avoid the temptation of ‘fast homewares’. These days there is no excuse for a ‘throw away’ attitude when it comes to interiors. It’s no good for anyone, especially the planet.

Take your time hunting for unique pieces that really speak to you. It is still possible to pick up incredible pieces at vintage and antique stores and auction houses. When these older pieces are mixed with newer items it creates personality and a totally unique style that you will love and enjoy for years to come.

Liv Patience and Toni Brandso. Photo / Supplied
Liv Patience and Toni Brandso. Photo / Supplied

Liv Patience and Toni Brandso of Material Creative, Auckland

The look: Interiors with the wow factor that look good and feel wonderful.

Signature style: Champions for decorative freedom and reimagined spaces that lift the spirits of their clients.

Design tips: Think about colours and textures that you like. They will show up in your clothing, in the things you have in your home and even in the way you wrap a birthday present.

When you walk into a room that you love, consider what it is about the space that you actually like. It might be the timber flooring or the marble countertop. Becoming conscious of the colours and materials that help you feel calm or happy is a great place to start.

Hire an expert. That way, you’ll get a harmonious interior that has the perfect balance and visual weight of materiality, colour, pattern and texture. Our job is like editing a book. We take our client’s ideas and add or subtract to create balance and structure and the strongest possible composition of those ideas.

Sarah Lods. Photo / Supplied
Sarah Lods. Photo / Supplied

Sarah Lods, Auckland

The look: Engaging and clever spaces that bring all sorts of pieces together, regardless of their provenance or monetary value, to create a visual commonality.

Signature style: Spaces that inspire wonder and stimulate thought.

Design tips: Never be a slave to a design trend. Mix old and pre-loved with contemporary. Art, art, art; there is no such thing as too much art. Make comfort a priority and carefully consider the flow between spaces.

Jodi Newnham. Photo / Helen Bankers
Jodi Newnham. Photo / Helen Bankers

Jodi Newnham of Swag Design, Auckland

The look: Artist, furniture dealer (Mid Century Swag) and interior designer, Jodi Newnham has her own contemporary spin on mid-century modern that produces magical interior moments.

Signature style: Californian Arts & Crafts aesthetic, with a hint of rustic Brutalism, and a modern-glam influence.

Design tips: There are generally five principles of design that help to create a successful space: proportion, balance, rhythm, harmony and emphasis. I particularly like rhythm. It’s based on the idea of the eye being able to travel the room by creating interest and reducing monotony.

You can do this by the use of repetition, whether that’s repeating shapes, colours or pattern. This helps the eye move from one object to the other. You can also create a sense of rhythm by using objects in varying heights and sizes that can be arranged in either ascending or descending form.

Harmony is the principle of creating a sense of relationship within objects or ideas. For example, when displaying a group of artworks or objects, consider whether they share something similar such as colour, size, shape or texture.

As well as these principles, create a focal point — always have one show-stopper. Be it a gorgeous fireplace, a unique sideboard or an amazing pendant lamp.

Lighting is important, layer it up. Floor lamps, table lamps, up lights or wall sconces, as well as overhead lighting and task lighting. Lighting plays a crucial role in transforming the ambience of a space.

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