If you think that good interior design simply means filling a home with designer sofas, think again.
"Interior design is about improving a lifestyle, how the space makes you feel is more important than how it looks," says Nikki Hunt, principal at Design Intervention.
She would know.
The former economist left her job 16 years ago to be a freelance interior designer, and started her own firm nearly 10 years ago.
Her works are often featured in magazines, and the permanent resident who has lived in Singapore for 20 years recently added another feather to her cap.
She is a finalist this year in the annual Andrew Martin Interior Design of the Year award, which has been dubbed "the Oscars for the interior design world".
Only a handful of Singapore designers have made it to the list. Past winners include English designer Kelly Hoppen and American Thomas Pheasant.
"For interior designers, winning this award is the pinnacle," says Ms Hunt.
Her works will be published in a book of finalists in September. As a first-time participant, Ms Hunt says that she is unlikely to take home the award, as "winners are usually finalists a few times over".
Still, you don't expect any less of her home, which she designed. Pictures of her home off Bukit Timah were submitted as part of the competition.
She lives with her English husband who works in the finance industry and their two teenage children.
The home's black and white facade looks as if it was left from colonial days but Ms Hunt says otherwise.
The house was constructed five years ago, but has details such as special mouldings and panelling which are typical of such homes.
Having lived in a black and white when she first came to Singapore, Ms Hunt says that she is drawn to the romance of such homes.
"Plus with their big eaves, they are suited for the environment. Black and white homes give off a sense of permanence," she adds.
While the architecture of the home is reminiscent of colonial times, the interiors take on a more modern touch. "I wanted to create a home that is contemporary and not too formal," says Ms Hunt.
The home is generally divided into two large sections - one for entertaining and the other for the family, which is separated by an entrance hall.
Entertaining guests takes place in a formal living area and verandah.
"The design for these two areas is intentionally more glamorous," says Ms Hunt. "The look here has to be grand to complement the architecture but not feel too serious."
The furniture was carefully selected to create the ambience she wanted. Mirrored or glass table tops add a sense of luxury while being easy to clean, so guests don't need coasters for their coffee cups.
Instead of the ubiquitous chandelier, a hanging lamp is the room's centrepiece, given a contemporary spin with polished steel, acrylic and electric wax candles.
Black and white marble tiles in a checkerboard pattern add formality, but any stuffiness is countered by the playful splashes of colour such as an orange armchair and cushions.
Formal parties over, it's relaxation time in the family room, with distressed leather sofas designed to withstand wear and tear and even look better with age.
Artworks are a deliberate mismatch of auction house acquisitions, framed postcards and flea market finds.
"The feel here is anything goes, and you can be yourself," says Ms Hunt, who chose a neutral palette to create an air of tranquillity.
Upstairs, the bedrooms have their own individual looks. Ms Hunt's daughter has her room done up in turquoise and lime. Touches of browns were added, "to balance the citrus effects".
Old furniture pieces such as a four-poster teak bed are given a new lease of life with a fresh coat of white paint, crystal finials added to the top of the posts and mirror accents on the legs to add a touch of glitz suitable for a hip teenager.
The fun vibe from the room extends to the bathroom as well, which comes adorned with comic-print wallpaper. For the study, Ms Hunt kept the colour scheme to black and white for a calmer feel.
Ms Hunt's bedroom is spacious and airy - white with touches of raspberry and peach on the curtains and upholstery, inspired by Ms Hunt's favourite dessert of peach melba. While the walls look white, closer inspection reveals textured wallpaper.
"Painted walls have that stark look, but textured wallpaper gives it a softness."
It exudes a happy mood - "I want to wake up with a smile each morning," says Ms Hunt.
As an interior designer, she is constantly looking at new fabric, colour samples and materials. For the untrained person, seeing all these may lead to confusion and make it difficult to decide what to have.
"As designers, we have a clear idea of what we want to achieve," says Ms Hunt.
She adds that good interior design is 15 per cent creativity, 25 per cent psychology and 60 per cent hard work and organisation.
"The psychology bit is understanding the client, knowing what makes them happy," she says.
With herself and family as clients, she had no problem hitting the right mark. "This is a space we all love coming back to."
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